Do teenagers really use terms like "zerg", "P999" and "MOOS"?
The British government just launched a language guide for parents concerned that their children are using social media to get up to no good online. The guide, produced by The Parent Zone and CEOP – part of the National Crime Agency – helps parents tell their GNOCs ("get naked on camera") from their IWSNs ("I want sex now"). The glossary is part of newly-launched website Parent Info, which Education Secretary Nicky Morgan heralded as a groundbreaking new resource to "help protect children in this digital age", both from cyber-bullying and all the other nasty stuff their little eyes shouldn't be privy to.
It's all quite sweet and well-intentioned, but very clearly completely ridiculous. According to the guide, typing "1174" is code for "nude club". The last time I was a teenager was only five years ago. I do not know what a nude club is. I'm pretty certain that it's something someone put on Urban Dictionary as a joke once because they were bored and stoned and alone at 3AM. But even if it is a real shorthand term for a naked sex party that exists somewhere out there in the world, I'm going to wager that it is not regularly used by children on social media. Same goes for "GYPO" (get your pants off), "KPC" (keeping parents clueless) and "Q2C" (quick to cum).
Mind you, five years is a long time online. So maybe I'm wrong? Maybe instead of using Snapchat to exchange nudes like every other human on Earth, teenagers are now texting each other acronyms? To find out, I asked some actual young people if they knew what "zerg" means, and got them to comment on the government's new guide.
VICE: Do you know what any of the following acronyms mean: ASL, CD9, GNOC, KPC, IRL, MIRL, LMIRL , IWSN , MOOS , P911/P999 , PAW , POS/MOS, RU/18 , WYRN , Zerg and 420?
Eleanor, 15: Only ASL, [age/sex/location], IRL [in real life] and CD9, which basically you put if you're talking about something personal and a parent walks in.
Laurie, 15: The truth is, I have absolutely no idea what any of these acronyms mean. I've never used any of them and never seen them being used before. P911 or P999 could possibly have something to do with police, for obvious reasons. 420 I think has obvious connotations of smoking marijuana, so maybe that one is drug-related. The rest I have absolutely no idea.
Jack, 13: God, no, I'm so sorry. Maybe PAW is Parents Angry Wars? [It's not.]
Tom, 14: None of them. Is MOOS My Only Obsessive Sister? [It's not.]
Sam, 16: 420 is like the weed number. That's it, though.
Amber, 15: I haven't got a clue, sorry.
Megan, 15: I knew zerg but I've forgotten it – but I knew it!
Ismail, 16: I know a few of these. ASL, one would presumably use on anonymous chatroom services, like Omegle or Chatroulette. GNOC means get naked on camera. In fact, I vividly remember GNOC from a Fox News report about sexting, to the extent that my friends and I use it as an in-joke between us, because it's so ridiculous. Actually, if you have any spare time, I would recommend watching this guy reacting to the sexting video. He points out some decent things, even though it's mostly a comedy video.
Do you guys actually ever use these?
Eleanor: I don't use them. Apart from IRL.
Jack: God, no, I'm so sorry.
Bethany, 15: Only a few, and mainly ironically.
Laurie: I think this list shows just how out of touch the Tory government is, especially when it comes to youth.
Tom: We usually use actual words. Maybe sometimes "U" for you.
Ismail: I generally type my messages out in full because I am a very fast typer.
Is there any other slang you use that isn't on this list but should be?
Eleanor: Yeah – OMG, WTF, TBH, NGL.
Laurie: I used to use a lot more acronyms and "text speak" when I was younger – like Year 7 to Year 8 – but I feel that it's something that people grow out of and stop using. They're certainly not very prominent in my messages at this point in time.
Jack: I like to use emojis and stuff. The person with the sunglasses is my favourite.
Megan: ATM, BTW, TBH and OML, and that's it.
Tom: I use BRB and GTG, and LMAO sometimes.
Sam: Yeah plenty, like YOLO or LMAO or LOL. Also "peak", which means bad or annoying.
Ismail: I use "lol" a lot, but I don't think of it as an acronym really.
Do you worry about your parents going through your chats? How do you stop that from happening?
Amber: Not really. I mean, I would like my privacy, but I have nothing to hide. I can't really be bothered with text talk – I'd rather write the full word usually.
Eleanor: I don't feel the need to worry about it so I don't do anything to stop them from looking.
Laurie: I do sometimes worry. To combat this I have a passcode and turn off message previews. This means that parents and teachers can't see if I've been sent anything dodgy. I also always leave my phone facing screen-down, mainly out of force of habit, but have never used acronyms or code to try to make them unable to understand the messages.
Tom: My parents do try to check it, but normally I just phone people when I don't want them to find out about stuff.
Sam: Uh, yeah actually, to stop parents reading my messages I turn off the message preview on my phone so they can't see. I have busted my parents going through my phone. Actually, it was really bad: my friend asked me to bring drinks to this party cos I had that message preview thing up and my mum saw it. I don't have it up now, which is brilliant.
Ismail: I don't worry because I have nothing to hide.
Beth: Yeah, I do worry because that's creepy [laughs], but I don't really do anything about it apart from have a password on my phone.
Have you or any of your friends ever been cyber-bullied?
Jack: Sometimes people can be a bit mean on Instagram, but they're not really mean. I mean, I've got 150 friends, and no one has ever said anything horrible. There's only, like, one or two people who are mean. Well, they're not mean, but sometimes they say jokey things which sound a bit mean. But they're not really that horrible. It's just a joke.
Eleanor: My friend was badly cyber-bullied before but I haven't been cyber-bullied personally.
Tom: I know people who have been bullied online, but it's name-calling and stuff you do in school – nothing that wouldn't happen in the real world also.
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