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Man confused

Millions of parents unable to translate online slang

Man confused

Millions of parents unable to translate online slang

According to a recent study conducted by BT, the vast majority of parents are unable to identify some of the most common abbreviations, emojis and slang used by their children on a daily basis.

BT’s online poll quizzed 4,500 adults in order to raise awareness for Safer Internet Day, which takes place today, and the results showed that 85% were unable to decipher the real meanings of terminology such as 99, KMS and MIRL.

Many adults are not ‘down with the kids’ anymore and often find that they do not understand what the younger generation is saying – it may as well be a foreign language. Furthermore, with the online language throwing up new acronyms and word blends every day, it can be difficult to keep up to date with our ever-changing language.

Online lingo

One of the most misinterpreted acronyms is LOL. However, as this one has been around a while now, most adults now know the true meaning of this one. Perhaps this has been around longer than the younger generation thinks, as many adults will tell you that it means ‘Love You Lots’ whereas now it’s common knowledge that it means ‘Laugh Out Loud’. This possible change in meaning has led to some pretty awkward moments such as this one taken from Pinterest:

Image 1

This particular example proved to be a harsh lesson for that parent.

Some of these acronyms/abbreviations/blends can have more serious consequences, resulting in the awareness of Safer Internet Day, with the abbreviation ‘MIA’ referring to bulimia and KMS translating as ‘Kill Myself’. The study indicated that most parents thought the latter meant ‘Keep My Secret’, so it is important that parents know the basics, even if these terms are being used in jest.

While speaking to their friends online, many teens will not want their parents reading or watching over their shoulders. Although this probably isn’t as much of an issue nowadays with the social media being available on small mobile devices instead of having to sit at the family desktop computer, slang terms still exist to indicate that friends must be careful about what they are discussing. For example, PAW means ‘Parents Are Watching’, PIR is ‘Parents In Room’ and 99 means ‘Parents Have Stopped Watching’.

There are plenty of translation sources online, such as this one, should parents want to learn more about the language their children are using online.


Emojis can be difficult to translate by anyone, young or old, as anyone can interpret them differently, so it comes as no surprise that some parents found them to be baffling when presented with them as part of the BT study.

The example given in the study is this emoji:

Image 2

It is a monkey with its paws covering its mouth. According to the study, more than half of parents could not identify its meaning. The emoji can have multiple meanings in fact, with some believing it means ‘I won’t tell anyone’, with other meanings including ‘I didn’t really say that’ and ‘Speak no evil’. For example, in the below image, Twitter identifies it as the ‘speak no evil monkey’.

Image 3

Luckily, some platforms are helping users decipher some of these emojis. Take the above Twitter screenshot as an example – it’s giving its interpretations of them when the cursor hovers over them.

Safer Internet Day is an initiative supported by the likes of BT to highlight the issues many children face in this digital age when using social media sites, and promotes safe use online.

Alan Littler

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