Parents not always able to decipher children's online lingo

By Maureen Kyle

(LOUISVILLE) -- Millions of people have been chatting in online chat rooms for more than a decade, and by now, just about everyone knows what "LOL" stands for. But what about TDTM or KPC? Even though kids started chatting online using acronyms years ago, we found most parents still don't know what they're saying. WAVE 3's Maureen Kyle quizzed a few parents and helped them to crack their kids' chat code.

The dangers entangled in the World Wide Web are accelerating as fast as Internet connections. And the language used by many of its younger users can seem foreign.

"Anything you need to say, there's an acronym out there for it," says detective Dan Jackman, with the Metro Crimes Against Children Unit. "Grammar doesn't count, spelling doesn't count online or in chat rooms. So they make up acronyms to say what they have to say and say it fast."

ASL, GPYO, and TDTM are just some of the words used in instant message and chat rooms and -- but not by most adults.

"The language, the vulgarity they talk about, it's just horrible," Jackman says. "If you go into one of these chat rooms and watch a real 12-year-old talk, they talk worse than a sailor."

Jackman says the topics are even worse. "They can have an entire conversation about sex, drugs, gangs -- anything they want -- right in front of their parents, and the parents have no clue what's going on."

We gave some parents a pop quiz to see if they've caught on to this developing language. Of the 16 acronyms we showed them, the moms were able to guess the meaning of three.

"I think we underestimate how much smarter they are than we are," says Mary Melchior, a mom with children who chat online.

"Were you shocked at all?" I asked Suzy Mackowiak, another mom. "Not really," she replied. "It was surprising and disappointing."

The moms we spoke with told us they carefully monitor their children's use of the Internet, and don't believe their kids get into chat rooms.

"I know mine aren't, because they're not allowed without my assistance and it's homework only," says Mackowiak.

"I argue with my husband about the computer being in the living room, and he says he (my son) needs to do his homework and have privacy, and I said, no, not with the Internet part," says Kim Priest.

But they also admit their kids aren't under their constant watchful eye.

"The temptation is there because their friends are talking about how they've been on this site or that site and they're curious," says priest.

"(There tends) to be parents who stay on top of things, and then you hear these stories and you hope they don't come into your own home," says donna burry.

Our pop quiz was a harsh lesson to learn, but it was a necessary one, Jackman says, because parents shouldn't have to learn the hard way that they're the first line of defense against the dark side of the Internet.

"Parents -- regardless of what filtering Internet software you go out and get, the number one protector is parents."

How savvy are you to acronyms your child may be using when chatting online? Take our online quiz and find out. If you don't know the answer, use one of the websites below to find the corresponding meaning.

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Online Reporter: Maureen Kyle

Online Producer: Michael Dever