Technology Taboo: Texting vs. Real Conversation

Has Cyberspace Slang and Texting Created a Communication Rift Between Parents and Their Kids?

Getting my daughter to answer her cell phone almost always results in getting sent straight to her obnoxious voice mail with Lady Gaga screaming back at me. But send her a text and I get a response within 30 seconds flat. What I receive, though, is a jumble of characters and jargon that I don’t understand. Such as “ttyad” for talk to you after dinner or “hk” for hugs and kisses or “idk” for I don’t know. There is something greatly missed when a human voice is replaced by a buzz on my cell phone.

As technology becomes more advanced, real-time, portable and integrated, a rift between parents and their kids is created. Plain and simple, the rift are the skills of basic communication becoming obsolete.  Cyber slang and acronyms are replacing the inherent need of real conversation and human interaction.

As this generation cultivates an encrypted language that is understood by mainly just their peers, parents are becoming less in tuned with who and what their kids are involved in. On the other hand, for some families, the availability of fast, non-verbal communication aids in keeping tabs on what their kids are doing. It can have its place if monitored carefully.

Where internet-speak began as way to speed up communication and lessen keystrokes, it’s also become a way to hide the use of drugs, alcohol and sexual engagement. Kids are creating their own verbiage to intentionally keep adults in the dark. This is not just limited to cell phones, but also applies to online chat rooms, social media sites and email. The slang “airhead” and “dinkie dow” may indicate marijuana use. The abbreviation “g2gpc” is a quick note indicating got to go parents coming.

It is my opinion this new mode of interaction will be a detriment to their social skills. As these kids enter into adulthood and into the workforce and mature relationships they will be at a disadvantage. True communication is not just words; it is body language, voice inflection, tone and the way we carry ourselves.

Dr. Lori Puterbaugh of Largo, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor (also known as Dr. Lori on Spirit FM radio) explained:

“Our ability to communicate is limited by our vocabulary.  This is why there is a growing trend to teach sign language to babies; their ability to communicate via sign language exceeds their verbal ability for a long time.  Electronic communications often rely on abbreviated means of communication. Imagine the difference between texting, ‘I’m lonely’ versus having the focused attention of someone while you talk about being lonely, the factors and get some real support besides a brief response on a screen.  This sort of communication seems to allow people to have the illusion of being close with people without true emotional connection.  If it’s simply one aspect of communication, and there really are meaningful conversations at other times, that’s different. I fear, though, that many young people communicate in person very much as they do electronically – in brief, terse bits of information that are believed to be shared language but may mean very different things to different people.”

Tara Ryan-Legowski of Bradenton and mother of 13-year-old and 16-year-old teenagers said, “My kids’ generation doesn’t talk anymore. Everything they do is on a keyboard or online.  Their laughs, fights, struggles, make-ups and break-ups are all typed out instead of spoken. There are many times when my kids will text me and I call them back just to hear their voices. It is interesting that they think this is strange sometimes. I teach Kindergarten and I am shocked at how many first and second graders already have cell phones.”

Puterbaugh commented, “When families had a single landline phone for the household, phone usage was monitored and public.  The increasing separation between family members and phone use has led to easier secrecy and overreliance on electronic connections.  Parents are simply less aware of when and with whom their teens are communicating.”

When I was younger, there were two phones in our household, one in the kitchen attached to a wall and the other in my parents’ bedroom. Both with spiraling phone cords that limited distance. Any chance for privacy meant huddling down under the kitchen counter and cupping my hand over the phone. When cordless phones became the standard, it was a new found freedom to be able to walk to another room.  My parents always knew who we are talking to and they usually could hear our conversations in full.

It’s more challenging today with mobile devices to have this open awareness. It is recommended that parents take away cell phones at bedtime, even for older teenagers as a general household rule. Some mobile carriers may provide a history of text dialogue by request.

As technology changes it affects the way people communicate. But basic communication and interpersonal skills should not go to the way side. It’s important for parents to embrace change but also instill core values and skills to their children and have a role in monitoring the use of technology for their families.

There are several resources online to help parents encrypt internet slang such as noslang.com. You can enter in terms to decode or access a compiled alphabetic list of current slang and acronyms and their meanings.

For more information on Dr. Puterbaugh and her services, visit www.balancedlifestylecoaching.com

Veronica Giordano March 09, 2011 at 07:03 PM
As a parent, it's my responsibility to monitor the use of her cell phone. Some companies, like Verizon, can provide limited numbers for emergencies and use of the phone for friends who we know well. So far, until we feel comfortable, this has worked. It is still stressful, the unlimited texting creates a battle of control between parent and child.
Rebekah Rae March 09, 2011 at 07:43 PM
I don't agree with children owning a cell phone. I also don 't think they should have a television, computer or radio in their room. Electronics like this should be in the family area. They are great tools for learning and entertainment, but they can also be tools that are used to get into trouble. The children's education and social interactions are best done with the protective watch of the parents. I had a fairly strict childhood, and grew up to be responsible, go to college, wait till marriage to have sex, etc... and I want my children to be the same way. Morals are important. Living a good life is important, and many times peers whose parents don't have the same ideals are not best for children to interact with unless under the supervision of a parent. As an adult, I love to text as well as have genuine face to face conversations. When a child is old enough to work and purchase their own car, then they are more than welcome to purchase their own cellphone and text away as long as it isn't interfering with their college work or job or causing problems with moral obligations.


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