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A parent's guide to teen slang

How to understand what, exactly, your kid is saying

Even before you bring a baby into the world, people start warning you about all the hard phases of parenting: There's the newborn phase, when sleep is hard to come by; the "terrible twos," when toddlers start to find their voice and push every button you have; and of course, the hardest phase of all: the teen years.

Teens are notoriously moody, argumentative, and closed off. They also do a great job of making parents feel old, as you slowly start to realize you have no idea what your son or daughter is talking about. They have their own slang, acronyms, inside jokes, and codes that make it seem like they're speaking an entirely different language. And while you want to respect your teenager's privacy, there are times when it's important to know how to translate, especially if you suspect your child is in danger.

With that in mind, let's break down some of the common phrases and acronyms teenagers are using right now.

Everyday slang:

VSCO Girl — This term refers to a relatively innocent stereotype of a teenage girl who uses the VSCO photo and video app. They're known for wearing multiple scrunchies, seashell necklaces, and oversized t-shirts; drinking out of the reusable water bottles known as Hydro Flasks; and being concerned about the environment. Their rallying cry is the sound "Sksksksk," which is used as a way to express both approval and disapproval.

OK, boomer! — One of the more recent phrases to invade teens' lexicon, this is a reference to the baby boomer generation, those born between 1946 — 1964. It's basically another way of saying, "OK, old person."

Yeet — This word is slang for anything that's exciting, and it's typically said while throwing something or doing a little dance. It's an exclamation of surprise or approval.

Karen — If you hear your teen calling someone a Karen, they're likely referencing someone's personality, not their actual given name. A "Karen" is never happy, and always has something to complain about.

Phrases that could point to danger:

Benzo — This is short for drugs called benzodiazepines. Examples include Valium, Ativan, or Xanax. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, benzodiazepines are "depressants that produce sedation, induce sleep, relieve anxiety, and prevent seizures." According to a 2018 survey, benzo use and abuse is on the rise in the teenage population.

Addy — It's easy for this to be confused with a person's name, but teens are using this as a nickname for the drug Adderall, typically prescribed to people diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). When prescribed, it can help users maintain focus, but it can also be abused and lead to a dependency.

Dexing — This term refers to the abuse of cough syrup medication. Teenagers sometimes use it not to soothe a cough, but to get high.

Finsta — Short for "fake Instagram account." If your teen knows you're monitoring their real Instagram account, they may create a fake account to keep you in the dark about what they're up to.

Texting slang and acronyms:

53X — This stands for the word "sex," so it's an acronym you want to make sure you're aware of.

KMS — An abbreviation for "kill myself," this acronym can be particularly alarming for parents. If you or hear see this in your teen's conversations, it's probably worth having a conversation with them about it.

LH6 — For older teens who may be at the age where they're in relationships, this is code for "Let's Have Sex."

GNIFOC — This acronym stands for "Get Naked In Front Of Computer." If your teenager is talking to someone online, this is a piece of slang you need to watch out for.

LMIRL — This stands for "Let's Meet In Real Life" and can be a dangerous acronym for younger teens who may be talking to older people on social media.

CD9 — A text code to let someone know a parent is watching.

We can't shield and protect our kids forever. As they grow into teens, they will inevitably gain more access to social media and digital devices, and it's impossible to monitor their every word. But it's important to keep an eye or ear out for signs that you need to step in may be essential for you to step in.

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