Parents confused by children's use of internet slang

Most parents are baffled by the language used by their children, a new study has revealed, mostly because of social media and instant messaging.

There is now a “seismic generational gap” between the older and younger generations when it comes to how often modern informal language is used, according to the study led by Professor John Sutherland from University College London.

Modern terms like “fleek” and “bae” were found to be the most commonly confused by parents, with just 10 per cent of the 2,000 surveyed being able to identify the true meaning of “bae” as a term of affection.

A total of 86 per cent of parents said they felt teenagers spoke an entirely different language on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Of the terms parents did not understand, “fleek” – which means good looking – came top of the list, with 46 per cent selecting as a word they did not know. This was ahead of FOMO (fear of missing out) and “bae”, both of which were selected by 40 per cent of the parents.

Popular social media acronyms ICYMI (in case you missed it), TBT (throwback Thursday) and NSFW (not safe for work) also made the list of terms that confused parents.

“The limitation of characters on old handsets was a key factor in the rise of acronyms in text messaging such as TXT, GR8 and M8,” said Sutherland. “However, technological evolution has meant that these words are now effectively extinct from the text speak language and are seen as antique text speak.”

He also said the prevalence of emojis could be the next phase in language and communication, and that the increasing use of icons has a historical link. Both Apple's iOS and Google's Android mobile platforms now have emoji keyboards built into their software.

“The use of audio and visual messaging has become more commonplace with the soaring popularity of social media and instant messaging apps such as Instagram, Vine and Snapchat,” he said.

“In fact we are moving to a more pictographic form of communication with the increasing popularity of emoticon.

“This harks back to a caveman form of communication where a single picture can convey a full range of messages and emotions.

“In the future, less words and letters will be used in messaging as pictures and icons take over the text speak language.”

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