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?4u. Cn u read this?

It’s written in d language of d 21st century, TXT MeSsaGing. This combo of words (some deliberately misspelled), abbreviations, n acronyms is a creative n colorful language dat most ppl under 20 use fluently, yet many /40 are only vaguely aware of. If you have kids, particularly tweens and teens, u need 2 know at least d basics.

TXT MeSsaGeing, like its older cousin IM, offers Gr8 new ways of communicating, with shortcuts such as <3 and generation-jumping phrases in new packages such as cul8r alig8r and n whl crcdl. It’s ez n fun. But like most new technology, IRL there is also plenty to be wary about.

Cuz you can’t RTM (there really isn’t one), we thought this article cud serve as an introduction. (If u can’t read this, see the translation below and keep reading.)

Translation:

I have a question for you. Can you read this?

It is written in the language of the 21st century, text messaging. This combination of words (some deliberately misspelled), abbreviations, and acronyms is a creative and colorful language that most people under 20 use fluently, yet many over 40 are only vaguely aware of. If you have kids, particularly tweens and teens, you need to know at least the basics.

Text messaging, like its older cousin instant messaging, brings great new ways of communicating, with shortcuts for love (or heart) and generation-jumping phrases in new packages such as “see you later alligator,” and “in a while crocodile.” It’s easy and fun. But like most new technology, in real life there is also plenty to be wary about.

Because you can’t read the manual (there really isn’t one), we thought this article could serve as an introduction.

J2LYK (Just to let you know)
Text messaging, or texting, is sending brief (usually 160 characters or fewer, including spaces) messages, called texts, from one mobile phone to another. It derives from “leet speak,” an elite computer code once used only by computer geeks.

Text messaging uses Short Message Service, which is available on most digital mobile phones and some digital hand-helds with wireless telecommunications. Although text remains the primary use, the technology has grown dramatically from the late 1990s when the first modern versions of instant messaging (IM) became widely available across the Internet. Today, users can also send images, audio and video files, and other attachments.

And they do. According to a recent study by Experian Consumer Research, there are now 2.7 billion mobile phones in use. The study reveals that globally about two-thirds of mobile phone users are active users of SMS text messaging, which means roughly 1.8 billion people are actively texting today. Roughly 300 billion text messages were sent in 2007 alone.

To get started texting, you’ll need a mobile phone and a calling plan that allows for text messaging. Some plans count text messages as minutes; others charge separately for text messages. A few include all the forms of communication (mobile phone calls, texting, photos). Choose the plan that suits your needs in terms of volume and price.

The next thing you’ll need is to learn the language. Texting uses a combination of abbreviations, acronyms, and symbols to form messages. Some will seem obvious and are now in common usage. For example, TLC is tender loving care. Others will be harder to decipher, such as J2LYK, which stands for “just to let you know.”

Many of the basic abbreviations and acronyms you will need to know are listed in the sidebar below. There are hundreds of others, however, and you can find them on multiple Web sites.

In general, you learn texting much like any new language. That’s even true for teenagers, who are the experts when it comes to text messaging.

Wu? (What’s up?)
Colin Hart, who turned 16 in August, says it took him a while to figure it out, but now he text messages so much that it has become a habit.

“Instead of calling somebody, I text them,” the Lawrenceburg high school student says. “It’s easier to get a hold of people. Some people don’t have a lot of minutes (on their cell phones), but they have free text messaging.” That seems to be key for many people who use text messaging.

Hart says he doesn’t really get into conversations via text messaging, but rather uses the technology to find out “what’s up (wu).”

“My friends and I figure out something to do,” he says. Hart sends and receives about 200 messages a day. Typically, those messages travel between 15 of his closest friends. His parents purchased him a calling plan with unlimited text messaging because he kept going over his original plan’s 200 messages per month.

Carter Elmore, 16, of Elizabethtown has had a cell phone since he was 11, when he was entering sixth grade.

“I learned by trial and error,” Elmore says. “Mostly I learned by talking (texting) with other people. They would make abbreviations and I would find out what it meant and then use it when I was talking to someone else. It took me a while to figure it out.” Today, Elmore sends and receives about 300-400 messages each day on his Motorola Q9C, which has a flip-out keyboard designed for texting.

“I like texting because it makes it a lot easier to communicate,” he says, “and you don’t have to use all the minutes on your phone.”

Elmore saves his mobile phone minutes for talking with his mom and dad, who don’t yet text, although he says his dad is currently looking into learning.

P911 (Parent alert)
If you are a parent, some of the first abbreviations you might want to learn are the ones that report your whereabouts. Most text messaging between teens is harmless fun. Elmore and Hart, for instance, say most of their texting concerns where and when to meet friends. That seems to be true for most teenagers. But because text messaging is largely youth-oriented, there are many abbreviations some young text messagers use to warn each other about nearby parents.

Here are some of the most popular:

POS Parents over shoulder

KPC Keeping parents clueless

P911 Parent alert

PAL Parents are listening

PAW Parents are watching

PIR Parent in room

CD9 (Code 9) Parents are around

MOS Mom over shoulder

99 Parents no longer watching

Go to www.netlingo.com/top50teens.cfm for a more complete list. Other good sites for parents include NoSlang.com, Teenangels.org, and Teenchatdecoder.com.

AWTTW (A word to the wise)
Like most newer technology, text messaging is fun but there is also a darker side. Just ask Jon Akers, a veteran educator since 1970 and principal for 25 years who is now executive director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety in Richmond.

Akers says students throughout the state are using cell phones to bully, harass, and take sexually suggestive photos of other students. Text messaging, in particular, interrupts instruction as students secretly and silently text each other throughout the day.

And it can be much more serious. One-third of students at George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester left school on April 21, 2008, after text messages warned that a student would bring a gun to school. The message proved to be unfounded.

In response to the escalating problems caused by cell phones and text messaging, the Kentucky General Assembly passed House Bill 91, known colloquially as the bullying bill. Under this legislation, people who send threatening or harassing messages that affect something going on inside a school can be charged with a crime, even if the message was sent from another location or when school is not in session. If the harassment rises to criminal levels, the perpetrator can be arrested for terrorist threatening, assault, or other crimes. If it rises to the level of terrorist threatening at school, the principal is required to report the incident to law enforcement.

Interestingly, Akers says parents, in fairly equal measure with teens, are the ones standing in the way of school principals and superintendents, who would like to ban cell phones altogether in schools.

“The falsehood of the thing is that parents want their children to have a cell phone so they can get in contact with them in an emergency,” he says. “In an emergency, we are moving children out of harm’s way, and if there are kids on cell phones, it ties up the towers so first responders can’t call to get more assistance. If parents come rushing in, that further complicates matters.”

In fact, Akers says unequivocally, “There is no legitimate use for a cell phone by students during school hours.”

At home, Akers believes parents need to be much more involved in their children’s use of cell phones.

“Parents aren’t monitoring pictures and text messages,” he says. “They would be aghast at what is going on in some cases—the vulgarity and sexual language.

“When they do try to monitor it, the child says, ‘If you don’t trust me, you don’t love me.’ The proper response to that is, ‘I love you enough to make sure you are not getting inappropriate messages.’ Parents need to be parents when their children are in their formative years. They can be friends when the child is 25 or 30.”

The educator recommends that parents be realistic with their kids about what they expect in terms of the cell phone. If those expectations aren’t met, parents must follow through with action, he says, not just threaten it.

Parents also need to monitor text messages but not on a regular basis. “Parents should pick up the phone randomly and look at the conversations that are taking place,” he says. “The child needs to know this will happen but not as a scheduled event.”

Parents should also ask their local PTA and site-based councils to provide workshops on text messaging. Other good sources of information are online Internet safety sites and local experts in electronic communications.



TEXT MESSAGING ETIQUETTE

As with everything in life, there is a proper way to text message. A good, common sense article by Nokia’s TheFeature.com (Web site no longer active) listed the top 10 etiquette rules for text messaging. You can read the complete article archived at www.wirelessdevnet.com/newswire-less/thefeature. Many are common sense and common courtesy, such as not texting while you are in a face-to-face conversation and not getting upset if you don’t get a reply.

Others apply specifically to the medium. The article suggests, for example, that you “be aware of your tone.” As they note, “It is extremely difficult to discern tone in text messages, just as in e-mail. What seems to you to be a completely innocuous message may be grossly misinterpreted by the recipient, causing certain discomfort if not irreparable harm.”

Finally, remember that texting is not the only way to communicate. Suggestion number 9: “If it’s immediate, make a voice call,” and suggestion number 10: “Remember that your phone does have an off button. There are very, very few things in the world that absolutely cannot wait.”



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KEYWORD EXCLUSIVE: SMILEYS

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Now, become proficient with “smileys.”

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