Northern Ireland

PSNI warn parents about teenage text message 'codes'

PSNI Newry and Mourne Facebook page Image copyright PSNI Newry & Mourne Facebook
Image caption Det Supt George Clarke told Good Morning Ulster that some of the more obscene messages were a "reality"

The PSNI has posted a warning to parents about texting 'codes' that some teenagers use to disguise their phone or online messages.

Referencing a list published by a US technology show, the post encourages parents to understand 'text talk'.

Some of the abbreviations are relatively bland, such as 'HAK', meaning 'hugs and kisses' or 'WYCM' for 'Will you call me?'.

Others refer to sexual acts, drugs and suicide.

Quick guide to secret texting codes

  • WYRN: What's your real name?
  • HAK: Hugs and kisses
  • ASL: Age, sex and location
  • WTTP: Want to trade pictures?
  • 53X: Sex
  • CU46: See you for sex
  • NIFOC: Naked in front of computer
  • PAL: Parents are listening
  • KPC: Keeping parents clueless
  • PRON: Porn
  • ZERG: To gang up on someone
  • RU/18: Are you over 18?
  • Broken: Hungover
  • LMIRL: Let's meet in real life

The warning has been treated with scepticism by many of the Facebook users who shared or commented on it.

Some pointed out that it was not an exhaustive list and included American phrases that are unlikely to be used by young people in Northern Ireland.

Others welcomed the post, saying it was a useful resource for parents.

Image copyright roshinio
Image caption A PSNI facebook post warns parents of the types of phrases and abbreviations teenagers sometimes use to disguise messages

Det Supt George Clarke told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster that some of the more obscene messages were a "reality".

"Parents must be involved in their children's lives online and well as offline.

"You wouldn't allow children to go off in a car with people you don't know, so let's be careful about who they're interacting with online," he said.

Margaret Gallagher of the NSPCC said it was impossible to publish a definitive list of texting phrases young people use as they tend to change frequently.

However, she said anything that promoted an "open and honest discussion" about keeping safe online was to be welcomed.

"Teenagers will always want to create coded language that can't be understood by their parents - it's natural and not necessarily something to get overly concerned about," said Ms Gallagher.

Image copyright Poike
Image caption The NSPCC said an "open and honest discussion" about online safety needs to be encouraged

"Communication and building trust with your child is the most important thing.

"At the end of the day, you want them to feel comfortable coming to you if they're worried about something that's happened online, like an unsolicited approach or someone putting them in a vulnerable position.

"They (children) just need reassurance that, if things do go badly wrong, they have someone they can turn to."

'Predators are persistent'

Ms Gallagher also pointed out that children who have no behavioural issues were equally as vulnerable to online predators as those who do.

But she stressed that older teenagers, in particular, were entitled to privacy.

"It's not always easy for parents to get the balance right - we know that - but if there's trust and openness there, the risk of things going badly wrong is definitely reduced," she said.

If you want more information on keeping children safe online, you can visit the NSPCC website or call the charity free on 0808 800 5000.