Hidden in Plain Sight: a Parent’s Guide to Teen Texting

One of the most common things that kids do with technology is send text messages. Even as far back as 2010, Pew Research reported that 72% of teens engaged in texting. And while some parents may review the messages sent on their kids’ phones, it’s all too easy to avoid leaving incriminating messages behind. One of the trickiest ways that they do this is by using “secret code words” that are really everyday words, but with hidden meanings. These messages look completely harmless, but have a darker meaning that is usually only known by teens.

One of the earliest ways that teens texted in code was using Leetspeak, a method of using similar looking letters and numbers.  This is still used widely in social media apps to try to avoid online monitors, both human and automated, from identifying inappropriate words.  For example:

The downside to this approach is that if someone happens to be looking over their shoulder and sees text like that, their mind notices it and it could cause them to ask questions that the teens don’t want to answer.  By using everyday words with a meaning known only to them, the teens are less likely to bring unwanted attention to themselves.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Before you continue with this, please know that some of the examples I’m about to use may be uncomfortable for parents to read.  Also know that my examples aren’t mean to imply that these words/phrases are always used in this way.  Sometimes, when a teen says that they want pizza, it means nothing more than a visit to a local pizza shop is imminent.

Below are some of the examples of code words using by teens, with their explanation and an example of how it might be used:

BOB:          An acronym for Battery Operated Boyfriend.
Example:    She’s been spending a lot of time with BOB lately.

Bunny:        An abbreviated form of a “Rope Bunny” – someone who likes being tied up.
Example:    I’ve been hoping to find a cute bunny lately, but no such luck!

Chocolate:   A black person.
Example:    I’ve been craving chocolate a lot lately!

Headache:   When a person, usually a male, is aroused and looking for sex.
Example:    Man, I wish that I could do something about this headache.  It just won’t go away.

Little:          A person who pretends to be much younger than they are chronologically.  The difference can be years or even decades.  This person is often in search of someone who is looking to take care of them (not always sexually).
Example:    I woke up feeling very little today.

Mary Jane:  Another word for marijuana.  Also known as MJ.
Example:    Has anyone seen MJ lately?  I’m looking for her.

Pet:             A person who likes to be cared for, often in a submissive role.
Example:    I’m looking for the perfect pet.  Anyone? [Done in a chat room]

Pizza:          A euphemism for sex.  The idea is that there is no such thing as bad pizza and there is no such thing as bad sex.
Example:    I really need to get some pizza today!

Smash:        To have casual sex.
Example:    Whenever I see him, I just want to smash him.

Your Turn

Below are three possible texts that have very different meanings compared to what they appear to be.  Also included are multiple choice answers with their real meanings indicated afterwards.

Self-Test #1: I absolutely love corn, no matter how it’s done.

  1. Male genitalia.
  2. Pornography
  3. Something without alcohol.

Self-Test #2: Turtles are my favorite pet.  Who doesn’t love them?

  1. A shy, introverted person.
  2. A person with a tough shell (personality).
  3. A person who will spend a lot of time on their pack (having sex).

Self-Test #3: I’d really love some spaghetti right about now.

  1. Someone who is straight when dry (sober), but gay when wet (drunk or high).
  2.  Someone without a backbone – an easy pushover.
  3. A person of Italian ancestry.

Answers to Self-Tests  #1:B. #2: C, #3: A

Takeaway

It can be very difficult to decode such messages because they look so innocent.  And many times, they are innocent.  It may take seeing several exchanges to finally understand the true nature of what’s being said between the people.  The most likely place parents should watch out for these kinds of code words is on social media apps like Whisper or in a chat room.

My best advice is to confirm the intent by looking at an ongoing exchange, rather than after seeing only one possible coded message.  The next is to focus more on educating them on the potential dangers involved with sexting, including sextortion and revenge porn.  This video shows the potential consequences of sexting when images are included.  It shows just how quickly and easily the images can go viral, being seen by many people, perhaps even by the original sender’s friends and family.

Once such images are distributed, getting them removed from the Internet is virtually impossible.  It’s one reason why I say that when it comes to technology problems like sexting, an ounce of prevention isn’t worth a pound of cure, but an immeasurable amount of cure.  And like any other activity that teens may do with technology, parents can teach their children a better way with patience and by keeping informed on what the risks are to their children.

5 Strategies to Conquer Your Kid’s Doctor Phobia

Parents aren’t always naturals at soothing their children’s fear of doctors or dentists. But there are things they can do to make the visits less upsetting, says Meghan D. Kelly, M.S.Ed., C.C.L.S., director of the Phoebe H. Stein Child Life Program at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Besides staying calm, keep this advice in mind:

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 5: Be up front. “Believe it or not, I’ve seen some kids coming in for surgery whose parents told them they were going to Toys”R”Us,” says Kelly. Not helpful. If you’re going for a routine checkup, explain to your kids that in order for them to have strong bodies and healthy teeth, their doctor needs to check if everything is working well. Describe what the doctor might do: look in his ears, listen to his chest, etc.

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 4: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Promising “no shots” is a bad way to get kids through the door — unless you’re 100 percent sure there won’t be any. An artful omission is OK, though. “You can say, ‘I’m not sure what’s going to happen today, but I trust the doctor to decide what you need,’” says Kelly.

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 3: Acknowledge the fear. Denying that something might hurt or telling your crying child to “be a big girl” will only make her feel ashamed and more anxious, says Kelly. Instead, validate what she’s feeling and offer coping strategies, such as “If you want, I can count to three. When I’m done, it will be over.”

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 2: Use comfort strategies. Giving kids choices makes them feel a bit more in control,

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 1:  Use low-key language. If a shot is unavoidable, stay away from words like “sting” or “burn.” Instead, Kelly suggests saying, “You’re going to feel the doctor pressing on your arm. It might feel warm, and then it will be finished.”which ultimately eases anxiety. Let them decide where they’d like to sit during the exam — on the table or on a chair. Use the art of distraction. Chat about a favorite show or read a picture book you’ve brought along.

If your pediatrician seems insensitive to your child’s fears, set up a time to address your concerns. If she still doesn’t get it, it may be time to move on.

6 Healthy Makeovers for Summer Snacks

The school year ends, and the parties, barbecues, vacations, carnivals and festivals begin — not to mention a kitchen that’s open 24/7. “It’s harder to get kids to eat healthy snacks in summer because of all the high-calorie temptations,” says Portland-based pediatrician Stephen Ames, M.D. It gets a lot easier when you’ve got healthy substitutions for their favorite treats. Your child won’t even miss the sugar.

Old Summer Snack: Ice Cream

New Summer Snack: Frozen Coconut Bar

Try “ice cream” made from coconut milk. “Coconut milk has germ-fighting and heart-protective properties,” explains certified health counselor Beth Aldrich, “and it may actually stimulate metabolism.” Another healthy frozen treat is mashed frozen bananas with your choice of toppings: Try crushed peanuts (they’re packed with protein and healthy fats) and dark chocolate chips (they contain antioxidants).

Old Summer Snack: Slushies

New Summer Snack: Watermelon Ice Pops

They’re easy to make and loaded with antioxidants and nutrients, says Aldrich. Puree watermelon chunks in a blender till smooth; pour into ice pop molds and freeze. (Add plain low-fat yogurt for a hit of extra calcium if you like.) Also try pureed strawberries, oranges and grapefruit with mint.

Old Summer Snack: Kettle Corn

New Summer Snack: Seasoned Popcorn

High in fiber and low in calories, air-popped popcorn can make a fun, filling snack –without the heavy sugar. Dress it up with a drizzle of fat-free chocolate syrup; a mix of cinnamon and stevia (a natural plant extract that has no calories); or combine with a handful of peanuts and toss with a blend of melted coconut oil and stevia (or agave) nectar for caramel-corn flavor.

Old Summer Snack: Hot Dog

New Summer Snack: Nitrate-free Turkey Dogs

You won’t have to worry about chemicals or bad fats with a nitrate-free turkey dog. Plus, the protein will keep kids satisfied for hours. Wrap the turkey dogs in all-natural, whole-wheat crescent rolls and top with mustard for a hearty, savory snack. Or try Tofurky Franks, made with tofu, for a meat-free ballpark taste.

Old Summer Snack: Packaged Potato Chips

New Summer Snack: Homemade Veggie Chips

Peel fresh carrots, parsnips, beets and sweet potatoes and cut into 1/8-inch slices. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet; spray with vegetable oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 375 F. Kids can’t resist the colorful crunch — no dip needed!

Old Summer Snack: Lemonade or Cola

New Summer Snack: Fruit-infused Water

Slice fresh fruit — lemon, berries, watermelon or even pineapple — and let it float in a water dispenser or pitcher, suggests Aldrich. Sweeten to taste with Stevia; studies show that it may even prevent tooth decay by fighting the bacteria that cause it. Let kids choose the fruit and name the drink; they’ll think they came up with the idea themselves!

How Do You Treat Your Child’s Sunburn If It’s So Bad it Blisters?

Sunburns can be more serious than most believe, especially on a child.

Seek treatment from your physician if the sunburn has blistered over a large portion of your child’s body or if it is extremely painful. Also call your doctor if your child experiences facial swelling, a fever, chills, a headache, confusion or faintness. Other symptoms that signal the need for medical attention are signs of dehydration — such as increased thirst or dry eyes — and signs of infection on the skin, such as increasing redness, swelling or puss.

To minimize the damage caused by sunburn, the most important thing is to remove your child from the sun immediately after seeing the burn.

You can then treat symptoms by placing the child in a cool shower or bath, or by applying cool compresses several times a day. It’s also important to push extra fluids for the next two to three days to avoid dehydration and promote healing. You can give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain, but do not use aspirin in children or teenagers. Don’t break blisters, which will increase the risk of infection. It’s also important to keep sunburned areas covered from the sun until they’re healed.

Serious sunburns increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.

The key to avoiding the pain and minimizing the risk is to keep burns from happening in the first place. You should avoid the sun if possible, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when it is strongest. If you must be in the sun, use a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15, even on cloudy days. You should put sunscreen on your child 30 minutes before heading outside and reapply every hour or so if your child is sweating or swimming. For even greater protection, cover your child’s skin with protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat. Be careful on the water and the beach, where cool breezes can lull you into a false sense of safety from sunburn.