The Secret Language of Teens: 116 Text and Social Media Acronyms

Teenage boy using smartphone at home
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If you've ever glanced at your teen's conversations over text or you've seen how they chat on social media, there's a good chance that there have been times when you've had no idea what they’re talking about. Social media acronyms and abbreviations can feel like another whole language.

But it's important to learn what some of that shorthand means. Monitoring your teen's online activity won't be helpful if you can't understand what your teen is saying. You might allow unhealthy conversations to take place right in front of you.

While you don't want to spy on your teen, it's important to stay up-to-date on your teen's social media and smartphone activity. Educate yourself about the most common social media acronyms and slang so you can be aware of the conversations your teen is having.

Common Social Media and Texting Acronyms

Social media and texting acronyms are most often harmless, but sometimes they can indicate red flags. Here are the most common social media acronyms teens are using to communicate with one another.

Commonly Harmless

  • 143: I love you
  • 2DAY: Today
  • 4EAE: Forever and ever
  • AF: As f---
  • ADN: Any day now
  • AFAIK: As far as I know
  • AFK: Away from keyboard
  • ATM: At the moment
  • BFN: Bye for now
  • BOL: Be on later / Best of luck / Bust out laughing
  • BRB: Be right back
  • BTW: By the way
  • CTN: Can’t talk now
  • DM: Direct message
  • DWBH: Don’t worry, be happy
  • F2F or FTF: Face to face
  • FOMO: Fear of missing out
  • FWIW: For what it’s worth
  • GAL: Get a life
  • GB: Goodbye
  • GG: Good game
  • GLHF: Good luck, have fun
  • GTG: Got to go; good to go
  • H8: Hate
  • HAK: Hugs and kisses
  • HAND: Have a nice day
  • HMU: Hit me up
  • HTH: Hope this helps / Happy to help / How the h---
  • HW: Homework
  • ICYMI: In case you missed it
  • IDK: I don’t know
  • IIRC: If I remember correctly
  • IKR: I know, right?
  • ILY / ILU: I love you
  • IM: Instant message
  • IMHO: In my honest opinion / In my humble opinion
  • IMO: In my opinion
  • IRL: In real life
  • IU2U: It’s up to you
  • IYKWIM: If you know what I mean
  • JK: Just kidding
  • J4F: Just for fun
  • JIC: Just in case
  • JSYK: Just so you know
  • KFY: Kiss for you
  • L8: Late
  • LMAO: Laughing my a-- off
  • LMK: Let me know
  • LOL: Laugh out loud
  • LSR: Loser
  • MIRL: Meet in real life
  • MOS: Mom over shoulder
  • NAGI: Not a good idea
  • NM: Never mind / Not much
  • NMU: Not much, you?
  • NP: No problem
  • NTS: Note to self
  • OIC: Oh I see
  • OMFG: Oh my f------ god
  • OMG: Oh my god
  • ORLY: Oh, really?
  • OT: Off-topic
  • OTP: On the phone
  • P911: Parent alert
  • PAW: Parents are watching
  • PCM: Please call me
  • PIR: Parent in room
  • PLS or PLZ: Please
  • PPL: People
  • POS: Parents over shoulder / Piece of s---
  • PTB: Please text back
  • QQ: Crying (This abbreviation produces an emoticon in text; it’s often used sarcastically.)
  • RAK: Random act of kindness
  • RL: Real life
  • RN: Right now
  • ROFL: Rolling on the floor laughing
  • RT: Retweet
  • RUOK: Are you okay?
  • SMH: Shaking my head
  • SOS: Someone over shoulder
  • SRSLY: Seriously
  • SSDD: Same stuff, different day
  • STFU: Shut the f--- up
  • SUS: Suspicious
  • SWAK: Sealed with a kiss
  • SWYP: So, what’s your point?
  • SYS: See you soon
  • TBC: To be continued
  • THX: Thanks
  • TIME: Tears in my eyes
  • TL;DR: Too long, didn’t read
  • TMI: Too much information
  • TMRW: Tomorrow
  • TTYL: Talk to you later
  • TY or TU: Thank you
  • VSF: Very sad face
  • WB: Welcome back
  • WTH: What the h---
  • WTF: What the f---
  • WTPA: Where’s the party at?
  • WYCM: Will you call me?
  • YGM: You’ve got mail
  • YOLO: You only live once
  • YW: You’re welcome
  • ZOMG: Oh my god (emphatic)

Possible Red Flags

  • ASL: Age/sex/location / "As h---"
  • FWB: Friends with benefits (friends who occasionally have casual sex)
  • FYEO or 4YEO: For your eyes only (may indicate explicit photos)
  • GYPO: Get your pants off
  • IWSN: I want sex now
  • KPC: Keeping parents clueless
  • LMIRL: Let’s meet in real life
  • NIFOC: Naked in front of computer
  • NSFW: Not safe for work
  • OC: Open crib (no parents will be home)
  • TDTM: Talk dirty to me

Distracted Driving

As people rely more heavily on their phones for everything from communication to directions, texting and driving has become an increasing problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 3,000 people died in 2019 as a result of distracted driving. 

Texting while driving is the most alarming form of distracted driving. Texting can take your eyes away from the road for up to five seconds at a time. Driving at highway speeds, that’s the equivalent of driving an entire football field with your eyes closed.

Tips for setting rules around phone usage while driving:

  • Lead by example: Don’t use your phone while you’re driving.
  • Talk to your child: Explain their responsibility to keep themselves and others safe while driving.
  • Sign a pledge: Have every driver in your family sign a commitment not to text and drive.
  • Remind them of consequences: Even if they manage to avoid the worst consequences (like a serious injury or death), remind them that you or the state may suspend or delay their ability to receive a license if they text and drive.

Sleep Habits

Smartphone usage may contribute to a teen’s inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. The blue light from smartphones may be partly to blame. Nighttime exposure to any light inhibits melatonin production and messes with the body’s circadian rhythm, but blue light impacts this most powerfully.

Tips to encourage teens’ sleep hygiene:

  • Limit phone use and bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed.
  • Use blue light blocking glasses or use a blue light filter on their device.
  • Encourage them to expose themselves to bright light, especially daylight, during the day.
  • Ask them to use an app that will help them reduce their screen time.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is the intentional mistreatment of others through technology, like computers, tablets, and cell phones, and it is surprisingly common. Twenty eight percent of students between the ages of 10 and 18 have reported being cyberbullied in their lifetime.

Signs that your child may be experiencing cyberbullying:

  • They become upset after using their phone
  • They withdraw from family and friends
  • They avoid activities that they used to enjoy
  • Their grades drop
  • They refuse to go to school
  • They exhibit signs of depression

If you suspect that your child is being cyberbullied, offer support. Listen to them and let them know you are there for them. Ask questions and find out what happened. If you feel that evidence is important, document the incident(s) by printing screenshots. 

Work with your child to determine how they want to proceed with reporting the incident to their school or the police. Their school likely has a cyberbullying policy that may have been violated. If cyberbullying involved criminal behavior—hate-based attacks or stalking, for instance—you may wish to contact the police. 

Steer your child to new friend groups that are healthier and more supportive. If your child continues to struggle with the fallout, they may also benefit from professional counseling. 

Sexting

Sexting involves sending explicit photos, videos, or messages via text, social media, or another digital platform. Sexting holds many risks for teens, including the fact that a once very private message can quickly become public and viral. Sexting can also result in cyberbulling.

Talk to your child about sexting. Ask them if they know what it is and what they think about it. It can be awkward to talk to teens about this kind of thing, but if you take a low-key, informative approach, your teen may be more open to listening and sharing. Sharing a news story that illustrates the possible consequences of sexting can be a non-threatening way to bring up the topic.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do teens text?

According to the Pew Research Center, 88% of teens have access to a cell phone or smartphone, and 91% of them use their phones to text. The average teen sends and receives 30 text messages every day.

Does text messaging affect teen literacy?

According to research, texting seems to have a positive impact on literacy. Studies have found that texting has positive links to reading. Deciphering why an acronym is used and what it means may help kids better understand phonetics. 

A Word From Verywell

Setting healthy limits on social media and texting can help your teen have a balanced relationship with their phone. Screen time limits reduce distractions, promote healthy sleep, and encourage teens to engage in physical and social activities outside of their phone. 

Talk to your teen and encourage them to set limits on screen time. Discuss the risks of cyberbullying and sexting and ask them how you can support them. Engaging in these topics can sometimes be a little rocky, but with a low-key approach, your teen may be more receptive than you think.

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Article Sources
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  4. Anti-Defamation League. Cyberbullying warning signs.

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