Learning the Language of Your Teen

It is common for people of all ages to use slang – whether to feel part of a group, shape their identities, or express ideas or emotions. Slang is constantly changing, especially among teens, creating a language that often leaves parents and teachers scratching their heads. In fact, online sources, such as Urban Dictionary, are often used to decode popular slang in real time. While many terms are harmless and simply just a way for teens to communicate, the words carry more than just their literal meanings—they reflect the cultural context of their time. This leaves some words that seem innocuous to be veiled as secret codes for risky behaviors.

No, it’s not in your head. Teen slang has changed more frequently in comparison to past generations. A main cause has been the rise of social media and digital communication, which have helped accelerate the adoption of new words into teen vernacular. Today’s Gen Z and Gen Alpha slang changes quickly due to the influence of social media, among other things making it challenging for adults to stay updated.

Understanding teen slang is important for parents for several reasons:

  • Communication: Being familiar with modern slang helps you understand what your teens are saying, facilitating better communication and reducing misunderstandings.
  • Connection: When you understand and occasionally use current slang, it can bridge the generational gap, showing teens that you are trying to connect with their interests.
  • Safety: Recognizing the use behind certain slang terms can alert you to potential issues, such as risky behaviors or negative influences, allowing them to address these concerns more effectively.
  • Support: Understanding slang can offer you more relevant and empathetic support as your teen navigates their social environments and personal challenges.
  • Cultural Awareness: Keeping up with slang can help you stay informed about the evolving cultural landscape that influences your teen, fostering a more open and accepting family environment.
  • Teens often like to experiment and test limits, sometimes using slang just for fun or to show off. However, this language can also hint at risky behavior. While teen gatherings are a part of growing up and aren’t cause of concern in and of itself, they can sometimes lead to inappropriate behavior, substance abuse and experimentation, and peer pressure. It’s important to understand what they’re talking about and recognize any terms that might signal potential issues. While there are terms that refer to partying or drugs, teens are also using slang to directly refer to cough medicine, such as: DXM, Dexing, Robo Fizzing, Syrup Hear, Velvet, and Triple C’s. Here are some additional words to be aware of that could signal an unsafe environment:
    • Kick back: Small party
    • Rager: Big party
    • Throw down: To throw a party
    • Plug: Someone who can hook you up with drugs
    • Crunk: Getting high and drunk at the same time, or crazy and drunk

If you hear your teen using any of these terms, it’s important to have a conversation with them to discuss your concerns while also being mindful of respecting their privacy and independence. Their slang is a way to connect with their peers and understand their place within their environment. At the end of the day, staying up to date with the slang terms you hear them use can serve as your superpower. By learning their language, you can connect with them in an accessible way all while keeping them safe.

Take Action

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