Michelle Blanchard, PhD Candidate, Orygen Youth Health
Research Centre, Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of
Melbourne & Senior Research Officer, Inspire
The advent of mobile phones and internet based instant messaging
has given rise to a new language - txt talk - where words are
abbreviated so that messages can be easily communicated in 140
characters or less. For many parents, teachers and
professionals who work with young people, these abbreviations can
be difficult to understand.
Using email, SMS and social networking sites to engage young
people can be particularly successful in demonstrating to young
people that you understand them and their world, adding to the
credibility of you and your service. However, to what
extent can or should you use 'txt talk' to communicate with young
people? As a health care professional, your challenge is to
present yourself as someone who is approachable and understands
young people and their experiences, while speaking from a place of
authority as you provide trusted advice on sometimes sensitive
topics. Using age appropriate and contemporary language in
your interactions in important, but do you really need to go as far
as using 'txt talk'?
There is certainly a point at which composing a sentence filled
with 'lols' and signing off with 'cu l8r'makes you look like more
of what young people would describe as a 'try hard' than someone
who 'gets them' It's a fine line. So how do you get the
Take your cues from the young
people you work with. Listen to and read the language they
use online, in texts and face to face and reflect this back to them
in your communication
If you don't understand an acronym
or abbreviation don't use it!
Similarly, if you don't feel
comfortable using an acronym or abbreviation don't use it.
Young people can sense your uncertainty.
Do all young people txt talk?
Anecdotal evidence would suggest not. In fact, young
people with Aspergers Syndrome and learning difficulties often find
the style of language used in SMS messaging and on social
networking sites even more difficult to understand. For young
people with Aspergers the casual nature of these online
communications can challenge their preferred communication styles,
while for young people with learning disabilities, making sense of
the non-traditional combinations of letters and numbers can be
Need to brush up on your txt talk?
Finding it hard to understand the texts you're receiving from
young people? Here's a couple of websites you might find
Chat acroymns: http://www.sharpened.net/glossary/acronyms.php
Text messaging and chat abbreviations:
Over to you...
How do you feel about txt speak? Is it something you
use? If it is, how do young people respond when you use this
language? Any tips for others?