Internet slang can take the form of just about any typed keys, taking the form of woefully incorrect grammar to acronyms to what could very well be a secret password or bar code. Sometimes referred to (by the most computer-intense of our world) as ‘Leetspeak’, at first glance this seems to be a harmless byproduct of our times. Granted, substituting “elite” with “leet” is a little irritating to some, it seems to just be an innocent linguistic hobby or rebellion. LOL, or ‘laugh out loud’, is the most commonly used form of internet slang, and acronyms have been used by everyone for countless years. The worst that could seem to result of the use of these words is the need for a slang dictionary, online interpreter, or perhaps just not knowing what is being said online. But the problem goes far deeper than that. Just below the innocent veneer, an unaddressed challenge festers unchecked.
Modern schools have always had issues with one or two kids here or there having difficulty grasping basic grammatical concepts, but internet slang has increased the problem in leaps and bounds. Students thinking “ur” is actually the correct way to spell “your” or “o” is a word in and of itself is becoming such a huge crisis in America that there is actually talk in government of ‘dumbing-down’ the English language to accommodate this inability to speak properly, to make it more phonetic. But isn’t that a cop-out? Isn’t that reducing our expectations of students or giving up, declaring it as hopeless? I wonder if that is indicative of our lack of trust in the school system or a lack of faith in the students? The response we should take is not to succumb to the seemingly-overwhelming internet slang culture, but to fight it by emphasizing the proper grammatical usage of common chatspeak slang.
Another, perhaps even more dangerous result of the gap in understanding of internet slang between children and parents is what could be said by or to the child and the parent would never know if it was malicious or innocent. It’s far easier for online predators to get kids to trust them if they speak the kids’ own language, and far more difficult for the parents to do anything about it if they have no idea what is being said. Hundreds of children are reached every year by twisted, malevolent people wanting to prey on children, and there are those that are molested or killed by these predators that wormed their way into the kids’ hearts and trust while going undetected on parents’ radar because of the language gap.
It sometimes seems that the only thing to do would be to wipe out internet slang altogether. However, there’s nothing we can do to prohibit internet slang on the internet. It’s a pervasive, unstoppable part of modern culture. The best we can do is to isolate it there, not let it reach our schools, and teach adults to understand the language as well. Maybe that way we can prevent both the bleak, illiterate future our nation may face, or, worse, a predator harming a child. It’s up to the adults to educate and protect the youth. If this is not done, perhaps it really is hopeless.