Why Parents should be Concerned about Webspeak

Webspeak is a growing phenomenon amongst children. Instead of “you are” or “you’re,” teens may write “ur.” “You” becomes “u,” and even “laughing out loud” has become “lol” in daily interactions. It’s arguably a useful abbreviation when talking online, but when people are saying “lol” in their daily interactions, where is the logic? If something was funny, wouldn’t people have laughed? Webspeak is partially criticized due to an age gap. Parents don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. Nonetheless, there are reasons for parents to worry about “webspeak” influencing their children.

Before specifying such worries, it’s important to recognize that things change. Some languages have governing bodies that determine standards for everyone to follow. Is there a disagreement about how to use the word “jump?” In some languages, such questions are decided by “language authorities,” so to speak. English is not one of those languages. Authorities on language, such as dictionaries, are merely experts at reporting trends. If a word becomes used enough, it becomes part of the language. If I make up a word called “bubbletreeninja,” I’m the only one using it. It won’t be considered a word. The English language is a language where “D’oh,” an iconic cartoon utterance, has become a recognized word. Webspeak is becoming part of mainstream culture.

Nonetheless, parents should make sure their children are developing proper speech patterns. Especially in their youth, people acquire habits that they carry into adulthood. It’s easier to upset a child than have them deal with breaking a lifelong habit. They might resent being told to write “you” instead of “u,” but it’s a social norm. Standards are set so people can interact without having to learn an excessive number of languages. In most countries, you are expected to drive on a specific side of the road. You might like the left side better, but that’s the standard and it exists to promote efficiency. If you dislike the standard, argue that most people prefer the left side or, in the case of language, that the changes to the language are somehow beneficial.

For instance, could “u” replace “you?” It may seem strange, and it may be efficient. Alternatively, it may be inefficient and make things unclear when reading specific sentences. Language is complex, and it would take some considerable investigation to determine the merit of such a change. Certainly, however, many people are guilty of using this sort of “webspeak” with technological advances. Texting can be annoying and the shorter “u” can make a text, the better.

What’s important for parents, however, is the “pattern” talked about earlier. If a child is allowed to burp at a young age because “it’s cute,” that might cause them to develop a poor reputation later in life (presuming the habit is not broken, which is normally the case). Similarly, people who speak or write improperly will be judged by others. Judging other people for how they speak and write is, at least in some cases, rather unfair. Specific areas are known for accents that others deem “unintelligent,” but it’s possible they are simply being ignorant. These people are common, unfortunately, and a child you writes their job application with the word “u” every other sentence will decrease their chances of getting a job – especially when a generation of non-webspeakers is employing the majority of people. Now people can distinguish between cases where one method of speech is appropriate. However, the most common patterns of speech used will be most likely to “slip” into other areas of life. It’s simply more beneficial for children to be naturally accustomed to proper English (or their respective language) instead of webspeak.

Lastly, another potential worry is that “webspeak” is often gibberish to parents. Lecturing your child about language in front of their friends might be impractical if everyone is speaking in “lols,” but you can make an effort to learn the lingo. It’s actually simpler than it looks. Having someone in the same house who essentially “speaks another language” can cause a strain on your relationship with them. In most cases, people solve this issue when one of them helps the other learn the language. Your child may not be interested in that, but there are plenty of online sources available to help. There may be other worries for parents, when it comes to this “webspeak” phenomenon, but it’s important not to overreact. Social norms change and most people can envision the stereotypical elderly man complaining about how “back in his day things were better.” Now the same generation that rolled their eyes is making the same statements and claiming “this time it’s different.” Something tells me their children will fall into the same pattern. You aren’t wrong to be cautious; age often comes with wisdom. However, it’s important to work within a changing culture and recognize that certain cultural shifts are beyond your control.