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London - To parents they are a bewildering jumble of letters – but these coded messages may be the first clue that their children are self-harming, being bullied or groomed online, or even driven to suicide.
Teenagers and predators alike are using their own language and acronyms on Facebook and other social networking sites to conceal the true nature of their conversations.
Among the danger signs are “Dirl”, meaning “die in real life” and used by cyber-bullies to urge victims to kill themselves, and “Gnoc” - “getting naked on camera” - used to lure young people into getting undressed.
Other terms may at first seem innocuous. “Bio-oil” is simply a skincare product, but on chat forums such as Ask.fm, it can indicate self-harm scars; while #cutfor is used on Twitter to promote self-harm in the name of a celebrity.
Now 1 500 schools across Britain are using new software to sort out innocuous phrases from dangerous ones. And when a warning sign is detected, a pop-up alert is displayed on the teacher’s screen.
If a student searched for “clavicle”, for example, a screen shot would be sent to the teacher with an explanation that the word is often used by anorexics seeking pictures of girls with protruding collarbones.
Jonathan Valentine, of software house Impero, said: “You hear all these horror stories of children being bullied and then committing suicide. This will, hopefully, detect it early enough for us to intervene.”
His firm’s software has been welcomed by victims of cyberbullying. Amy Louise Paul of Peterborough was traumatised five years ago aged 13 when a Facebook group was set up by pupils who said they wished she was dead. She was so damaged by the bullying that she considered taking her own life.
Her mother Lisa said: “I used to stay awake all night listening to make sure she was still alive. This software should go out to every single school. It should be a national policy.”
Teresa Hughes, 44, who previously worked with the police to investigate child grooming online, advises Securus, another child protection software company. She said: “If a child is being bullied, it takes an awful lot for them to say it is happening. If you’ve got monitoring software the victim doesn’t have to come forward because the teacher sees it.
“Young people have their own language online and so do adults who choose to groom children. If we understand how people behave online then we can also work out how to protect young people.”
Anthony Smythe, of BeatBullying, said parents should talk to their children about how they use the internet and make themselves familiar with the technology.
“The more information we can get parents, the better,” he added.
THE TEENAGERS’ ONLINE LEXICON
Ana buddy/Mia buddy: Anorexic or bulimia buddy, who encourages the eating disorder.
Bbp: Banned by parents.
Bio-oil: Stretch mark oil often used by those who are self-harming to minimise appearance of scars.
Clavicle: Those suffering from eating disorders might use this to search for pictures of people who are very thin, as a prominent clavicle can be seen as a measure of thinness.
#cutfor: Hashtag used to promote self-harm in the name of particular celebrities. #cutforJustinBieber trended in 2013.
Dirl: Die in real life, a phrase which may be used to upset someone or encourage them to commit suicide.
Gcad: Get cancer and die.
Gnoc: Get naked on camera, used to groom young people or as a form of “sexting”.
Gokid: Got observers, keep it decent.
Foad: F*** off and die.
Fugly: F****** ugly.
Hduw2bb: Hello do you want to be buddies? Possible interaction with a stranger.
Idttu: I don’t talk to you. Used to ostracise another person online.
Ih8p: I hate parents.
IHML: I hate my life.
Iw2mu: I want to meet you. Suggests possible meet-up with a stranger.
Jlma: Just leave me alone.
Kpc: Keeping parents clueless.
Lggd: Let’s go get drunk.
Miw: Mum is watching.
Mmas: Meet me after school.
Mos: Mum over shoulder.
Np4np: Naked pic for naked pic. Offering to swap pornographic pictures with others online.
Oreo: Racist slang for a black person who is “trying to be white”.
Our x: Our secret, used by abusers to encourage victims not to speak out.
Pcrs: Parents can read slang.
P3n15/V4gIn4: Code for penis or vagina.
Pos/Pob: Parent over shoulder or parent over back.
Taw: Teachers are watching.
Water loading: Technique used by those with eating disorders to increase body weight.
Mail On Sunday