Cracking the Teen Texting Code

Text messaging drives cell phone bills through the roof, parents crazy.

ByABC News via logo
June 12, 2007, 11:29 AM

June 12, 2007 — -- Try to find a teen who isn't texting, and you may find yourself searching in another galaxy.

Millions of today's teenagers are caught up in this quick communication craze that has inspired everything from a new cyberlanguage to funny ads for cell phone companies. But for parents like Liz Oelbaum, shocking cell phone charges are a harsh reality.

"I saw that the bill was over $400, and I pretty much wanted to scream," Oelbaum, the mother of a teenage son, told "Good Morning America." "Right away, I went on the Internet. I downloaded the bill, and I saw all these text messages."

In just one month, her 15-year-old son, Brandon, had racked up over 3,000 text messages at a rate of 10 cents apiece. Even Brandon was stunned by the sky-high bill: "I was so surprised that I'm like 'Whoa, that's too much.'"

Oelbaum refused to pay the exorbitant charges.

"I said to him, 'You have to be more responsible. You're paying for the bill because it's your fault. You know that you should know better,'" she said.

And it's not just how much they're texting that baffles parents: It's the language they're using.

Text speech is designed to be quick and easy. Some common abbreviations -- think OMG (oh my God) and LOL (laughing out loud) -- are now part of our vernacular. But other codes, like PAW (parents are watching) and LMIRL (let's meet in real life) are a way to KPC (keep parent clueless) -- and add to texting's appeal.

Check out more codes in the texting dictionary below.

LOL = Laughing Out Loud
TTYL = Talk to You Later
BRB = Be Right Back
OMG = Oh My Goodness
WTF = What The F***
B2W = Back to Work
L8R = Later
PIR = Parents In Room
OTB = Off to Bed
^5 = High Five
CU = See You

Even savvy families who pay a monthly fee for text messaging are finding that there are other features that can blow a monthly budget.

Five months after the first incident, Oelbaum received a bill with another whopping 2,500 text messages. It turned out that Brandon's instant messenger service on his computer was linked to his phone, a feature that he didn't realize would affect the bill. Mom got tough: With one call to her carrier, she blocked access to the Internet, text messages and the downloading of songs.

"When you get the phone, they don't tell you that it's extra for text messaging," Oelbaum said. "They don't tell you the Internet is extra. They don't tell you anything like that. If you don't do your homework, and if you're not a responsible parent, you're going to fall into a trap."