Bebo speak: Teenagers create secret language to keep parents and employees in the dark about partying, drinking and sex

Teenagers on social networking site Bebo have created a secret language to stop adults knowing what they are up to, researchers say.

Youngsters are using slang words to keep parents and employers in the dark about their social activities such as partying and drinking.

Instead of writing they are drunk, teens post ‘Getting MWI’ – or mad with it.

Being in a relationship is known as ‘taken’ or ‘Ownageeee’, and ‘Ridneck’, a corruption of redneck, means to feel embarrassed.

Teenagers on social networking site Bebo have created a secret language to stop adults knowing what they are up to (posed by model)

Teenagers on social networking site Bebo have created a secret language to stop adults knowing what they are up to (posed by model)

Meanwhile, girls posting ‘Legal’ are indicating that they are above 16 and legally allowed to have sex.

Lisa Whittaker, a postgraduate student at the University of Stirling, who studied teens aged 16-18 in Scotland, said the slang had been created to keep their activities private, and cited the example of one young girl who was sacked after bosses found pictures of her drinking on the website.

She said: ‘Young people often distort the languages they use by making the pages difficult for those unfamiliar with the distortions and colloquialisms.

‘The language used on Bebo seems to go beyond abbreviations that are commonly used in text messaging, such as removing all the vowels.


This is not just bad spelling, which would suggest literacy issues, but a deliberate attempt to creatively misspell words.

‘The creation and use of their own social language may be a deliberate attempt to keep adults from understanding what is written on the page.

‘By doing this they are able to communicate with their in-group and conceal the content from the out-group. This further adds to their online identity.’

She said that one reason for encoding their messages was to keep adults in the dark about their drinking or smoking.

One teen she questioned, known as Kelly, was fired when her employer found pictures of her drinking on the website.

Ms Whittaker said: ‘Kelly feels very bitter about losing her job over the content of her Bebo page.

‘When I ask her to tell me about it she uses the word “judge”, which indicates that she feels victimised by her ex-employers.

‘This issue here surrounds the fact that Kelly likes to drink at the weekends, even though she is still under the legal age.

‘She posted videos of herself drunk on her Bebo page, which led her employers to sack her.

‘Kelly feels her personal life is separate from her working life, which may be the case, but by posting videos online her Bebo page has given her employer an insight into behaviour which may have otherwise remained private.

‘Young people give each other recognition for going to college and having a job but also engaging in social activities such as drinking and smoking.

‘Others may see this as a divergence, for example, a young person is labelled a delinquent for drinking alcohol while underage.

”owever, these young people are able to recognise each other for both socially desirable and undesirable behaviours.’

She went on: ‘Social networking sites like Bebo provide young people with an opportunity to gain informal positive recognition from their peer group.

‘The total number of friends you are connected with indicates your popularity.

‘However, in terms of self-presentation and recognition this is not a straightforward process.

‘For young people, a low number of friends, for example, less than 500, is a sign that you are not very popular or very well-liked.

‘By contrast, having too many friends can also be detrimental to your self-image as you appear desperate.

‘The number of friends you have on Bebo must be a carefully monitored.

‘It seems young people are creatively developing their internet literacy to keep certain information private from unwanted and unintended audiences while simultaneously gaining recognition and boosting their self-esteem through online interactions with their peers.’

She is due to present her research at a seminar at the Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data and Methods in Cardiff tomorrow.


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