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#HDM: Decoding the Latest Wave of Teen Cyber Slang

Do you get a little confused looking through your teen’s Instagram or Twitter feed lately and seeing a crazy amount of new code-like phrases?

You aren’t alone.

If you add together the popular hashtags kids use and the coded phrases, you’ll find yourself learning an entirely new language that also happens to be growing exponentially every day.

We’ve written about popular hashtags such as #tbh (to be honest), which is an abbreviation posted by teens Instagram users (also called #igers), Twitter users and SnapChat users that invites other users to publicly post honest comments about them.

While much of the #tbh banter remains friendly and flattering, it can and does go south if a #tbh comment such as “TBH you are a real @#$!%” gets posted. Then it’s an open call for both drama and bullying.

Likewise, a few other new tags are emerging every week that are also being used by teens to exchange likes for “rates” or rankings on a user’s looks.

On Twitter

In an effort to get more “favorites” on a tweet, teens have created a digital exchange system

through phrases such as “fav for a rate” (#favforarate) or “fav for HDM” (#favforhdm). HDM means Honest Direct Message.

The same code phrases apply to SnapChat, where the goal is also to accumulate favorites on story posts.

On Instagram

The same ranking structure is popular on Instagram where it’s all about accumulating likes and comments (over or at pace with peers). So hashtags such as #likeforHDM #likeforrate, #commentforrate and #commentforTBH are all pitched as ways to get direct messages or rankings on looks.

  • One hashtag that is harmless and fun but could easily go south is #sorrynotsorry, which a sarcastic way of saying, “I’ll say sorry but I meant what I said or did.”

  • Another phrase that is camouflaged for obvious reasons is: “let’s watch Netflix and chill,” which means “come over and make out.”

In the past we’ve written extensively on hashtags that can alert you, parent, to potential dangers such as:

#nsfw = not safe for work (post will include nudity, etc.)

#pron = porn

#lmirl = let’s meet in real life#420 = marijuana

#CU46 = see you soon for sexavatar

Family Talking Points:

Emotional scars. Bring up the topic of asking for compliments and get candid about the emotion hits they may take by participating in this exchange. Asking for other people to publicly or even via Direct Message to rank your looks or what they think of you is kind of like tossing a grenade around like a hot potato. Someone will get burned eventually.

Include your boys. It’s easy to think this is all about girls flirting or fishing forPicsArt4 compliments but boys ask for #rates, #tbh, #hdm just as much as the girls so tend to their hearts and minds as well.

Bully bait? There’s absolutely no excuse for cyber bullying and victims are certainly not asking to be bullied. There are, however, some online behaviors that may put kids more at risk to be bullied—whether they realize it or not.

Approval addiction. Talk to your kids about the risk of intentionally soliciting compliments, the emotion danger of getting used to it and becoming desensitized to true compliments and trusting others’ honesty.

Objectification. If you have a girl, discuss the concept of objectification of women and how damaging it is to her and women, in general, to ask for a ranking based on looks without considering the whole person.

Focus on the unseen. The social networking realm for teens right now (like it or not) is all about the visible. It’s about the selfie, the adventurous looking life, and the documenting outings for others to see. It will evolve to deeper things once the selfie nation mentality runs its course, most cultural trends do. But until then, affirm your teens, males, and females. Focus on their character, values, and opinions. Remind them often of how much you notice their evolving maturity. Tell them how much they mean to you and the people who truly know them and love them.

Have you noticed your tweens or teens using covert language online or via text? Please add to our list by commenting below!

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist for Intel Security. She is an author, speaker, and cyber savvy mom of two teenagers (much to their dismay). As a family safety evangelist for Intel Security, she focuses on online safety and often speaks to educators, parents, and teens about dodging the dangers online. She is the co-owner of Birdsong Creative, a Nashville-based web design company, where she specializes in social media and brand strategy. Her writing background includes a journalism career in Los Angeles where she specialized in technology, business and politics. Toni also spent nearly a decade as a Sr. Communication Specialist for The Walt Disney Company writing extensively about the people and the technology behind the magic. She is an Apple products fanatic, mobile app addict, and when she’s not blogging or reading Mashable, you will find her unapologetically stalking her kids online.

Twitter: @IntelSec_Family and @ToniBirdsong.

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