TBH stands for “to be honest” or (less commonly) “to be heard.” If you’ve seen people write TBH on social media, they were likely using it in place of the phrase “to be honest” at the beginning or end of their sentence.
When teens talk and text online, it can be hard to understand what they’re saying. Internet slang is constantly evolving and can feel like an entirely different language. As a parent, it’s important to learn these different terms not only to stay in the know but also to protect your kids from potential danger online.
The TBH meaning and other teen slang words may cause a headache for parents who are not familiar. Read on to discover the meaning of TBH and other slang terms or skip to the infographic below to learn how to keep your kids safe online.
Table of Contents:
- How is TBH Used?
- Internet Slang You Should Know: The Good and the Bad
- Origins of TBH and Other Online Slang
- Potential Problems With Online Slang
- Online Slang: Tips for Parents
How is TBH Used?
According to Google Trends, the first Urban Dictionary entry for TBH was added in the early 2000s and the term quickly became popular by 2011. This term is normally used to channel a feeling of frankness, or expressing honestly how you feel about a person or thing. If someone wants to be candid about an opinion, they could say, “TBH, I hate going to the mall.”
Like most online slang, TBH has evolved past its original meaning for some internet users. On Instagram, young people are now using it as a way to make new friends and connections or complement one another. They do this by trading actions for “a TBH” as if it were a noun.
For example, a teen might post, “Like and comment for a TBH.” After a person has liked and commented, the original poster would go to one of their posts and comment something like, “TBH I love your outfit.” A TBH in exchange for a follow or like is almost always complimentary, and it’s a common way for teens to connect with friends and gain a quick confidence boost.
TBH can also be used as a way to insult someone, or in contrast, give them a compliment. For example, you can say something positive to someone like, “TBH, you’re a kind and sincere person,” or insult them by saying, “TBH, I hate your taste in fashion.”
Internet Slang You Should Know: The Good and Bad
There are many trendy slang terms that are becoming popular amongst teens. Here are some popular slang words being used today and their meanings:
- Bae: “Before anyone else.” Used as a term of endearment for a significant other or crush
- Bet: Can be used instead of “yes” or “OK,” or as a response to a challenge, like “we’ll see” or “watch me”
- Cap/No cap: “Cap” means to lie, whereas “no cap” means to be truthful
- Extra: Unnecessarily over the top and dramatic
- Fire: Really cool or amazing
- Fit: Short for “outfit”
- Flex: To flaunt, like knowingly flaunting your status
- FOMO: Fear of missing out
- Ghost: To purposely ignore someone
- Gucci: When something is cool or good
- JBH: Just being honest
- Lit: Word to describe when something is high-energy, super fun, and exciting; can also mean drunk or high
- Lowkey: Expresses a feeling without too much intensity
- NGL: Not gonna lie
- Salty: This means that you are bitter or mad toward something or someone
- Shade: Generally means that someone’s actions are sneaky or unsavory, like “throwing shade”
- Ship: Short for relationship. Can also be used as a verb, like “I ship this couple”
- Slay: To be good at something or succeed
- Snatched: Word that refers to someone who is fashionable or looks really good
- Tea: Alternative phrase for gossip
Red Flag Slang Terms to Watch Out For
Most online slang that teens use these days is harmless, but there are still a few bad apples floating around that you should be aware of. In high-risk situations online, teens may use slang to hide their mischievous or even dangerous behavior. Here are some red flag slang terms that are trending and you should watch out for:
- Addy: Short for Adderall, a medication that is used recreationally that is normally intended to treat ADHD
- ASLP: Acronym for age, sex, location, picture; often used by online predators
- Break green or 420: This means to share marijuana with your friends or code for marijuana
- Catfishing: Using a fake social profile to pretend to be someone else
- Cook session: When a group of people gangs up on someone via social media.
- CU46: See you for sex
- Down in the DM: Usually meant to share or ask for nude photos through private messages on apps or to find a hookup
- FWB: Friends with benefits
- GNOC: Get naked on camera
- KMS: Kill myself
- KYS: Kill yourself
- Netflix and chill: A euphemism for a casual hookup; to meet under the pretense of watching TV together but actually just meeting for a hookup
- NP4NP: Naked picture for naked picture
- NSFW: Not safe for work
- POS: Parent over shoulder
- Ratchet: Usually describes someone as nasty, ugly, or awful.
- Savage: Typically used to complement a well-done insult. For example, someone who witnessed an insult could respond with “that was savage”
- #selfharmmm: This is a trending hashtag used on social media to identify or even glorify self-harming habits, such as cutting.
- Sneaky link: Refers to someone you’re secretly having sex with
- Sugarpic: Erotic or suggestive picture
- Thirsty: To be desperate for something
- Xan/Xans/Xanny: Short for Xanax, a drug used to treat anxiety that is often used recreationally
- 53x: Sex
- 9: Code for “a parent is watching”
- 99: Code for “parents are gone”
Origins of TBH and Other Internet Slang
The origins of online slang are closely related to text message culture, social networking sites, gaming and online chats or forums.
Before smartphones and phones with keyboards were commonplace, people had to type out mobile messages using multi-tap texting, a method where each number key is connected to three or four letters. This method was not very efficient, and slow texting combined with character limits likely contributed to TBH and other abbreviations’ popularity online.
Slang has been around for many years, and each generation has its own style that sets it apart from others. However, moving this language into the digital space can create more opportunities for your kids to be put in danger.
Potential Problems With Online Slang
Cyberbullying is a widespread problem among teens (41% of internet users in the U.S. have experienced online harassment), and online slang could be contributing to the problem. Examples of cyberbullying include demeaning behavior, harassment, threats and embarrassing remarks toward another using an online platform.
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, 31% of young adults have reported that their peers have misunderstood their social media posts or texts. Additionally, 38% of people experience cyberbullying on social platforms every day. Many teens use hateful online slang terms, and young adults who experience this type of behavior are twice as likely to self-harm and execute suicidal behavior.
Online predators aren’t strangers to the internet when it comes to targeting teens. Predators such as drug dealers and sex offenders have found a way to adopt online lingo that teens are using today as a way to communicate and relate with them. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, 1 in 5 youth between the ages of 9 and 17 will see unwanted sexual content material online and 1 in 9 teens will receive unwanted online solicitations.
Online predators can use internet slang to communicate with your teen, so it’s important to be aware of the other internet slang terms that are being used today.
Internet Slang: Tips for Parents
Knowing that there’s potentially dangerous online language and that your teen could be hiding their activity may cause some concern. However, there are some helpful tips to know that will allow your kids to stay safe on the internet and keep your mind at ease:
- Monitor devices: Conduct random spot checks on your child’s devices, the family PC, social media and instant messaging services.
- Discuss sexting: Make sure to talk with your teens about the dangers of sexting and its legal ramifications.
- Teach them: Don’t assume your kids know all about tech — teach them proper skills, tools and responsibilities if they run into trouble on the internet. This includes being proactive about letting their friends know what is and isn’t OK and being open to discussing problems that arise on the internet.
- Talk about online strangers: Stranger danger applies on the internet, too. Discuss the emotional and physical danger of communicating with someone you don’t know online, whether it’s instant messaging, talking on the phone or sending pictures or other information.
- Set up parental controls: Avoid any potential danger by setting up parental controls on your shared devices. These parental controls allow you to block or set time limits on internet usage.
- Limit screen time: Limiting the amount of time your teen spends on their devices allows for less risk, and more time spent doing homework, spending time with family and getting a good night’s sleep. Less time online also means they won’t have time to get curious and start digging through the internet.
- Have conversations about cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is common in today’s online world, and it’s important to discuss how to deal with online threats and bullies and how to block or report them.
- Impose consequences: If your teen is the one causing mischief online, be sure to enforce consequences for their actions. This could include taking away their devices until they’re aware of how to use them responsibly.
- Stay on top of internet terminology: Learn new internet slang by bookmarking sites like Urban Dictionary, Wiktionary and Urban Thesaurus. You can also ask your kids and community members about terms you don’t know.
Knowing what TBH and other internet slang means can help you better navigate social media and stay on top of your kids’ digital habits. Be sure to also use antivirus software as an additional layer of protection to defend against viruses on your home network.
To learn more about internet slang and online safety, check out the infographic below.