As Robert Fulghum provocatively pointed out in his 1989 classic, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
, "Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts. Ah, the pen — or, more likely the keystroke — is still mightier than the sword, it seems. Thanks to instant messaging, cell phone texting, and social networking sites, the way teens and tweens communicate is far different from what it was even 5 years ago. Messaging is big and kids have their own unique vocabulary, but it's not the kind that impresses college enrollment officers. Children commonly use acronyms such as POS (parent over the shoulder) or TPS (that's pretty stupid); words are abbreviated, grammar is ignored, and numbers may be substituted for letters, making it difficult for the uninformed to decipher messages. Most important, online communication is a primary vehicle for socializing with friends, says Debbie Glasser, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Fort Lauderdale and founder of NewsforParents.org. "On the one hand, it exposes kids to technology, which is a good thing," she says. "But the down side is how distanced they become from face-to-face interactions." Texting, IM and sites like MySpace also make it faster and easier to spread vicious gossip.