What Does PWOS Mean in a Text?

PWOS means "Parents watching Over Shoulder."

PWOS is typically used by young people who are undertaking an online activity that they wish to hide from their parents (e.g., gaming instead of doing homework, engaging in dating-style chat, planning a discreet event).

PWOS is effectively code for "I must stop this conversation now" or "I must change the nature of this conversation to something more acceptable."

Image for PWOS

When I write PWOS, I mean this:

meaning of PWOS

PWOS (Parents Watching Over Shoulder) means "I can't talk now."

Summary of Key Points

"Parents Watching Over Shoulder" is the most common definition for PWOS on Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
Definition:Parents Watching Over Shoulder
Guessability:guessability level 2
2: Quite easy to guess
Typical Users:typical user


Examples of PWOS in Sentences

Here are examples of PWOS being used in conversations:
  • Tony: What passage did we have to learn for English? (PWOS)
  • Jordan: Passage 15. Okay. Speak later.
  • Tony: I can't talk now. PWOS. BAK [Back at Keyboard] later.
  • Jordan: Okay. L8R [Later].

An Academic Look at PWOS

PWOS is typically used as a standalone declarative sentence (i.e., a statement) meaning "My parents are watching over my shoulder." In other words, it is not used as another part of speech within a wider sentence.

Of note, PWOS is an initialism abbreviation. Technically, this means it is pronounced using its individual letters (i.e., Pee Dublyu Oh Ess), but as this is harder to say than "Parents watching over shoulder," it is not often uttered using its letters. In other words, the abbreviation PWOS is for efficiency in writing and not efficiency in speech.

What Did We Say before Texting and Social Media?

Before the digital era, we might have said something like "parent alert" or "parents in room" instead of PWOS.

Example of PWOS Used in a Text

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