Slang words are constantly growing and transforming. With increased media and internet access, these vocabularies are affecting children at increasingly younger ages. So, when your 10-year old boy says that something is “meta”, what exactly is he saying? In what situation and of what sort of object do they use this phrase?
Something that is “meta” is considered “self-referential” as when it is about itself. A person can be “meta” by focusing on what something is “about” rather than the specific thing itself. By substituting the word “about” where you would be using the word “meta” in sentences, the meaning becomes clearer. For example, a meeting is being held. Discussing the logistics of the meeting itself rather than the matter at hand would be a “meta” action. How long the meeting will last, who will talk first, if the temperature is comfortable – all of these things are irrelevant to the progress of the meeting and therefore are considered “meta”.
When people are having an argument and they start yelling at each other, stopping their argument to to yell at each other to not yell is an example of being meta. Energy and time is being spent now arguing about the mode and method of the yelling and the argument rather than the content of the argument itself. In a modern context, kids might use “meta” as a way to deflect something they want to avoid talking about, but it’s expected that kids vary in their usage of the word.