The secret messages behind Emojis- Online Safety Series

A parent’s guide to Emojis

Online safety series

As a parent, and smartphone user, you may know what Emojis are. Popular amongst young people, we investigate whether Emojis are as innocent as they seem.

Today is National Emoji Day! Emojis are small images used in messages to covey a person’s thoughts or feelings. We are taking this opportunity to delve into the darker side of Emojis, as part of our online safety series, as Kent Police release an X-rated guide to the hidden meanings behind emojis used for sexting. The guide, which deciphers abbreviations used for explicit chat, was provided as a Kent Police Open Day recently. It comes with a warning from Police that parental failure to decrypt the meanings of sexting codes could result in child grooming going unnoticed.

As well as Emojis, the report also reveals that young people are using simple codes to sext. For example, ‘NIFOC’ translates as ‘naked in front of computer’, ‘IWSN’ means ‘I want sex now’, ‘LMIRL’ is ‘let’s meet in real life’ and ‘LH6’, means ‘let’s have sex’.

The guide, which was initially created by the Kim Komando show, reveals Emojis and Emoji combinations which are used to imply masturbation or sex. The police force, in Northern Ireland, said in a later post: ‘Some of the codes may not be being used here but it is something to be aware of if you see cryptic messages on your kids’ devices. ‘Also, prevention is better than cure so speak to your kids about their online activity, what they are using and respect the age limits of social media platforms.’

What do they mean?

Emoji Text Talk

What are the dangers?

Emojis can also be used to send harmful or threatening messages to bully someone online. For example, a frog emoji posted under someone’s picture could imply they are “ugly”. An Emoji of scissors suggests “I’m going to cut you”, and an Emoji of a running man followed by a bowling ball may mean “I’m going to get you”.

Some people use these types of emojis to cyberbully others, and for those who don’t know their hidden meanings, the bullying isn’t obvious. In the age of the internet, cyberbullying is a method for bullies to constantly target and humiliate victims. Cyberbullying is the use of technology to embarrass, threaten, upset, tease, threat or harass another person. Unlike bullying which stops once the victim leaves the same area as the bully, e.g. school, cyberbullying makes it possible to constantly target the victim wherever they are. This form of bullying can be relentless, and as long as the victim has access to the internet or social media, they can be affected. Emojis are just one of the latest ways to bully others online.

Online sexual predators have also taken advantage of Emojis, using them to communicate with their young victims. Groomers constantly search social media sites and chat rooms to pray on vulnerable children. Often, they spend days, weeks and even months building a relationship with the child and attaining the victim’s trust. These predators, who have usually experienced abuse themselves early in life and characteristically suffer from very low self-esteem, are looking to ‘befriend’ the young person and gratify their sexual desires. Sexual predators study young people’s online behaviour, so they know how to best communicate with them in a way that will encourage trust. Emojis are a popular way to communicate among young people and can convey secret meanings that may be overlooked by parents.

 

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About the Author Olivia Lewis-Deane

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