April 17, 2017

How innocent are those emojis?

Array of emoji

How innocent are those emojis and hashtags children are using?

We never thought that innocent emojis and hashtags could be linked with child abuse; but where there is a will, there is probably a way.  Being a parent today is so very difficult.  The things that parents worried about when we were children are still very real.  But remember that you are not alone.  All parents are faced with the same fears you may be having.  Online social media is just another tool, which should be understood.  It’s up to you to educate yourself.  Here’s some information to get you started:

According to a 2015 PEW Research Center report:

“…, 92 percent of teens go online every day and 24 percent report being online “almost constantly.”

“In fact, while 76 percent of teens say they engage in social media, 71 percent say they use more than one social media network. The second most popular site is Instagram, with 52 percent of teens saying they use the platform, while 41 percent use Snapchat and 33 percent use Twitter.”

However, good information and being a proactive parent have power to prevent those fears from keeping you ineffective.  As the associate director of research at the Pew Research Center and the study’s lead author Amanda Lenhart says “Parents can use this [report] as a roadmap for helping to stay in touch with their child’s digital media lives,” she says. “They change constantly, and reports like ours give parents a clue where to look next. Social media is a new check box in the list of things you have to do as a modern parent, but it’s an important way your kids are socializing and accessing information, so it behooves you to be there in ways that are meaningful and affirming.”

Here is an informative discussion on how emoji’s can be used to bully, threaten or offer illicit drugs…


Plus, there are Hashtags - simple ways to add identifying labels to messages and pictures - making it easy for peers or strangers to find and comment on by using the # sign in front of any text.  Ten social media platforms including Twitter and Instagram utilize hashtags as an easy way for online communities to build around common issues.

But hashtags can also be used as a coded language - where #MySecretFamily identifies a portal into an online world for unmonitored discussions on suicide, self-harm, self-medicating with drugs, depression, obsessive compulsive disorders and more.  Hashtags can be used to indicate behavioral problems, compulsions or addictions such as #Deb can represent problems with Depression, #Olive stands in for Obsessive Compulsive issues, #Cat is a nickname for Cutting, while #Sue is shorthand for Suicide.  We’ve been told that this particular ‘codebook’ is already old and becoming ancient in online memory -  so build a relationship with your child to be able to discuss these concerns when these types of coded messages appear in online messages.

Now spread the word to inform other adults.  Sharing helpful information is one of the many ways to be proactive!!


Sue Laney

 CEO HEARTS for Families, Inc.

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