Emojis connect us. And disconnect us too.
World Emoji (@WorldEmojiDay and #WorldEmojiDay) is upon us! 17 July is the day (chosen because that’s the date reflected on the calendar emoji) to celebrate the clever cartoons we – and our children – use to add emotion to texting, or even to replace words completely.
Four billion people look to add or convey a different meaning while flipping through the more than 2,800 emoji options at our fingertips, transcending language and the ability to read.
Looking at the littles…
Compiling a study for a Wired magazine article, linguist Gretchen McCullough found that communicating with emojis is a ‘way of acclimating [preliterate] kids to the digital reality of using symbols to communicate with people they care about’.
As the children in her study grew up, so the sophistication of how they used emojis developed too – evolving from strings of objects (such as food and animals) to include expression emojis. Some parents observed that their children stopped using emojis to communicate completely, once they had learned to read and write properly.
McCullough shows in her research that social interaction is a vital part of learning language – but there’s a twist: While our first response may be to clutch our pearls and say that emojis should be banned for children and we should be talking directly to them instead – think of it differently. Is there anything more personal than a communication that has been written specifically for you, using images that are a language you love, by someone you care for?
Check in on your teens
Teens are ‘older’ at a younger age, more aware of the world around them, and more engaged with it too. Emojis are a great toolkit for them to use in communicating with their peers – particularly if they’re a little stuck for words.
My Social Life recommends occasional check-ins to see what your children are chatting about on their digital conversations, both as a way of identifying and addressing cyber bullying, but also as a window into what’s going on their worlds – for their protection.
This is when it’s worth knowing that an eggplant emoji doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is a fan of aubergines, or that a palm tree emoji means that they’re looking forward to their beach holiday …
It’s worth wising up on what emojis can mean – both in your role as a parent and for your own benefit. For example, it’s worth being sure that you don’t send a snowflake emoji to someone by mistake, when he comments on the cold weather – he may think you’re hinting at a different kind of powder …
If you or your school require any digital life skills training, contact MySociaLife.com