A new emoji keyboard for children may cause alarm — and that’s the point.
Abused Emojis, a free iPhone app, lets kids express with emoji some bad things that are happening to them at home or school. While a school counselor or trained therapist may ask a child to draw what they are thinking about, this emoji set comes with some classic situations built in that make it easier for kids to identify what to say.
General abuse by anyone is expressed with a swollen eye or a band-aid on the face or both. Alcoholic parents are clearly depicted with a mug of beer or a glass of wine where no one in the picture seems happy.
The app was created by BRIS, a Swedish non-profit that runs a national helpline for children and teenagers where it communicates with kids via phone, chat and email.
“Many of the problems that children face today are stigmatized and often they have no-one to talk to but us,” according to the BRIS site. “The Abused Emojis app is a symbol for our work to make children talk more freely about their situation.”
While my colleague Mic Wright opined in a post earlier today that emoji should not replace language — who can disagree? — here is a case where clearly it can be of service to someone in trouble.
When kids can’t or won’t use words, maybe a friendly emoji that speaks to their situation can alert a grown-up to take a closer look — or maybe confirm something they already knew.
Emoji are not a cure-all for communicating directly, but sometimes when words fail, it might be extremely helpful.