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Emojis may help kids communicate abuse

May 29, 2015

Emojis, small, digital images or icons used to express an idea or emotion have come a long way since the days of using a colon and close paragraph symbol to electronically express a smile.  And where they once were pretty lighthearted, today they are taking a more serious tone on much more serious subjects – violence and abuse.

BRIS, a Swedish nonprofit, has created an app – Abused Emojis – it views as a tool to help children seek help in dangerous situations and report abuse. The set of 15 emojis represent abuse victims – hear-no-evil, see-no-evil monkeys convey upset; hands have red cuts across the wrists; and children’s faces are being slapped, have bruises or Band-Aids.

The campaign encourages kids to not sit quietly and try to cope with their troubles, but, rather, to reach out to others, to report if they are in a potentially dangerous situation, Silvia Ernhagen, communications director for BRIs, told The Huffington Post.

“There’s no wrong way to communicate, and we want children to communicate more,” said Ernhagen. “Through Abused Emojis, we want to give them a wider range of emotions and feelings to choose from.”

The app has its supporters and detractors, even creating mixed feelings in some. A representative for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, for example, said the app raises questions. Would one make a report to Child Protective Services if they received an “abused” emoji from a child, he pondered.

A fair question, but the same representative also acknowledged the app’s potential. “It offers a new way for victims to express themselves about traumatic events, which can be difficult to put into words,” he said. “If something doesn’t feel right … and an emoji could convey for clarity or be able to initiate conversations, it’s huge.”

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