The secret language of emojis parents need to know

Posted at 12:14 AM, May 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 15:32:18-04

DENVER -- It was Oxford Dictionary's word of the year. Now, emoji is quickly becoming the universal language of the internet.

It's estimated that 6 billion emojis are sent every day. It’s a form of communication kids and parent use. But the seemingly innocent use of emojis can have a dark side.

The faces, hand gestures, fruits, animals and other symbols don't always mean what you think, especially for parents.

They can be used to harass, threaten and commit other crimes.

"It doesn't mean anything to them. But it does to those who are fluent in emoji, the secret language of emoji," Mike Harris, who tracks down child predators for a living, told KDVR.

Harris works for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office in Colorado and said he has to learn the whole new language of over 1,200 emojis.

"One symbol can mean three or four different things. That's what makes it complicated," he said. "Something as simple as a flower can mean drugs."

Strung together, Harris said a running man and a bowling ball means "I'm going to hit you." When you add scissor, it means, “I’m going to cut you.”

While emoji’s like a gun, bomb, and knife are easy to figure out, some are more complex.

Some emojis aren't so obvious.

  • A frog can mean someone is "ugly."
  • A cute image of a dog can actually be an insult of the b-word.
  • A smiling pile of poop is another profanity.
  • Strung together, a running man and a bowling ball means, "I'm going to hit you."
  • Scissors mean "I'm going to cut you."
  • A knife, a certain face and a shower equals psycho.
  • A skull with a right arrow and a fire means “die in a fire.”

Fruits and vegetables like an eggplant, peach or a banana are used to talk about sexual desires. Rain drops are also used in this context.

Harris said he uses the "Speak Emoji" app to translate what people are saying.

Important emoji resources

Here are links to several emoji-type dictionaries for parents to use as reference.

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