Parent's Guide to Emojis

The Parent's Guide to Emojis

Emojis seem like they would be simple enough to understand. Most adults use emojis in a literal way. If you are happy, you send a . If you’re sad, you send a . When you want pizza, you send a .

But in the world of teens, things aren’t as simple as that. If you have kids and teens who love texting, chances are they use emojis. And, you may feel like you need a Parent’s Guide to Emojis so you can decipher how your teens are using emojis to express their thoughts. We have a few tips to keep you in the loop when it comes to emojis.

The Parent’s Guide to Emojis


Emojis noting relationship status and sextingSexting is a prevalent problem amongst the younger generation. Just because you don’t find suggestive pictures or wording in your kids’ messages doesn’t mean they aren’t discussing the boundaries or hoping for a relationship.

For example, teens will often communicate they wish to be friends without benefits by sending a string of different colored hearts, excluding the red heart. On the opposite spectrum, teens will communicate they wish to receive a nude photo by sending odd emojis like a peach, an eggplant, a corn on the cob, a tongue emoji, a donut, or even a banana. If you see these, it is cause for caution.

Saying I’m Done and Name Calling

Saying I'm Done and Name Calling EmojisThere are plenty of ways that teens can signal they are done with a conversation, a person, or a relationship by sending just a single emoji. The trash can, the knife, the bomb, or the skull are all significant to this message. Most of the time this won’t be accompanied by any other text, but will simply be sent as a single emoji, implying, “I’m done.”

Teens can also communicate they wish to harm another person by sending a person emoji accompanied by the scissors, implying, “I’ll cut you.” This cute little emoji combination 👩🐶 doesn’t mean “I’m taking my dog out for a walk.” It’s a curse word often directed at females. And that frog emoji, that most parents would use literally, is used by teens to call someone ugly.

Teens are highly driven by impulse and emotion, and a simple emoji can contain a thousand words.

Emojis Don’t Always Mean What Parents Assume

Emojis Don’t Always Mean What Parents AssumeHave you seen the “see no evil” monkey? The monkey emoji covering his eyes? One would assume that it means you didn’t see anything. Teens often use this as a way to say they’re shy or bashful. Sometimes they can respond to a compliment this way. It’s kind of like bashfully acknowledging a compliment, in a humble manner. Or, if someone offers a suggestive compliment, they can acknowledge it and bashfully say thanks, without having to say the word.

The praying hands seem self-explanatory. Like you’re hoping for something, praying for someone or something, or are thankful. For adults, this may be the case. But for kids and teens, this emoji often represents something else entirely. The praying hands emoji typically means they agree with whatever was suggested.

A simple way to remember this is to think of the actual definition of the word “amen” which means: so be it. So, the praying hands are simply expressing agreement.

The crying emoji doesn’t necessarily mean sadness, but really means more like you’re missing out on something. This is also apparently a way to respond to a sext. It’s a response showing they are unable to meet up. Basically it’s a way of saying, “Wish I could be there.”

Teens, for generations, have always had a way of speaking that was different than their parents. Our kids aren’t just using words. They are using emojis that can often have multiple meanings. You have the best Parent’s Guide to Emojis living right with you–your teen!

Keep a healthy, open relationship with your teen so you can talk with them about emojis and what they really mean. Sometimes, just asking can get an honest answer, so you aren’t left assuming the worst about what a smiley face could mean.


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