Police reveal alarming secret code of what emojis may really mean to kids

GUILDFORD, United Kingdom — British police have published a guide of sorts that suggests what several emojis might really mean when kids use them — including “eyes” for dealing drugs and a “fish” for using cocaine. The “secret world of emojis” shows the darker side of what the colorful symbols can communicate to others — often serving as a code for drugs and sex.

The list of examples includes using a strawberry, dog, cherries, cake, ice cream, or leaves to indicate cannabis. Meanwhile, an eggplant or a peach might represent sex, and an alien or a mask might mean MDMA — also known as Ecstasy or Molly. A blowfish, gas pump, or a snowflake can be code for cocaine use, while a fist or a rocket can symbolize how powerful a particular substance is.

Emojis of a pair of eyes or a power cable might mean someone is a drug dealer, according to the Surrey Police Department. Also, a horse can mean ketamine and a balloon stand for the drug NOS. Surrey police put out the guide on Facebook as part of a campaign to make parents more “emoji aware.”

“We really want parents and guardians to feel confident to have a conversation with their children about this, if and when they need to,” says Detective Chief Inspector Kate Hyder in a media release.

Emoji guide for kids from British police
Over the past two weeks, police in the United Kingdom has been raising awareness about the alternative meanings of emojis, which some young people may use to reference drugs and sexual behavior.

Emojis – small icons which convey emotion – have become a popular way to communicate across texters of all ages. However, the police say there is a “secret world,” with “more concerning meanings.” The department says they’ve spent the last two weeks campaigning to raise awareness, as “some young people may use [emojis] to reference drugs and sexual behavior.”

“Our focus on this doesn’t stop with the end of this initial campaign. We will be continuing to work with local partners to extend the conversation around emojis. We’re also aware that emojis and their alternative meanings are something that will constantly change, and so our work and research into this will continue,” Hyder continues.

“This isn’t a campaign that starts and finishes within this two-week window. Instead, this is about encouraging parents and guardians to have conversations with their children at a time that works for everyone involved. What is vital in these discussions is trust,” the Surrey Police Department says in a statement.

“We’re very aware that checking phones could break down this trust between a parent and their child, and therefore we are not suggesting parents do this. Instead, we want people to be aware of what these emojis mean, in case they do happen to see them.”

Officials add, although the emojis can have serious meanings, parents should remember that kids using these symbols on their own does not necessarily mean a child talking about drugs or other risky behaviors. Instead, this may be part of a bigger picture of a change in their behavior, such as a change in mood.

South West News Service writer Jonathan Coles contributed to this report.

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