'The peach emoji has nothing to do with fruit': What parents must know about the teen 'digital diet'

This past World Emoji Day, Emojipedia aka "the world's number one resource on emoji" hosted its annual World Emoji Awards.

Along with revealing the top three new emojis of 2020 - which were the White Heart, Yawning Face and Brown Heart emojis - the site also shared that of the 3 304 tiny graphic pictures at our disposal, more than 900 million of them "are sent every day without text on Facebook Messenger", and of the millions of Twitter emoji users, 86% are younger than 24.

Another interesting emoji fact revealed that "only 7% of people use the peach emoji as a fruit".

"There are few mysterious double meaning to know of," says Dean McCoubrey, the founder of MySociaLife, a Digital Life Skills school Program.

"An eggplant emoji doesn't necessarily mean that your child is a fan of aubergines, the shapely peach is less about fruit and more about your curves."

McCoubrey believes that for Gen Z, emojis have become more like an actual language than an add on to it.

"In the same way that devices have become a part of our lives, emojis have become one of the fastest developing new languages in history, especially for Gen Z… The one universal language that almost any teen or pre-teen with technology access understands."

'There is a lot to cope with online'

Yet as much as Gen Z has carved out their own language, teens remain as vulnerable to life online as ever.

Teaching their curriculum for "digital life orientation" to around 4 000 school pupils per year, McCoubrey says the MySociaLife team has been privy to ear-to-the-ground insights into what Gen Z is faced with in terms of social media and technology.

"There is a lot to cope with online - digital identity, bullying, sexuality online, mental health, obsessive use, focus and fatigue, fake news. The list goes on… they can easily get themselves into hot water."

And while your teen may seem "aloof and in control", McCoubrey urges moms and dads to remember that the parental role as a child's "moral compass" has by no means changed, but has become even more essential in the information age.

'Know what they are consuming'

Acknowledging that when talking technology, "most parents feel lost at sea", McCoubrey advises that parents must decide whether they'll be taking an active or passive role in educating both themselves and their children about the digital world and its dangers because if you don't, someone else will.

Here are a few tips McCoubrey advises parents to take on board when talking to your child about social media and technology:

Trust is key

If you lose the trust or seem disinterested or negative, there is a possibility that they will go underground or share their online concerns with someone else - who may be too young to advise them appropriately or may even be a stranger (we see a fair bit of confiding in strangers when we teach our students).

Ask them what's happening online

Ask them about which apps they use. How do they see the world through this lens? Because this lens has a significant influence on them, given the increasing screen time. If you know what they are consuming - their digital diet - then you can adjust or discuss things which may not be within your values.

You need their buy-in

Try not to switch off or be a drone, if possible, even if you have to fake interest. If you have buy-in and conversation, then you have the doorway to educate them.

Chatback:

Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback @ parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Don't miss a story!

For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice, sign up to our Friday Parent24 newsletter.

Follow us, and chat, on Facebook and Twitter.