Can emojis help prevent child abuse?

May 21, 2015 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Image: BRIS Abused Emojis App

No one ever wants to think about their child being hurt in any way. If, however, the unfortunate occurs, there's an app to help where words can't.

"A complex reality demands a complex set of symbols."

What would you do if your child was being physically or emotionally abused? Could you pick up on warning signs that indicate they're having a bad day — or experiencing emotional pain that leads to thoughts of hurting themselves?

Unfortunately the answer is no.

No matter how hard we try as parents, there's never a foolproof way or perfect system to protect our kids. There is, however, an app that hopefully will make coming forward a whole lot easier.

BRIS, a Swedish nonprofit organization, has created a new phone app called Abused Emojis that might sound a little weird but has the potential to un-silence your child's voice. Currently available on iTunes, the app features a series of emojis or digital images that each express a different emotion. Examples include children with cuts and bruises, being in the presence of a parent who drinks, thoughts of worthlessness, suicide contemplation and much more.

I'll be the first to admit that hearing about such an app made me very sad. Who wants to ever think about their child being hurt, let alone receive a text message with one of these gruseome images?

As a new mom myself, I'm already thinking about "what if" scenarios that make it difficult for me to trust just anyone to watch my child. Call it paranoia or being the daughter of a retired police officer — I always try my best to shield my little one from harm.

When I was 5, I was physically abused by a day care provider. Even though I knew something was wrong, it took me some time to tell my parents. I didn't always have or know the words to say. Fortunately I was able to speak up for myself, though I know many who experience pain at the hands of others often don't.

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Today's child is growing up in a modern society where it's more common to text than to hold a conversation or, God forbid, pick up a pen to write something. Communication is quick and to the point, as rarely anyone wants to spend time going into details, let alone their feelings.

Yes, the truth hurts, but knowing just might help to save a life. If this app empowers children and teens to come forward about their emotions, I say, why not? Even if it's not the solution, it can be a springboard.

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