JAN 25, 2023

A Parent’s Guide to Sexting Emojis

Learn to identify the meaning of messages

By Jackie Baucom
Gabb Family Resources

Warning: Reader Discretion Advised

The following information contains explicit sexual references. We believe it is important for parents to be aware of children’s potential exposure to content that normalizes adult material as appropriate for children. Only through awareness can parents make informed decisions and successfully initiate and navigate tough conversations with their kids.

During face-to-face interactions, we depend on non-verbal behaviors to express emotion—such as a frown, smile, or even a literal step back. With technology being so integrated into our lives, these cues have not always been available…until emojis.

Over 10 billion emojis are sent each day. [3] Some emojis may have sexual meanings unknown to parents, such as the smiling face with horns, winking face, smirking face, and sweat droplets.

What are Emojis?

Emojis are digital images or icons that convey an idea or emotion. As many of our interactions now happen online, emojis help us better express ourselves and convey the context and tone we intend. A text message or group chat with a simple “ok” may seem curt and cold, but throw in a thumbs up or one of the smiley face emojis, and the message is transformed to be friendly.

54% of kids say that emojis appear in their messages sometimes, often, or always. [1]

Emojis Used in Sexting

The list of emojis kids (and adults) use suggestively is long, and more emojis are added frequently. Here at Gabb, we’ve created a lexicon for parents to familiarize themselves with some of the latest. This list is not comprehensive and may vary by region, but it will give parents a good place to start. Emoji now functions as its own language, and as such, kids can create whole sentences using emoji combinations.

[The] cuteness and playfulness [of emojis] makes them an ideal grooming tool to be used by those seeking to sexually exploit minors. [6]

How do Predators Groom Children Through Emojis?

It is no surprise that predators use emojis to groom their victims. Because emojis are a friendly and casual form of communication, predators employ non-sexual emojis to build trust with their victims. This tactic is important for parents to recognize when looking at children’s online communication. [4] Sitting together and looking at our children’s various platforms can alert us to contacts we do not know.

Examples of Food Emojis Used Sexually

Seemingly innocent, emojis of food can be used in suggestive and sexual ways.

What does the eggplant emoji mean sexually?

The eggplant emoji can represent male genitalia.

What does the pizza emoji mean sexually?

If the pizza emoji is used along with other sexual emojis such as a winky face, it can be interpreted as a reference for sexual activity. Sometimes its three sides are used to reference a threesome (sexual activity with three individuals).

For example, “Hey babe. Are you in the mood for pizza tonight? 😏🍕”

And of course, sometimes a slice of pizza simply signifies food. As parents, when we set the expectation that we will check in on our children’s messages, this understanding can provide a layer of protection and encourage good digital citizenship.

As it turns out, ghosts, aliens, and hearts, among a few, can be used to reference sexual meaning.

What does the black heart emoji mean sexually?

Flirtation or sexual interest in someone can be conveyed with the black heart emoji. It is also connected to deviant or tainted love.

What does the ghost emoji mean sexually?

To “ghost” someone is to disappear and stop communication without an explanation, often after a sexual encounter or after ending a relationship. 

What does the alien emoji mean sexually?

To give someone alien head is to deceitfully show them one of your testicles hanging out of your pants.

John:: “Hey Juan, did I spill food on my pants?” – while pointing to a testicle exposed through an open zipper.
Juan: “Dude, you just gave me alien head.”

Parents Can Be Well-Informed

A study revealed that kids think their parents use emojis in an attempt to stay cool and follow the current trends. [2] But parents often mistake emojis and slang, embarrassing their children and themselves. 

Back in 2020, former first lady, Michelle Obama, stated in an interview that she enjoyed “Netflix and chilling”— a term most adults assume means watching Netflix and relaxing. [5] It is actually a euphemism that means participating in sexual activities, especially casually. Obama later realized her embarrassing blunder when her daughter explained the true meaning of the term. 

father and son smiling and flexing

This example shows why it’s important for parents to stay up to date on emoji and slang meanings, especially as a way to shield our children from predators and risky behavior.

51% of study participants report that use of emojis led to sexually suggestive behavior. [1]

From a study conducted in 2019 of 693 participants.

If you encounter suggestive messages and emojis on your child’s devices, don’t panic. You are not the first, and unfortunately, you won’t be the last. Being sexually curious is a normal part of development. Talk to your child about sexting and the dangers that can stem from it, such as sextortion and legal consequences.

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