Monday is World Emoji Day, and while the emoticons have changed the landscape of texting for most of us, they've especially influenced the way teens communicate.
Experts say emojis can help some teenagers express themselves, while stunting others' communication skills.
Nearly 40 percent of Millennials, or people between 18 and 34, say emojis and GIFs are a much better way to communicate their thoughts and feelings than words. But is this healthy communication?
"The impact on emojis can go both ways," says Kristine Finco, the chief compliance officer of Little Newtons preschool in Plymouth. "It is good to have that visual, especially when we are thinking about younger people."
Finco says in some cases, emojis replace words and that's OK. She says school districts across the metro use the characters as learning tools for non-verbal children.
"A child who is struggling using their words if they are frustrated or something like that," she says. "We are able to have cards or signs that would have, show me what your feelings are. It is just reiterating and and always have that repetition, or giving them the words to use. So they can point at the smiley face."
That emoji, Finco says, can help reveal what the child is feeling.
"We would say, 'Why are you angry?' We are still working through their emotions. Teaching them about emotions and their feelings."
There's even an app called Emojability.
It features emojis specifically designed for kids with special needs. A win for teens like Noah Anderson, living with Spina Bifida.
"He's shown a lot of interest in the last year in texting," says Noah's mom, Michelle Anderson. "But he's not very good with words, so I'm super excited that there's this app now that we can use with different pictures and ways for him to communicate on his level."
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And while many have found a deeper way to community with the symbols, Finco says they shouldn't always replace words. You don't want your message to get lost in translation.
"Sometimes when you are reading an email or text through digital worlds it is hard to interpret," she says. "Write your sentence but add in an emoji with it so you know what the writer was feeling at the time."
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