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Editor's Note: Communicate

Linguistics expert Gretchen McCulloch had been hearing rumors. Parents were reporting that their toddlers, when given access to smartphones and texting apps, were composing texts entirely out of emoji. 

McCulloch had questions. “I wanted to find out not only whether kids were texting emoji but which emoji, and why? How do they organize emoji into sequences and ideas, and how do these early ramblings shift as kids learn to read?” she wrote in an article for WIRED magazine, “Children Are Using Emoji for Digital-Age Language Learning.”

McCulloch enlisted those with young children to anonymize and send some examples of the kids’ electronic communications. The results showed that many preliterate children ages three to five send text messages comprising only emoji. These messages can be complex and sometimes follow a theme, according to McCulloch. For example, one five-year-old sent a long emoji string of “any animal that pinches.” 

However, as the kids got older and learned how to read and write, their text messages grew more sophisticated. First, relevant words accompany the emoji and, eventually, children aged out of emoji strings altogether, using them only as line breaks or borders. “Several adults noted that their kids had simply stopped sending long emoji-filled messages once they learned how to read,” according to McCulloch.

What fascinated McCulloch is what these behaviors teach kids about written communication. Before the smartphone age, adults wouldn’t communicate directly in writing with preliterate children. “Why would my parents leave me a note before I could read it?” McCulloch noted. “But now that we all communicate in writing so much more often, kids also are reading text messages. For a kid to get a text message written directly for them, and read directly to them, which they can reply to in some fashion, it teaches them something powerful about the written word—that it can be used to connect with people you care about.”

Adopting new and powerful communication methods is also key to success in the workplace but embracing new ideas can be daunting. This month’s cover story, “The Hard Truth About Soft Skills,” makes it clear that communicating well and displaying emotional intelligence can mean the difference between a successful team and a failed venture.

ASIS International is investing in an ongoing effort to bring a sharp focus on important issues that advance the profession through a proactive approach to developing content on a variety of topics. Be on the lookout in the next few months for a new content series around management and leadership. Produced in collaboration with industry experts and volunteer leaders, the series will provide more information on the topic through a variety of channels, including webinars, videos, podcasts, and e-books.

Security professionals often feel that they are learning a new language while navigating the latest workplace trends. Use ASIS’s curated content to ensure that you are connecting powerfully—and successfully—with your teams.