Surrey Police said that young people are using icons to disguise text conversations about taboo topics from their parents and carers.
Officers called on parents to become “emoji aware” and shared graphics of commonly used icons on its social media pages to encourage adults to guess their hidden meaning.
The police revealed that there were a total of 14 icons which can represent cannabis, including a four-leaf clover, leaf emojis, a lemon, a bunch of grapes, a watermelon, a strawberry, cherries, a pineapple, a dog, a sweet, a cake, an ice cream, or a cookie.
Cocaine is represented by the nose icon, a fish, a petrol pump, a snowman or a snowflake, while ecstasy is depicted using a devil icon, a skull, an alien, or a tentacled monster.
Ketamine and nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, are represented using the horse and balloon icons respectively.
Surrey Police also revealed that young people may be using emojis to differentiate between different methods of drug taking, such as the pill icon being used to represent ingesting narcotics while a syringe could symbolise injecting them.
Levels of purity are also reportedly signified using different graphics, with the scale expressed using the fist emoji, a rocket, lightning bolt, explosion, fire and bomb.
Drug dealers themselves are represented by either the eight-ball emoji, the eyes icon or a plug socket.
The list was not limited to drug use. Sexting was disguised through emojis such as cherries, water splash, aubergine and peach.
Parents urged not to snoop on children’s phones
Surrey Police warned that although parents are right to be concerned if they spot these emojis on their child’s phone, the icons may not necessarily indicate the young person that is involved in illicit behaviour.
The force suggested keeping an eye on their wider conduct, such as changes in mood or performance at school, and becoming increasingly secretive.
Officers stressed they are not suggesting parents check their children’s phones as this could lead to a breakdown in trust.
Detective Chief Inspector Kate Hyder, of Surrey Police, said: “We really want parents and guardians to feel confident to have a conversation with their children about this, if and when they need to.
“Our focus on this doesn’t stop with the end of this initial campaign. We will be continuing to work with local partners to extend the conversation around emojis.
“We’re also aware that emojis and their alternative meanings are something that will constantly change, and so our work and research into this will continue.”TIOB News