Famed former White House intern and current anti-bullying advocate Monica Lewinsky helped release a new keyboard of emojis this week in hopes of advancing more civil and supportive online communication.
Lewinsky re-emerged in the public sphere last year with a TED Talk and a series of profiles that portrayed her as one of the original victims of cyberbullying. The criticism and constant attention that followed her affair with President Bill Clinton was devastating, she said, vowing then to fight online and in-person harrassment for both students and adults.
The new #BeStrong keyboard was created with the help of about 5,000 survey participants from around the world who identified symbols that convey solidarity and support. Students can load the keyboard on their phones and use it to send the symbols, which include variations on clasped hands and arms outstretched over a heart, on various texting apps.
Will it work? Researchers agree that bullying is a complex problem that requires thoughtful interventions by schools, families, and community groups. It’s hard to imagine something like a set of emojis making a big dent in that problem, but they might provide another way for teens to show support to friends dealing with bullying, gossip, and other social pressures.
Will it catch on among teens? As an adult who’s been out of high school for more than a decade, I have a bad track record trying to guess what’s cool and what isn’t.
Here’s a video Lewinsky made to explain the intent of the new app, which is available for both Apple and Android phones.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.