Hashtags and Kids

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Unless you have been completely out of the loop for the past few years to know that the pound/number sign is now referred to as a hashtag. Most people were ready to write it off as another social trend that would eventually go away. However, I believe without a major shift in social media and really the structure of the Internet the hashtag will be here to stay. Now with any social trend we should look into how it affects kids. First we need to understand what is a hashtag, how to make one, and then we will look at what to avoid, especially when it comes to your kids.

What is a hashtag? A hashtag is way of putting labels on things posted to the Internet. It ultimately helps create metadata (data of data) of what’s used on social networks and microblogging services. With the hopes that users will be introduced into an environment where finding specific themes or content is easy. Try it- go to Twitter, Facebook, google, or Instagram and search for something using a hashtag. Chances are you will get hundreds or even thousands of results on whatever you searched.

How do you create a hashtag? To create a hashtag you need to follow a simple formula hash (#) + tag (insert content here) = hashtag. Now a good hashtag is something that people will search for so that your post gets more views. According to Post Planner a website that helps you organize and plan out your social media the top 25 hashtags to get people to follow on Instagram are:

#love #instagood #tbt #me #cute #follow #followme#photooftheday #happy #tagforlikes #beautiful #girl #like #selfie #picoftheday #summer #fun #smile #friends #like4like #instadaily #fashion #igers #instalike #food.

These are the top things people look for when they are searching for posts. Now on top of this there are also things like trending tags (like #PopeinNYC), event association (just pick any large event it has a hashtag), fads (#tbt #wcw etc), and then more recently hashtags are being used for marketing. Jimmy Fallon has weekly contests where people can hashtag certain things to maybe get featured on The Tonight Show. However, in my mind the most successful hashtag trend that is also used for marketing is #psl (pumpkin spice latte). This was started by Starbucks and has become a fad. Believe it or not Starbucks is not the only place you can buy one of these. But they took the term and used it to the point where everyone now associates the drink with their chain.

What should you avoid when it comes to hashtags? Okay at this point you should know what a hashtag is, how to create one, and hopefully you get the idea of why people use them. But I am writing this post to encourage you to be careful what you use those hashtags for. By taking a picture or writing a post and hashtagging it you are creating an association with whatever else has that hashtag. Now you are not responsible for what others post with a hashtag you use. However, let me encourage you to be careful about it. The fact is that the world is full of evil. Sometimes by associating a picture of your kids or yourself with a hashtag you become identified with a crowd you do not want to be associated with. Or event worse if your kids are old enough to have their own accounts it might bring unwanted attention from strangers.

I work as Children’s Ministry Director at a church and am a self-diagnosed coffee addict. Lately I have been taking this addiction and trying out a bunch of different stuff at home. Which I started using the hashtag #homebrew because you know I was at home and brewing coffee. Well the next thing I knew I had dozens of people interacting with my social media presence about home brewing alcohol. Which is not something I am against but not something I want to be known for. This is a mild example of unwanted attention or association, but I have witnessed a lot worse.

So what to do about hashtags? Use them. I personally enjoy how they connect the content of the Internet. But before you use them think what others might be posting under that hashtag. Then talk with your kids about Internet safety. Tell them about how the hashtag is more than a trend and what could happen overtime they use one. Also when having this conversation here are three other things that you should be teaching your kids about the Internet:

 1. NOTHING is private. If someone wants to access the information it does not take much to learn basic hacking to get that info.

2. Don’t talk to strangers. This is something they already know about the world, but they assume the Internet provides protection and makes it okay.

3. Never say anything that you would not also say to that person in person. Kids are bold online but they rarely have follow through. Teach them how to communicate in a respectful way both in person and online. No one should have two different personas.  

Now you understand hashtags. So next time you use one think about what the implications could be and post away. Who knows maybe you could start the next hashtagging trend and you could become #famous.

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