To Hashtag or not to Hashtag – that is the question

May 16, 2016

Oh dear, here comes that midlife crisis again!  Is it just me or do any other adults out there no longer recognise the English language?  Whilst going through my Twitter feed I found these two pearls:

“Coaching #Leaders4Learning Zen-style today. @ChangeAgentSA @PfP4SA @Reneelighton @louisevanrhyn @DBE_SA @Lesufi

“It’s game day in the Momentum 1 Day Cup! @SunfoilDolphins v @highveldLions @ Kingsmead! Tix R30, match @ 3pm #BeThere

I can sort of, maybe, kind of understand the second one.  I think the Lions from Gauteng and the Dolphins from Kwa Zulu Natal are playing a cricket game at Kingsmead in Durban?  The price of the ticket, I think, will be R30?

With all these hashtags and @ signs, I can hardly wait to see pupils’ creative writing pieces in years to come!  Apparently there is a reason for them, though, so I thought it was worth writing about.

CLICK TO TWEET

View: With all these hashtags and @ signs, I can hardly wait to see pupils’ creative writing pieces in years to come! 

Tweet: With all these hashtags and @ signs, I can hardly wait to see pupils’ creative writing pieces in years to come!  www.url.co.za

According to Mashable, the hashtag’s widespread use began with Twitter, but has since extended to other social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Tumbr, Pinterest, etc.). In 2007, developer Chris Messina proposed, in a tweet, that Twitter begin grouping topics using the hash symbol. Twitter initially rejected the idea, but in October 2007, citizen journalists began using the hashtag #SanDiegoFire to live-tweet updates on a series of forest fires in San Diego. The practice of hashtagging took off, and has only become more popular since then.

On most platforms, the hashtag turns any word or group of words that directly follow it into a searchable link. This allows you to organize content and track discussion topics based on specific keywords. So, if you wanted to post about the Strictly Come Dancing finale, you would include #StrictlyComeDancing in your tweet to join the conversation.

So why am I bringing this to you attention?  If your child has taken a photo and posted it on Instagram, Twitter or other platforms and used a #, for example #bikinigirl or #sixpack or #partyinglikearockstar, imagine the images it will be grouped with? And, more importantly, the type of individuals who would be searching for images tagged #bikinigirl?  If your child’s account is not set to private, the picture will be out there for all to see.  Another issue is if your child’s Twitter or Instagram handle (the “@” sign followed by their username) is written in a post with a photo, just by clicking on the handle takes one to their account; and again, if the account is not set to private any user will have access to any and all images and Tweets on your child’s profile.

In a survey I conducted last year during Life Orientation lessons, 52% of all pupils from Grade 4-7, have an Instagram account and 63% own their own iPad or tablet. I would be curious to know how many parents are aware that their children have these accounts, or any other social-media accounts, for that matter.  I would also be curious to know if all these accounts are set on private.  A quick, random click here and there has already shown me that many are not!  The children assure me that you cannot copy pictures on Instagram, and that on Snapchat (another popular social media network) the picture is only accessible for a short while.  While this is true, most devices have the ability to take a screen shot and, at the push of two buttons, it can be stored and ready to share.

CLICK TO TWEET

View: After all, we put the devices in their hands, the question to ask, I suppose, is have we prepared them sufficiently enough for using them?

Tweet: We put electronic devices in our kids’ hands, but have we prepared them enough for using them? #InternetSafety www.url.co.za

I have always felt safe in knowing I follow my son on Instagram, and he is my friend on Facebook, so all is fine!  Sadly these social media platforms and their security settings change like the wind does in PE, and we as parents need to be aware of this, and not be afraid to check, educate and assist our children with their online decisions. After all, we put the devices in their hands, the question to ask, I suppose, is have we prepared them sufficiently enough for using them?