Hashtags have been around for years, thanks to Twitter. They are great when applied correctly but cumbersome and dangerous if used improperly. What am I talking about? I’m specifically talking about the dangers hashtags present when mixed with public photos of your children on Facebook and Instagram.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-social media. Obviously I’m not, I’m on numerous platforms. I’m also not anti-hashtags. I use them myself, sparingly, but they do appear.
What I am against is using hashtags with pictures of your children, home, work, life in general and your profiles or accounts are set to ‘public.’
Hashtags are designed to be used in large public conversations by companies and people who want to chat openly. Hashtags ideally catagorize information for a purpose. Twitter hashtags gather tweets. Instagram hashtags gather pictures. Facebook hashtags gather statuses and photos.
Hashtags are meant for public posts. For example using hashtags in posts only your friends or family see is useless in terms of what a hashtag is supposed to do.
But there’s more to it than that.
Don’t get offended mom and dad with what I’m about to tell you. I’m not fussing at you, I just want you to reconsider some of your social media habits especially if you have public profiles on any social media platform and share pictures openly of your child.
Here are 5 things you should know about hashtags and pictures or statuses of your kids, life etc. on public profiles:
1. Hashtags are searchable – That’s right. You may not think about it when you write #blessed or #momlife on a public picture of your child but someone is searching for those hashtags and it could be a creeper. You can search hashtags on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Now think about your public picture of little Suzy in her diaper or in a bathing suit or taking a bath with #cutiepatootie in the cutline. That’s right public hashtag searches are open to you, your neighbor and people in Turkey, Russia, Djibouti and so on…
2. Hashtags shouldn’t be taken lightly – If you’re online and don’t mind your life being catagorized by hashtags, geolocation and so on, then ignore this. You are braver than I am, which is fine. But if you’re using hashtags on public posts like millions of other parents across the world, you are sharing pictures, statuses and check-ins with millions of strangers. Click on #blessedbeyondmeasure on a public post and you’ll see post after post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter featuring family photos, vacations, current locations and more. That hashtag is just one example.
3. Your child’s name should never be a hashtag – For the love of all that is good in this world, don’t turn your child’s name into a hashtag. It’s not cute but more importantly it’s not smart. It’s easy for identity theives to find baby pictures on public profiles, get the birthdate and full name of your child and proceed to create fake accounts. Now let’s pretend we’re in a Lifetime movie – child and baby collectors could use your oversharing to eventually track down your child. You wouldn’t want that to happen.
4. Hashtags should make sense – If you’re new to hashtags (as in you only recently started using them on Facebook) you should know that hashtags should make sense. Hashtags are used effectively when incorporated in a sentence to get in touch with a company or brand or join a conversation. The more hashtags you put in a post the more ‘spammy’ your post looks. That rule can apply to public or private posts.
5. Double check the hashtag searches your tech savvy kids are following – If you have a kid on Instagram or Facebook you can monitor what hashtags your child is searching. Don’t want them looking for certain topics online? You can look for yourself. Check their Facebook activity list and click on the ‘Only Me’ activity. It will show searches. Hopefully they aren’t smarter than you and remove that activity after each session. On Instagram look under searches and toggle to hashtags instead of users. Tap the screen and you’ll see previous searches.
Fear versus Discipline
We can’t live in fear. We can’t be paranoid. We are reminded of that in 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB)
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline
Fear can cripple us and that’s not what I’m trying to encourage. I want you to be proud of your family and share pictures and stories and cute statuses. However I feel it’s our duty to protect our children, especially online. You never know who is saving your photos. You never know who is creeping on your photo albums. You never know who is following you without being a friend or a follower.
It’s your decision. They’re your kids. It’s your profile. It’s your perogative to post when, what, where, how much and hashtag it as you please.
Remember everything you post online can live online forever, including those innocent nude pictures of your babies in the bathtub, at the beach and so on …
What if I want to remove hashtags?
Here are some some steps to clean up your public pictures:
1. You can change privacy settings on each post featuring pictures and hashtags on Facebook. Instagram will not allow you to edit, so you’ll need to switch to private and remove unknown followers.
2. You can edit statuses and remove hashtags without changing public to private.
3. Delete the photos in general.
HOWEVER – the item is still cached and it is still out there, especially if someone did a screenshot or downloaded it to their personal computer or saved image to phone.
Share your rules for online engagement
So tell me if I’m overreacting. Do you have tips for online living?