Research from the Oxford University Press has found that, for under-13s in the UK, using a hashtag helps them better connect to events online and express themselves.
The overuse of hashtags has become a joke in itself online, but there’s no denying their influence among children as a genuine way of joining online conversations, as anyone who sees the daily One Direction trending hashtags will be aware.
Now, according to The Guardian, the Oxford University Press (OUP) has decided to name ‘hashtag’ its Children’s Word of the Year, after discovering that, in BBC Radio2’s 500 Words Short Story Competition for Children, the word hashtag was used frequently by the 120,421 entries.
However, more than just influencing online conversation, it has now entered daily conversation, where it is used as emphasis or to put a dramatic effect on something, such as, for example, “I have the best friends in the world! #friendsforever”.
A golden age of learning for children
For this reason, head of children’s dictionaries at OUP Vineeta Gupta said, the hashtag is actually improving children’s language ability, rather than hindering it or dumbing it down: “The research has shown that children are true innovators and that they are using more vocabulary, not less.”
The tops words used by children in the short story competition showed that many of the older words and brands we associate with technology – such as iPod, PlayStation and Blackberry – are falling in popularity, while words like YouTube, selfie and Zoella (a popular YouTube star) are on the rise.
Sadly, gender stereotypes appear to be consistent, with many of the stories sent into the radio show by girls covering topics like cupcakes and unicorns, while boys’ entries leaned more towards farting and cars.
Hashtag written in snow image via Andrew Dallos/Flickr