Hashtag is named children’s word of the year… #seriously

It started out as just a social media symbol but now it's a word used frequently in the creative writing of under-13s...

Think hashtag is just a thing used on social media? Well, get with the #moderntimes. The symbol has become so ubiquitous that children are now using it in their stories and poems. 

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An annual analysis of Radio 2’s 500 Words short story competition reveals the huge increase in the creative use of the word among the under-13s, with hashtag being used for dramatic effect and to add emhphasis.

Oxford University Press analysed 120,421 entries to the competition to gain insights into the lives of British children and the ways they use English.

Vineeta Gupta at the OUP said: “This has been a significant change in usage in this year, 2015.

“Children have extended its [#] use from a simple prefix or as a search term for Twitter to an editorial device to add drama or comment.”

As well as hashtag, the words Instagram, Snapchat and emoji have increased in use while email, mobile, iPod, mp3, Blackberry and Facebook are in decline (or, #totallyover).

One of the most common plotlines in the short story competition was achieving sudden internet fame after posting a YouTube video. But it wasn’t all technology-focused, as World War One and world events in Ukraine and Syria were all also common themes- although not nearly as popular as the Ebola virus, which seems to have really captured children’s imagination. 

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The most written-about characters were Cinderella, footballer Lionel Messi, Snow White, Adolf Hitler and Wayne Rooney. Presumably all these people feature in different stories…