hashtags could lead to dangerous, graphic content

NEW YORK — In the age of technology children as young as seven years old own cell phones or iPads, or have access to both.

“As you look into it, it’s just one other way that kids can put out just too much personal information.”

If they care about joining a popular trend, they most likely have the app, which gives people a platform to show off skills and post fun videos.

“If you’re scrolling through the homepage of the app, it seems pretty harmless, but all it takes is coming across specific hashtags to find some graphic videos,” said Sarah Thamer.

Those hashtags can be found through simple searches for words like sexy or even skinny. Some videos are too pornographic to show on TV while others promote anorexia or self harm.

“It can just lead down a path of cyberbullying or being approached by predators asking them to do inappropriate things.”

Holmen Police Department Investigator Crystal Sedavie says predators are also posting videos and exposing kids and teens to disturbing images.

“Any app where our children go, bad guys are going to go there.”

She says many kids may be posting videos in clothing that gives away where they are.

“If they have on like a Vikings t-shirt or they do it out in public at a public park and it’s easy to figure out where they are, that can be very terrifying if someone really wants to mess with the kid and say ‘Hey I bet you’re from Holmen because I see you’ve got a Viking Holmen t-shirt on.”

Pediatrician Charlie Peters with Mayo Clinic Health System says the comments that kids may be receiving on the videos could have long term negative effects.

“Their self-image, self-concept, self-esteem.”

He says it’s important for parents to keep a close eye on what their kids are being exposed to.

“It’s a reminder that what they can come in contact with would not necessarily be information or material that parents would approve of.”