Over the past couple years, the use of Instagram for family history has received a lot of attention, and rightfully so. Instagram offers users the ability to not only share images with your followers, but also to share the stories of those images, in a micro-blogging type of format. Not only that, but Instagram allows you to use hashtags (#) to label your images, which makes it possible to more or less catalog your family history images with unique hashtags AND search others' hashtags for surnames, location names, or topics in family history that may be of interest to you.
As far as demographics, Instagram as a social media platform is far more popular with young people than Facebook. Just like with any social media, parents and guardians need to monitor their children's reach and usage on Instagram. If your child has their own Instagram account, I recommend setting it to 'Private' so that anyone who wants to follow their photos must first be approved. BUT, even if your child does not yet have a phone or their own Instagram account, they can still participate in the activities below using an adult's account. In fact, choosing and posting family history images together on Instagram can be great bonding experiences for adults and children.
1.) Start a Kids Family History Instagram Club. For most kids, participating in an activity with peers makes it more enjoyable. Interacting with each other through social media is like second nature to kids in the modern world. Think about starting an Instagram family history club in which a group of kids can share their individual family stories, which, in turn, will help them learn more about each other. Here are some types of groups that may be interested in this idea.
- Scout group
- Youth church/synagogue group
- Homeschool co-op
- School history club or history/social studies class
- Local chapter of Children of the American Revolution or other children's group within any lineage society or ethnic heritage society
Decide on a unique hashtag for your group, so that members can find everyone's posts easily. The adult facilitator of the club can give the kids prompts to help them focus their posts. Examples of such prompts include asking the kids to post family history images related to sports, schools, holidays, military, hobbies, talents, heirlooms, occupations, etc. Kids within the group should be encouraged to 'like' and comment on one another's posts; you might find that they get some really great discussions going and it's a great way to build fellowship between members of the group.
2.) Participate in the Genealogy Photo a Day Challenge. The Genealogy Photo a Day challenge was created by genealogist, author, and blogger and Melissa Dickerson, who writes at genealogygirltalks.com. You can follow her on Instagram at @genealogygirltalks. Every month, she posts a list of prompts for each day. To participate, post a photo relating to the day's prompt with the hashtag #genealogyphotoaday. Then, search for that hashtag, and see what others have posted. This is a great activity for sharing your family history with a broader audience and for discovering other family history-related Instagram users. Also, make sure that you follow the @genealogyphoto account, because this is where Melissa posts the lists of prompts for each month.
3.) Create 60-second Family History Videos. Did you know that you can post videos on Instagram? There is a catch, though; the video cannot be longer than 60 seconds. That's a challenge, and some kids will be motivated by that challenge. What can you share about an ancestor in one minute? Maybe you can talk about the story behind a particular photograph or heirloom. Perhaps you could discuss one reason why an ancestor may have moved to or from a certain area. Maybe challenge your child to write a short poem about an ancestor than can be recited in less than a minute and record him/her reciting it. Be creative - there are lots of possibilities.
4.) Create a Serial, Chronological Biography of an Ancestor Using Instagram Images. If you are a homeschooler and use family history in your curriculum, this activity might be great for your kids, because it involves planning, research, and organization. Instead of having a student type up a written report about an ancestor, have them present it in images and short stories instead.
5.) Search Ancestral Places Using Location & Travel Hashtags. Lots of travel bloggers use Instagram to showcase their travels. Try searching for place hashtags or '#(place name)travel' or '#(place name)architecture'. Remember, place names in English sometimes differ from those in the native tongue. For example, Milan is Milano in Italian, Seville is Sevilla in Spanish, and Croatia is Hrvatska in Croatian. Try searching both versions. Tiny ancestral villages might not be represented in the hashtags, so try larger areas and regions, too, like 'countycork' or 'catalonia' to search more specific parts of nations.
Social media often gets a bad rap for too strongly influencing our children in negative ways, but we just have to find ways in which to help kids use it for positive purposes. Kids are crazy for technology, so why not use it?
©2017 Emily Kowalski Schroeder