Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, oh my! The world of social media platforms is constantly growing and ever changing. As a parent, it’s hard to keep up! With a little planning you can help your child become a safe and responsible social media user. Here we tackle the particulars of Instagram.
WHAT IS INSTAGRAM?
Instagram was created in 2010 and is owned by, you guessed it, Facebook. It has 1 billion active monthly users. Instagram differs from Facebook in that it is based in pictures and videos.
Instagram ranks as the second most used social media app by teens aged 13-17. And while Instagram’s policy states that children must be at least 13 to create an account, there are no safeguards in place to ensure that. Sit with your child and set up the account together. By ensuring you have access to their user name and password you can perform periodic checks on their activity. Be clear about your intentions in order to create a collaborative, not a contentious, atmosphere.
Create clear rules and consequences for social media use from the start. It is important your child understands the risks associated with social media and that your rules are created for their protection.
Here are 5 Things Parents Need to Know about Instagram.
1. By default, a new Instagram account is set to public.
Instagram’s privacy settings are customizable. By going into the “privacy and security” tab within the settings, you can change the setting to private which will ensure your child’s content is only seen by approved followers. Within Instagram’s privacy settings, you can also adjust comment controls (limit comments to followers, block users and set filters for words and phrases), sharing controls (block people from resharing posts/stories), and set photo/video controls (prevent people from adding pictures of your child without their approval).
2. Private messages can be sent by strangers.
Private messages are direct messages sent from one user to another and are visible only to those two users.
- Why it’s dangerous: Anyone can send your child a private message, even if they aren’t a follower. Your child must approve a message to view it, but once approved, all messages from that sender will be automatically received unless blocked. This opens your child up to unwanted and inappropriate solicitations and communications.
- What to do: Instruct your child to never open a message from a stranger. Encourage them to share with you any attempts by a stranger to contact them. You can block or report users sending inappropriate content.
3. Hashtag searches can lead to inappropriate content.
Hashtags are used to categorize pictures into topics. Instagram creates a page for each hashtag and any post labeled with that hashtag will be posted there.
- Why it’s dangerous: Searching seemingly innocent hashtags often leads quickly to inappropriate content.
- What to do: Set rules about hashtags. It is safest to not let your child use them and to prohibit them from searching hashtags.
4. The search function can lead to inappropriate content.
The search function is used to find specific accounts, boards and topics.
- Why it’s dangerous: By searching on Instagram your teen has access to inappropriate material and, like a browser, their search history can be cleared easily.
- What to do: Set clear guidelines on what and who your child can and cannot search for. Encourage your child to alert you when they have encountered inappropriate images and consider showing them how to report those images.
5. Cyberbullying is pervasive but fightable.
Cyberbullying on Instagram can be direct (threatening messages sent to your child) or indirect (disparaging photos or comments on a “friend’s” page). Instagram’s new “restrict” feature initiates a set of safeguards against the bully without them knowing. Once an account is restricted, your teen will need to approve any comments that a person makes on their posts. This keeps your teen’s friends from seeing the comments, but does not protect your teen themselves from seeing them. Instagram has also launched a new “comment warning” feature to deter people from posting hurtful comments in the first place. Users are also able to block or unfollow other users, but many hesitate to do so for fear that it will make the situation worse.
If you’re overwhelmed by all of these restrictions and setting controls, there are third party monitoring systems that can assist with tracking your child’s activity, time spent on the app and send you messages about potential cyberbullying.
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BONUS TIP: Instagram can pose a risk to mental health.
Instagram can be a fun and creative way for your child to connect with their friends and showcase their unique personality. However, it is important to know that curating your online persona can quickly turn from a fun hobby into an obsession. The temptation to compare oneself to their friends and celebrities is strong, and it has the potential to cause lasting emotional damage. In fact, Instagram has been reported to be the worst social media for mental health by both Time and CNN.
Instagram does have a time tracking feature. Teaching your teen how to set up this feature and create self-monitoring limits is a great way to build trust and encourage them to focus on connecting with their friends offline.
Jessica Korzyniewski contributed to this article.
Social media can be scary! But when you make decisions based on information and not fear you are helping your child become a healthy and empowered social media user. For more information or to consult us about your child’s online habits contact us.
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