Is Instagram safe for kids?
Facebook, kids join with their parents. Instagram, they join on their own. According to Pew Internet, teens are flocking to this photo-sharing site. They love taking a photo with their smartphone or tablet, dressing it up with a filter and sharing it with their friends. Instagram is more than a fancy photoshop app for kids.
Instagram is a social network. Besides sharing pictures and videos, kids can post comments and send each other private messages. On their newsfeed, they can follow celebrities or anyone else on Instagram. In turn, anyone can follow them. Kids can choose to connect their Instagram account to other social networks, such as Facebook or Google Plus, and share their adventures more widely.
Why Kids Love Instagram
Kids see Instagram as their social network. Although Instagram restricts user to over 13, kids in elementary school are on Instagram. As far as Intragram is free of parental controls it has become a place where teens and kids share photos without fearing their parents will pop up in the comment section. Newsfeeds are full of carefully selected selfies, group photos and activities. Unlike another popular app - Snapchat - Instagram pictures do not simply disappear. These photos and comments are public and easy to see.
What Parents Need to Know about Instagram
- Public Accounts & Profiles.
By default, all Instagram accounts are public. This means anyone can visit their profile and see the pictures they posted, the pictures friends tagged them in and their photomap showing where the pictures were taken. Kids can set their account to private. Even on a private account, profile pictures, username and the bio are public. In their public profiles, kids, wanting their friends to be able to find them, often share too much information including full name, grade and school.
- Direct Messages.
Besides commenting on photos, kids can send each other private photos and messages. With Instagram Direct, they can send a photo, video or message to 1 friend or up to 15 friends. Not only friends or followers can send them a message. Even with a private account, anyone on Instagram can send them a message.
- Hashtag Search.
Usually, when you see a photo on Instagram, it is followed by a slew of hashtags. Hashtags are for searching. For example, if a child wants to find ideas for decorating cupcakes they can search “#cupcake.” Kids can also search for more risqué content. Instagram does block some inappropriate hashtags. Unfortunately, block “#sex” and it quickly morphs into “#SEXXX”. Searching inside Instagram is like surfing the web with no filters or built-in Instagram parental controls.
Besides adding hashtags, kids can also add location to their photos. When they do, their picture appears on their personal photomap and in location search results.
- Social Pressure.
Instagram can feel like big popularity contest. Browsing through posts of parties, activities and selfies, kids may believe everyone is having more fun than they are. In the quest to generate more likes and comments, teens and kids may be tempted to post edgy or inappropriate pictures. Their online social lives can become a never-ending campaign for likes and status. In happens that kids pressure classmates to cyberbully others using mean social media posts (lean some cyberbullying protection tips).
Keeping up with friends and curating the perfect Instagram persona takes a lot of time. Fear of missing a post or comment can lead kids to obsessively checking their Instagram feed. According to a CNN study, 61% of teens said they checked their phones to see if their online posts were getting likes and comments, 36% of teens checked to see if their friends were doing things without them and 21% checked to make sure no one was saying mean things about them.
Talking to Kids about Instagram
Given the social pressure on Instagram and the adult content, families should keep kids off Instagram until they are older. I encourage parents to wait until their child is at least 13. When a family decides to download Instagram, parents and kids should work together to protect privacy settings and discuss sharing on Instagram.
Here are few Instagram tips for families:
- Create a Private Account.
Kids should have a private Instagram account. With a private account, they must approve all their followers and only their approved followers can see their pictures and videos.
- Review Public Profile.
Even with a private account, their profile picture, username are and bio are always public. Their profile picture should be one they are comfortable with the world seeing and their username should not be their full name. If they want their friends to find them, they should share information in their bio only their friends will know.
- Discuss risks of Multiple Accounts.
Often kids have multiple Instagram accounts. Usually one is private where they share with friends and one is a public account. For older teens that have a talent or interest they want to share more widely, a public account is fine. For young kids, they should stick with one account until they are older and understand the risks and benefits to sharing publicly on Instagram.
- Approve all Tags.
When you or someone else posts an image or video to Instagram, there is an option to ‘Tag’ or identify the person. All photos a kid is tagged in will appear on their page. Kids should turn off automatic tagging in the option menu. They should also not add a location tag to their own pictures.
- Manage Content & Messages.
Kids should know how to report and block content and users. On the person’s profile page, they can tap the 3 dots and choose to block or report this user. They can also report abusive messages by tapping the message, then selecting report.
Instagram is a great place to share fun moments with friends. When used appropriately, it can lead to enhancing real world relationships. Kids may also see events they were not included in and friends having fun without them. There is a lot of pressure to create popular images. Kids need to be careful about what they say and share in Instagram. Families will want to talk about how to address these issues and watch the time spent on Instagram.
How Familoop's Parental Controls for Instagram Can Help
If parents have a child who is ready to join Instagram, they should first sign up themselves. Parents should follow their child and check in with them. Familoop can help parents manage Instagram by limiting time as well as reviewing content. The only condition is that your child should log in Instagram from a desktop computer with installed Familoop Safeguard at least once. After it is done, you can monitor your child's activity in Instagram and monitor new follower, shared picture and comments or "likes" left by your child.
By setting a time limit for Instagram, parents can help their child balance their offline and online activities (this option is coming soon). Parents will also receive alerts when a child has a new follower, posts a picture and comments or likes a photo. When parents see something troubling, they can immediately step in and talk about the risks of sharing on Instagram. By being engaged and aware, parents can ensure their child is having fun on Instagram with their friends and family.
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