Instagram is an app first released in 2012. According to its website, Instagram is a “free photo and video sharing app”. Although the company doesn’t use those words, it is a social network. The main features of Instagram are Posts, Stories and live video. Posts are videos or photos that show up in a user’s feed. Users can upload up to 10 photos or videos in a single post. Stories are shared with followers and the videos and images in them expire in 24 hours, but any text remains behind. Live video is shared with followers, who get a notification when someone they follow is live. Users must log in to use the app.
Why Kids Like Instagram
Instagram is easy to use for posting photos, and adding filters to them. It’s a very popular app with many users who are under 12. You child likely has friends who use Instagram. As children have smart phones on which they can take photos, they are likely to want to share those photos with others, especially friends and family. Instagram can feel like an extension of their community.
Dangers of Instagram
Although Instagram is about sharing photos, it has many more features than this, which makes it more fun for users, as well as more dangerous for children. There is a risk of a child accessing porn or other inappropriate posts on Instagram. Possible dangers include:
- If a user likes a public post, other users will see their username and can click on it for access to their public profile.
- If a user shares a private post to another social network, that post is no longer private, and can be accessed with a link.
- If you access Instagram with a web viewer, your images may be indexed by other websites, and shared in public.
- Other people could post inappropriate comments on a post
- Instagram Direct allows conversations between two or more users of the site.
- Users can send disappearing video and photos in Instagram Direct.
- Users can contact people who they don’t follow, or receive messages from people who don’t follow them, through Instagram Direct.
- Children may hide a story that they post from any user, including parent followers.
- There are ads built into Instagram.
- It’s easy to share location in the app.
- Children may not make good choices on live video, even innocently.
- Live videos and related comments disappear from Instagram at the end of the stream but can be saved to the camera roll.
- This is porn and other content inappropriate for children on the site.
- Hashtags make it easy to search the site for specific content, some of which are inappropriate for children.
- A child can gain access to unfiltered internet access through the app.
- Watch out for cyberbullying, and exclusion, which may be difficult for parents to spot. Sometimes teens can have conversations that are difficult for adults to decode.
- Users can have up to 5 different accounts under 1 profile, so you child could have a finsta account.
- It’s easy for users to clear web history.
Making Instagram Safer
I don’t think that you should let young children use this app. However, I know that there are many children on Instagram, despite the company’s requirement that users be at least 13. If your child is using Instagram, help them save settings that will make Instagram safer.
- Create an account to explore the app. Here’s a guide to help you.
- Follow your child. Also agree on who can follow them, for example grandparents, friends in the class, etc.
- Make sure that your child turns location off.
- Set posts to private so that only people who follow them can see their posts, and they have to approve followers.
- Opt out of Similar Account Suggestions so that they won’t be suggested to other users, and people who follow them won’t get suggestions of other users to follow.
- Revoke access to third party websites that may repost their images or video.
- Change their username if someone that they’ve blocked is still mentioning them.
- Advise your child on deleting inappropriate comments that they or someone else makes.
- Help your child turn off comments or filter comments for posts.
- Block people and report abuse as needed.
- Speak to your child about any inappropriate content that he/she posts, and how to delete it.
- Learn about who your child is using Instagram Direct with, and how.
- Speak with your child about how they should respond to messages received in Instagram Direct from people who don’t follow them.
- For younger children, consider making an agreement that they can’t post stories.
- For younger children, consider making an agreement that they can’t post live video. If your child is allowed to live video, decide where, when, and under what conditions. As a follower, you’ll be notified of live video by your child.
- Carefully manage who you follow. This will not completely protect your child from inappropriate content posted by others or from content found in Search and Explore. Teach children to select to see less of a type of post.
- To learn more about this topic, see reviews from Protect Young Eyes, Be Web Smart, Common Sense Media, NSPCC NetAware, and Instagram Tips for Parents.