In this parents guide to Instagram, I will give you the facts as well as the conclusions of my experience working with and observing young people on this site. Whilst many of us spend a lot of time online and have a good understanding of the social networking sites kids are using, we must remember that this is not true of everyone. Not every parent knows the words Instagram, Snapchat, Kik and Vine. I hear kids talk about apps and sites they are on and I know their parents have no idea what they are talking about. I also look at the searches on my blog and realise that many parents are wanting this information. So of course they google it. They google “What is Instagram” “Is Instagram safe for my kids?”, “My 10 year old is on Instagram, is it ok?”.
I have also answered this common query from kids “How can I ask my parents for Instagram?”
So here’s how it works and what you need to know.
How Does Instagram work?
Instagram is a social networking app based on photo and video sharing. Users create a username, follow other users, allow users to follow them and can like and comment on the photos of those they follow. They take a photo, or record a 15 second video, add filters, add a hashtag for searchability, tag friends and post to their account. The images will then appear in the feed of all those who follow.
Who can set up an Instagram account?
Anyone with an email address can set up an account. Emails such as gmail can be set up for free and the app can be downloaded for free. If you are not sure whether an app has ever been downloaded on to a device you can go to the app store on that device, search for the app and see if there is a little cloud there instead of a “free’ tab or dollar amount. I tell you this because many parents don’t realise their kids have certain apps because they delete them before they walk in the door or enter a classroom.
Can an Instagram account be private?
Any young person on Instagram should have their accounts set to private. To check, you can go to Edit the Profile and scroll to the bottom. The Posts are Private tag should be clicked to “On”.Changing the setting will only change the access of future users, not the ones already following who will still be able to see everything unless you block them. It is important to note that any information on the profile (profile pic, bio and username) is not however private, but is there for the public to see. It is only the photos that remain private. This is also where many kids put their usernames for other social networking accounts such as Kik, Ask Fm and Qooh Me. Having that information in their profile therefore, means that they can easily be contacted on those other networks via those usernames.
Is there age limit to using Instagram?
The current recommendation for an Instagram user is 13+. This is not law in Australia, however age restrictions came about as a result of the Child Online Privacy Protection Act in the US to get around laws of gathering private information of a minor. Whilst we know many children are using Instagram under the age of 13, it is important to know that there is access to inappropriate content, instances of bullying and exposure to strangers who can view profiles.
Are there options to report bullying?
Under the options tab under support you can click on Report a Problem. There you can report on a variety of Spam or Abuse, such as Hacked accounts, Impersonation accounts, Hate accounts, Self-Harm and Exploitation.
If my child is on Instagram, what are some rules I can put in place?
These rules may differ depending on your child’s age and maturity, but here are some guidelines you should already be talking about with your kids the moment they get any social networking account.
- Photos must not be disrespectful or embarrassing to yourself or others (you should have your own rules about what constitutes a provocative photo etc)
- Turn off location services so your child is not advertising their exact location every time they post
- Commenting on other photos must never be mean, nasty or bullying in any way.
- Liking or commenting on an inappropriate photos will generally mean ‘guilty by association’….. so don’t do it.
- No personal details such as school, where you live etc will be highlighted on your profile.
- Have photos set to private and only allow people you know in real life to follow you.
- Links to other usernames of social networks will not be shown in a profile.
You can follow your child yourself to see what they are posting and who is interacting with them. Be aware that you can also be blocked without realising it. The only way to know everything they are doing is to have their username and password to also see what comments they are making on other peoples posts who you may not follow. Be aware that some kids have been known to have 2 different accounts, a ‘parent friendly one’ and a ‘friend only ‘ one.
Remember that the number one way to keep your kids safe on any social networking sites is to engage in ongoing conversation, have an understanding of the sorts of things that your children are doing online, and be prepared to change the conversation and the rules as the kids and the technology changes.
Like all apps and social interactions, there are some that are doing just fine, but there are also many who are not doing the right thing, risking their reputation and putting themselves in precarious situations.