Instagram and Children – A Parent’s Guide to Safety and Privacy
The photo sharing platform has quickly become a favourite of teenagers throughout the world, but do you really know the ins and outs of Instagram and how to keep your children safe when using the app?
If you have a child that is already regularly using social media apps and websites, or they are just starting to take an interest, it’s important that you understand what each app is, what they do and how to keep your child as safe as possible when using them.
What is Instagram?
Instagram is primarily a photo sharing and editing app that allows users to share photos taken from their phone with other followers across the platform. Like most social media platforms, Instagram is now available on smartphones and computers by using the Instagram app or website. This means that images used on the app have never been more accessible. Whilst it all seems innocent enough, and parents may be questioning the impact such an app could ever have on their child, with over 300 million monthly users and 9% of teenage girls stating they have been bullied via Instagram, it’s never been more important to think about their safety online.
Signing up to Instagram
If you have a teenage child, the odds are they already have Instagram downloaded onto their phone or tablet. Instagram requires no identity verification and is completely free to download, which means there is absolutely no permission needed to create an account. As with most online social media platforms, Instagram have put an age limit of 13 years into place, however your child can get around this by simply entering false details. If you suspect your child who is under the age of 13 has an account, you can report their profile to Instagram and they will look into the matter.
If your child of any age has an Instagram account, then it is important that you are open and discuss the privacy of their content with them. By setting limits and restrictions on the type of content they can post and agreeing to occasionally review their account, you put yourself in the best position to ensure that they aren't posting or receiving images that are inappropriate.
Setting a password
It’s crucial to choose a secure password, avoid common words, birthdays or cities. Use a mixture of numbers and letters to keep the account as safe as possible. It’s important to help your child understand the risks posed by hackers or strangers getting hold of their information. Encourage your child not to share their password with their friends. Even if they mean no harm, a password that is shared is much less secure.
Photo sharing settings
Instagram allows profiles to either be public or private. Anyone can view the images on public profiles, but only followers can view the images of private profiles. It is important to set your child's account to private if they are going to be uploading personal photos.
When discussing the uses of a social media app with your child, it’s important to suggest only allowing users to follow them if they know them and have met them in person. Your child should maintain their account themselves, but might be tempted to meet people via the app. Explain to your child that sometimes people use fake accounts on the internet, and that this is something to be wary of.
Explicit content on Instagram
It goes without saying that sharing explicit content on Instagram is against their policies and guidelines. Instagram state that not only is the sharing of such content prohibited on their app, but you should also think of the effects sharing explicit content can have on those involved. So what can be done to protect your child against these images and videos?
Report inappropriate content
If you or your child find explicit content on their Instagram feed or search results, the content can be reported directly to Instagram. You can report either the image or the entire account, or both. If someone your child knows has posted an explicit image, you can report this by itself. However, if you find an account with a history of posting explicit images you can instead report the entire Instagram profile.
It’s important that your child understands they can turn to you in the event of them finding explicit content. If the content involves either them or someone they know it’s important that they have an adult who can help contact the appropriate people to investigate the issue further. Under no circumstances should the content be shared with anyone else either on the app or away from it.
How to protect younger children
As we have mentioned, being open and candid with your child about their use of social media is by far the best policy. However, there will be times when they might be exposed to things you would rather they didn't see, so having a discussion about internet safety sooner rather than later is a good idea.
At all costs avoid using your child’s full name when setting up an account. Think of your child's interests and pick something that reflects them as a person and is unique to them.
Turn off Geo Tagging and Location Settings within the app. With these settings turned on your child’s photo may also display the location where it was taken, meaning followers can potentially find out their location.
You may be partial to a self-portrait yourself, but it’s important to explain that there is much more to social media apps than just posting photos of themselves or their friends. It’s important to ensure they understand not only the damage that can happen but also the wider implications of taking inappropriate selfies.
How to protect your teenage children
Whilst we have spoken about how to protect your younger children when using the Instagram app, we appreciate it can be more difficult to monitor your teenager’s use of the Internet and social media.
Talking to your teenager
Generally the best thing you can do with a teenage child is speak to them about social media and how they use their profiles. They might find this conversation awkward but if you approach the topic in the correct manner and appear genuinely interested in the positives they get from apps such as Instagram you will also easily learn of the potential negatives.
You will find that most teenagers will enjoy spending quality time with their parents and having a laugh about it too. Next time you all go out for a meal, why not ask them to take a selfie and join in part of the fun they get from the app? You can sit with them as they upload the photo, which will also allow you to take a sneak peak at things such as usernames and their profile image.
Follow social media and news
It doesn't take much searching to find out which celebrity has done what on social media. Keep an eye on the news, do a little Google search from time to time and find relevant news you can mention to your teenager. Ask them if they can show you a certain celebrity’s recent image upload you've heard all about. This will give you a great opportunity to again learn more about how they use Instagram but to also be able to judge the content they can see more clearly.
As social media grows, it’s essential we speak with our children and help them understand the importance of remaining safe online. To find out more information on how to protect your child online, why not take a look at our Child Exploitation & Online Safety course.
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