How to Monitor Kids on Instagram
In the booming age of the selfie, it is no surprise that Instagram is one of the fastest growing online photo sharing services available to teens. This social media platform not only provides teens with a way to share their experiences through uploaded photos, it also allows them to have conversations, leave comments, and share links with others.
Like any online service or social media platform, Instagram contains pitfalls that can lead to serious consequences for teens. Monitoring your children as they use Instagram can help keep them safe during these pivotal teen years.
Instagram is a fairly simple social media platform to understand. Users can upload and share photos on Instagram that are simultaneously shared on Flickr, Twitter and Facebook. Users can also add a variety of fun details to photos, such as likes, captions, hashtags, filters and emoticons. This platform also partners with Foursquare, which gives a “check in” of a photo’s location. Instagram also:
- is a free service
- has a minimum age for users, which is 13
- can be used on Android or Apple products
- is a “follower model,” which means that people can choose to subscribe to your child’s photo feed. The user of the Instagram account must approve followers before the photos can be viewed, however.
With Instagram, all accounts are public unless the user makes the account into a private one. Once the Instagram account is private, only specific followers can see uploaded photos.
Know the Risks of Using Instagram
The risks associated with an Instagram account can be applied to any social media, email or texting program to which your child has access. Parental concern with Instagram and other social media accounts include:
- Strangers reaching out to your child
- Cyberbullying from peers
- Inappropriate videos or photos posted on the service
But just as Instagram is simple for teens to use, it is also easy for parents to establish boundaries for the social media platform and monitor their child’s behavior.
Helping Kids Stay Safe on Instagram
The most obvious safeguard is to create a private Instagram account for your child. Tap the Profile button, then click on “Edit Your Profile.” As you scroll down, make sure that the “Posts Are Private” switch is turned on.
Another option is to ask your child to teach you all about Instagram. This will give you the opportunity to learn not only about the program, but the kind of photos and video snippets that your child has uploaded. This is an excellent way to ensure that his or her profile is private.
Instagram is not any more or less safe than other social media outlets that we have to choose from. Use your child’s interest in Instagram to continue the discussion about what constitutes appropriate online behavior.
- Don’t share sensitive information. Instagram requires a username, and teens may decide to simply use their first and last names. Discourage your children from this practice, as well as filling in addresses, phone numbers, and any other sensitive information.
- Avoid sharing specific locations. It’s nobody’s business where your kids are and what they are doing at specific times. This information puts your children at risk.
- Privacy is not guaranteed. While the Instagram uploaded photos and videos might be privately shared, your child’s bio can still be viewed publicly.
- Privacy is not comprehensive. What is private on one social media platform is often not the same level of privacy on another. While a photo might be private on Instagram, it may be public once shared on Twitter or Facebook based on those separate privacy settings.
- Always respect others. Ask before posting photos with other people in them, and think about how posts might affect friendships.
- Respect yourself. An essential point for your kids to remember is that once a photo or video is online, it is forever. Digital material can be copied and embedded around the web, and it is extremely difficult to get rid of once posted.
Responding to Instagram Harassment
Like other social media platforms, there are ways for your children to respond if they experience harassment on Instagram. If your teen finds him or herself on Instagram without your permission, the photos can be untagged simply by clicking on his or her username in the post. Your teen can also delete their own posts and block people, which keeps others from tagging your teen in photos, contact your teen directly, or refer to your child in comments. If posts violate Instagram’s guidelines, you or your teen can flag these posts as inappropriate.
While it might be desirable to put your teen in a bubble – forbidding any social media interactions online – this is not a realistic plan. As new and shiny social media platforms become available, it is more important than ever to keep the lines of communication open with your teens to help keep them safe.