A study conducted in 2015 by Pew Research Center has suggested that the social media application Instagram was the second most popular social media application for teenagers, especially girls. So we’re forced to ask, are your children using Instagram? And, if so, what ways can you help keep them safe?
Instagram was founded in 2010 and was acquired by Facebook later on. It’s a social media platform that allows users to share videos and photos with their peers and the general general public. Instagram users take or upload a picture (or video), edit it, add a caption if desired and post it.
Other Instagram users have the option to like a photo, write a comment, or even share it with their own friends. Some users on Instagram use it to keep an imagery log of everything in their daily lives; other users create collections of pictures that reflect a theme they are passionate about such as traveling, fashion, or food.
While Instagram has implemented a minimum user age of 13 years (compliant with the COPPA – Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act); there are still many underage users and Instagram has taken the bold step of deleting accounts of children not yet of 13 years old.
Probably one of the biggest concerns with kids using Instagram is the content they are sharing and what it may reveal about their personal lives. Pictures in front of their school; their favorite ice cream shop; your street or house; family vacations; road trips; all give away clues to you and your child’s location to anyone who is looking for patterns in their life.
The drawback of Instagram is the automatically public posts as the default setting for every new post. Even if your child knows not to post any information that can personally identify them, they may get coerced by their peers into posting inappropriate content such as suggestive pictures. The only aim is to be more popular by having the most likes, comments and followers, and sometimes this race amongst peers can take ugly turns.
What we need to do is to remind kids that whatever is posted online will never be taken down and is accessible to anyone looking hard enough. Even stuff shared using private browsers and accounts can have information stolen and leaked on to public forums for everyone to see and anyone to misuse.
Now the big worry that faces us is that of other users: what about inappropriate content they share? Instagram has been used for online bullying such as making kids felt left out by friends out partying and making mean comments on pictures. Everything negative in real life can turn negative on Instagram as well. So how do you ensure your kids are safe and protected?
Some Useful Suggestions
- Wait – until your kid reaches 13 to allow them to sign up. Not only is it the law, it is there to protect them.
- Hide it– Take over the settings and make the account private. Limit picture viewing access to friends only and ask them to only add people they know. This prevents imposters from getting into the friend circle.
- Go stealth – Geo-tagging must go. Turn it off. It’s fun to see where you have taken pictures, but it’s not safe for your child as anyone with bad intentions can easily find them and make a track of their daily route.
- Educate – Explain to your child the dangers of sharing personally identifiable information on Instagram as it can lead to anyone tracking them. Explain to them that a picture is worth a thousand words and that if they are ever in doubt over posting something, they should discuss it with you.
- Monitor – Make a note of their username and password and make secret, unplanned checks on their Instagram. Let them know that it is not your child you do not mistrust, but the world at large. Also, keep your Instagram ID added to their friends for an easier check up daily without having to sign into their account.
- Set expectations – Discuss your concerns with your children. Have a heart to heart discussion and reach a consensus on the amount of time allowed, the proper pictures to post, and what issues they may have with you.
- Teach – Teach them to remove tags as well as how to make sure the Photo Mapping feature has been turned off. Make certain that they know how to go ahead and report users who are posting inappropriate images or comments publically or privately.
- Model – Make sure your own Instagram account is a model for your kid to use as a guide. This will make the discussions on limits and boundaries easier as your kids will know that this is not only for them, but also for you and your safety.