Instagram is a free mobile app that enables its users to share pictures and videos, either publicly or privately via the app. It also allows sharing its posts across a variety of other social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr. Facebook now owns Instagram which has over 500M active monthly users as of June 2016. On August 2nd, 2016, Instagram launched Stories which is a clone of Snapchat’s popular Stories feature.
Why it’s popular?
- It allows for kids to stay connected with their friends, what they are up, current events or locations they are experiencing and more.
- Most mobile devices have cameras nowadays, and kids love to share – photos and videos – getting likes and comments on their photos can be fulfilling for many trying to “fit in”
- Instagram has great filters for photos and videos taken, and users love to edit their photos with the various available filters to make them look cool.
- Instagram Stories, which is a clone of Snapchat’s Stories feature was launched August 2nd 2016 and it’s just a matter of time before it becomes another reason that Instagram remains popular with its audience.
- Built-in messenger that works on wi-fi connections (so smartphones with no data plan) – whether a tablet, iPod or laptop. Instagram messaging allows users to connect with friends through a platform very similar to texting.
- Many celebrities such as athletes, actors or musicians are active on Instagram with verified accounts (it’ll have a blue star beside their name). Such connectivity is an attraction for young fans to get a daily glimpse into what their favourite celebrities are sharing and allows your child to engage by liking the posts or commenting on them. Some may even reply! My son follows a ton of hockey players and every day has something to tell about how “so and so” share a photo or video.
- The default privacy settings when someone signs up is wide open. For children, we highly recommend to go into your child app settings and enable PRIVATE account. Enabling the privacy setting will allow your child to screen any requests to follow them and when you search your child’s account, none of their posts will be shown.
- Common sense applies for searching content on Instagram as there is no safe search filtering in Instagram. If your child decides to search for terms and content you may find to be inappropriate on Instagram, they will most likely find it. Instagram is visual; it provides instant views into these in appropriate search results.
- Comments by others can be hurtful or improper. Negative communications can also lead to misunderstands that turn into conflicts at school.
- The accounts and peers they follow on Instagram may post inappropriate stuff or have language that not be suitable to your household parenting approach.
- The instant gratification of getting likes and comments is a powerful aspect of social media. Keep an eye on how often they seem to check their device for updates. Obviously, you can keep tabs on how much time they spend using Instagram with Boomerang Parental Control 😉
Tips for parents
- Have a chat about what information to share and what identifying information should not be posted online by your child.
- Personal information shared via an Instagram profile biography or in content posted should be should be limited based on your family or individual parent comfort level – this is a family conversation. Ask your child: “What content would you feel comfortable sharing if friends and family post on Instagram?”
- Information shared online will forever be cached so do have a chat with your child about what that information may look like one year, five years or even 20 years in the future.
- Every household will have a different comfort level here, but some recommendations of what not to share are: phone number, email, full name (use less identifiable information), birthdate and any frequent locations for sport or education such as home, practice field, or school.
- The default privacy setting when you sign up for an Instagram account is viewable by anyone. Take the extra step to make your child’s profile private which then allows them to screen who’s trying to follow them to minimize the risk of strangers liking or leaving comments on their posts.
- Location on images is also a big issue with personal information – make sure they are not sharing the geo-location of their photos.
- Do the occasional “health check” on the Messenger app that’s built-in Instagram.
- Why not follow your child? The goal is not to be intrusive but also use Instagram yourself to learn more about the Instagram experience of your child and the content accessed and shared. Follow some of your interests, inspirations, or famous people that may also help you learn more about how Instagram engages the celebrity dialogue online.
- Like most social media networks, 13 is the minimum age required to sign up for the app or website. This is not enforceable by law and applies to the collection of information of children under the age of 13. Instagram does not prompt users to highlight their birthdate.