Since launching in 2010, Instagram has drastically changed from a simple photo sharing app to a major social media platform allowing photos, videos and messages to be shared across the world between its 800 million users.
This quick guide to Instagram will let parents understand more about the platform, and the key ways they can monitor and protect their children when using the social media app.
Despite being owned by Facebook, Instagram has its own way of working. With a different target market, different uses, and even its own vocabulary, keeping up with “the gram” can be a challenge. Tutorful are here to help with an easy-to-follow-guide, laying out the different elements and factors to understand about Instagram, and to answer any questions you may have about safety.
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Instagram is an app where users can share videos, photos and messages across different channels including IGTV, stories, direct messages or feed. Whether celebrating a big life milestone, or an everyday moment with friends, Instagram can be the ideal platform to keep in touch with family and friends and share interests within an online community. Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android tablets and phones, the app has built a huge user base that many enjoy every day.
The minimum age to create an Instagram account is 13 years old. Users aren’t asked to verify their age but there are many children who use the service with the permission and supervision of a parent or guardian. However, Instagram will delete underage accounts if they are made aware of them and the account cannot verify their age.
Instagram is a creative outlet for many young people. The primary use of the platforms is to share photos with friends and connections, and this goes beyond just a candid ‘snap’. Using the app, users can learn the basics of photo editing and develop an understanding of layout and design, when creating a tone or theme to their profile. These skills can be useful in other areas of life, and can even encourage a passion for photography, graphic design, or social media marketing. The way that photos, videos and stories can be edited allows young people to create even more of an online depiction of their personality.
Users can tailor the content they see on their feed by following accounts that share images and videos of what they are interested in. From puppies to make-up tutorials, and sports to pop culture memes, there is a huge variety of content to enjoy on Instagram. Users can stay within the bubble they create for themselves, or discover similar content and new accounts to follow by exploring hashtags, and engaging with others sharing similar photos.
The platform itself is not inherently dangerous. Much like any other social media app, there are risks you should be aware of and consider before agreeing to the terms and conditions of use, and letting your teens run off unsupervised. Instagram does have several policies in place to safeguard users and especially young people, but there are a few ways that users can have a negative experience of using Instagram, before the guidelines and rules take effect.
Your child might encounter cyber bullying from their peers via Instagram. Bullies may leave hurtful comments on someone’s posts or share mean content about an individual on a different profile. Sometimes this is anonymous but is often from other young people who know the victim. This can have an extremely negative effect on the way young people see themselves and engage with their peers.
A user can also be exposed to inappropriate content on Instagram. Despite having a thorough set of guidelines, some profiles will post sensitive content such as nudity, violence or discriminatory comments and it will be missed by moderators. Even though your child might only be following particular topics and accounts, these can sometimes be infiltrated by those wishing to show inappropriate content to young people.
Your child might also be sharing inappropriate content without realising it. For example, posting improper images of someone under 18, or making comments that are considered racist or homophobic, are things that your child is responsible for. Make sure your child understands what they should and should not be posting before they use Instagram, or that you follow their account and can advise on anything they should reconsider.
Young people may not fully understand the effects of posting certain information on an online platform. Privacy should be explained to teens who use Instagram and other social media, to ensure they are not sharing personal information that can put them or others in danger. Posting things like addresses online should be avoided at all times as well as information that can be used for online security passwords.
Other less obvious problems are things such as the effects on mental health from over using the platform. It is important to monitor whether your child can detach from using the platform and others like it. Being exposed to crafted messages and heavily edited photos can change the behaviour, attitude and self worth of young people who do not understand the full effects of long term social media use. As parents and guardians, we are here to help guide them.
This guide is here to help you understand Instagram and the way young people use it. However, one of the best ways for you to better understand the platform, and especially how your children make use of it, is to ask them to talk you through it. Kids and Teens are often keen to show off their skills, especially when it comes to popular technology. Asking for a demo is an easy way for you to see first hand how they engage with their peers and friends, gauge their level of understanding of ways it can and should be used, and understand the app itself and how it works. Your child will use Instagram differently to how their friend, sibling or yourself might use the app, so it is best to simply ask them to show you and you can learn how to support them to use it safely.
Make their account private. Having a private account on Instagram means that the user has to approve everyone who follows them. Only once the user has given permission, can the other person see their posts and engage with the content. This offers a level of privacy and ensures only people your child knows and trusts can see with their profile. Tap on the profile button at the bottom right of the platform, select options (iOS) or the 3 vertical dots (Android) and scroll to ‘Private Account’. Swipe the button to the right and it will turn blue to show the account has been made private.
Block Bullies & Trolls. If someone is bothering your child with messages, comments, or by tagging them in photos that they do not want to be tagged in, your child can block that person with only a few clicks. A person that you block cannot contact you directly in any way. Blocking someone stops them from mentioning you in comments, tagging you, and seeing the content that you post. Block a user by going to their profile, tap the 3 dots in the top right and select ‘block’.
Reporting Problematic Posts. If there are users which you believe are posting inappropriate photos, videos and comments, and breaking the community guidelines of Instagram, you can report them. Click the 3 dots next to their username and select ‘Report’. You have the chance to say why you think it is inappropriate and Instagram will investigate and moderate if they have to.
Managing Comments. To avoid escalating to the point of blocking or reporting a user, your child can simply manage the way comments are left on their posts. In the ‘Comment Control’ section of the settings, a user can choose to allow comments from their followers, people they follow, followers of those they follow, or everyone. Limiting who can comment on photos can improve mental health and reduce the harassment that can happen from other users. Your child can remove comments from their posts by swiping left on the comment (iOS) or tapping the comment and holding (Android).
Tracking Time on Instagram. Whether you’re an adult or teenager, it is very easy to lose track of time when on social media. Instagram has introduced a number of tools to manage the time your child spends on the platform, and for you both to understand how to use it more productively. Access these controls by selecting ‘Your Activity’ from the menu on your child’s profile where you can see the average time spent on Instagram, set reminders when a time limit is exceeded, and mute some or all notifications.
Posting to Stories. Whilst publishing something to an Instagram ‘story’ isn’t necessarily making it private, it is temporary. A story will disappear after 24 hours unless saved to the highlights of the profile. Whilst teens and adults should avoid posting inappropriate content at all times, a story is a chance to post something silly that won’t become part of your permanent feed. On your profile, click the blue cross on the bottom right of the profile picture to add to a story. Check that if your child’s Instagram is linked to their Facebook account, that their stories aren’t posted automatically to their Facebook story as well.
Setting up your own account. In addition to asking your child to show you their instagram, why not ask them to help set up one for you? You don’t necessarily need to post a lot, or in the same way as your child, but it could give you a way of monitoring that your teen is using the platform in a safe way, but without asking to see their phone every so often. Hey, you might even find content you like yourself.
Don’t get downhearted, there is a lot of cool, interesting and useful content to be found on Instagram and it can give your child a creative outlet, increase their knowledge, and plays an important part in their social circles. Young people like Greta Thurnberg and Casey Ann are using Instagram to spread their messages and inspire other young people to get active in areas such as reading and environmental activism.
We hope this guide is useful and lets you and your child enjoy using Instagram in the best way. On our Instagram, we share top tips for revision, highlights from our helpful blog posts, and a showcase of some of our amazing tutors. Click here to follow Tutorful on Instagram.