In our increasingly digital society, it can be difficult to navigate what apps & social networks are safe for your children to enjoy. Many parents find keeping up to date with the newest apps that appeal to children confusing and are not sure how to keep their child safe while they use them. Take a moment to read our Parents Guide to Instagram & learn all about the safety features available on one of the most popular apps of the moment!
What is Instagram
Instagram is a photo-sharing app that has exploded in popularity in the last few years, becoming a worldwide sensation that is used by a wide variety of age groups. Instagram is particularly popular among Teens & Tweens as it has a number of features that allow them to express themselves online in entertaining ways. You can share time-limited videos, share private messages with individuals or in groups and share images. You can also like & comment on other individuals’ photos or videos. Instagram allows you to follow your favourite celebrities & directly interact with their lives via liking and commenting on their posts. It offers real-time video and photo sharing options on ‘Instagram Stories’ with a variety of fun filters, stickers & music options that can be added before posting.
How do I set up an account?
You first have to download the app via the iOS store for apple phones or the google play store for android. You will need an email to register, then create a username and password & upload your profile photo.
What do I need to keep an eye on?
Minimum Age Range
The minimum age range for Instagram is 13 years old. Instagram requires users to enter their date of birth before signing up and bars users below this age from creating an account.
You can set your child’s account to private so they have to approve anyone who would like to follow them before they can see any of their images. With this feature, they can also remove any of their followers at any time. This can stop strangers from seeing anything on their account. On your profile page, tap the top right symbol depicting three horizontal lines. On the bottom of your screen, you will now see a gear symbol that says ‘Settings’. Tap this and then tap the ‘Privacy’ option with a lock symbol to the left of it. You can now select the ‘Private account’ option by tapping the toggle bar.
Blocking an Account
You can block another user from following you, seeing your profile or any of your content by going on their profile and tapping the ‘…’ option on the top right of the screen. You can then select the ‘Block’ option. This will allow your child to remove anyone from their account with who they are having any negative interactions.
Reporting an Account
If your child is uncomfortable with the behaviour of another account, has seen something that has upset them, or noticed another user engaging in bullying behavior, they can report the account to Instagram, who will review that user’s social media use. To do this, go on their profile and select the ‘…’ symbol on the top right of the screen. You will then be able to select the ‘Report’ option.
Turn on Filters
You can turn on the ‘Hide Offensive Comments’ option which automatically filters inappropriate or harmful language on the app. Go to the Settings bar & tap ‘Privacy’ then tap ‘Comments’ and toggle on the ‘Hide Offensive comments’ option. You can also toggle on the ‘Manual Filter’ which allows your child to type in words or phrases they would prefer not to see on the app.
Time on the app
Instagram allows users to track how much time they are spending on the app, which can be useful for parents to discourage unhealthy or obsessive device usage. To check this, proceed to your profile and then to your ‘Settings’ bar. Tap ‘Your Activity’ and you will be able to see the average amount of time spent on the app that week. You can also take the opportunity to set up a ‘Daily Reminder’ here which will send a notification once your child has reached the allotted time allowed on the app each day, which can help remind your child to disengage occasionally. You can also mute notifications in the ‘Your Activity’ section, which can stop the constant notifications which can often tempt your child to pick up their phone again and again as the day goes on. Social media can be addictive for children and teens, so try and emphasise the transitory nature of online interaction. It can be useful to talk to your child about the importance and satisfaction of face-to-face communication and remind them that relationships outside of the digital sphere are what are most important.
It is possible for Instagrammers to share their location each time they post an image. Make sure your child is aware of the dangers of sharing their real-time location online, and encourage them to never tag an image they post with the location on it.
Instagram Etiquette for Children
Teaching your child good digital etiquette and emphasising the potential permanency of conversations online is important. Digitally safe children are children who are not afraid to share their online experiences with their parents. Talking to your children about how to use social media tools safely in an open and honest way is the key to maintaining an open line of communication on this subject. If you are inquisitive about their social media use in a positive way, they are more likely to open up to you if they are experiencing any issues. Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with friends and a form of self-expression for children and allow them to interact positively with other members of their peer group. When age-appropriate & managed correctly by parents with security features enabled, social media apps can be a positive experience for your children.
Some points to keep in mind:
● Remind them that it is always good to discuss difficult or potentially volatile conversations in person, rather than online.
● Emphasise that respecting others’ privacy is as important online as it is in person. They should not share their friend’s private information or share anything sent to them with others that would violate another’s privacy. Teaching your child the value of respecting others in the digital sphere is an important life skill for children to learn.
● Encourage them to be a positive influence on social media. Remind them that digital interactions which are hurtful or mean can be just as damaging as face-to-face insults.
● Learning when is the right time to leave a conversation digitally is also a good skill to teach your child, as it is easy to type a message in the heat of the moment and then regret it!
● It is worth discussing with your teen that sending inappropriate images on Instagram is never a good idea. Images can be saved by recipients in direct message conversations and could easily be shared outside of this private conversation. A conversation with your child that underlines that anyone requesting such images does not have your teen’s best interest at heart is an essential conversation to have with your teenager.
● Encourage your young person to talk to you if they see something or read something that they are worried or scared about – open and honest communication is really important when keeping your child safe online