Instagram is one of the world’s most popular apps, with young people throughout the world referring to it as something they “can’t go without”. Yet Instagram is also considered to be one of the worst social media apps for exacerbating mental health problems in teens . This paradox can, understandably, be difficult for parents to wrap their heads around.
We’ve compiled some information from leading resources to provide parents with a guide to protecting their teens in the online world. We’ve provided answers to frequently asked questions and a list of Instagram safety tips that every parent should familiarise themselves with.
What is Instagram and how does it work?
Instagram is a free photo and video sharing application for people aged 13 and older. Users upload images from their device and can share them publicly or privately with their followers. Users can also like and comment on other people’s images.
What is it about Instagram that has my teen so hooked?
When it comes to using social media as a way of sharing content and interacting with others, there’s a lot for young people to both enjoy and benefit from.
What are the risks associated with Instagram?
Instagram is not an inherently dangerous app and the primary dangers associated with it are characteristic of all social media; exposure to inappropriate content, contact from strangers, and cyberbullying. While certain social media apps, such as anonymous messenger apps or chat rooms, can exacerbate these threats, Instagram does have safety settings in place to minimise risk.
However, Instagram can contribute to rates of excessive Internet/smartphone use and has been proven to negatively affect mental health .
Instagram Safety Tips:
1. Use two-factor authentication: To minimise the potential for hacking and defamation, utilise the two-factor authentication security feature. Any time that your child’s Instagram account is accessed from an unknown device, they’ll receive a text message containing a backup code.
2. Set your teen’s account to private: Having a private Instagram account will prevent the wider public from being able to view your posts and give you the ability to determine who can follow you.
3. Remove geotags & turn off location sharing: Instagram has a location sharing feature that enables users to share the location of a picture. When this setting is enabled, other users can click on the image’s location and the app will identify the spot where the picture was taken. This feature is turned off by default .
4. Avoid uploading photos or captions containing personal information: Both young people and parents should avoid sharing images that contain a minor’s personal details, such as: full names, private contact information, or even school uniforms that can identify a child’s location. Even with different privacy precautions in place, social media content is fairly easy to download and share. In fact, it has been reported that half of the pictures posted on paedophile websites were originally sourced from parents’ social media pages, which is a stark illustration of how dangerous it can be to share personal information relating to minors online.
5. Follow them on Instagram: You may want to establish safety stipulations that you and your teen both mutually agree to. For example: you might insist that they have to accept your follow request so that you can see their updates and interactions, but they may ask that you refrain from commenting publicly on their posts.
6. Know your audience: Instagram has a built-in feature that enables users to select a specific audience for their posts.
7. Block or unfollow: Encourage your teen to block or unfollow people whose posts upset them. Bear in mind that these people may not necessarily be posting anything inappropriate or malicious – it could simply be a friend or celebrity whose online life appears so ‘perfect’ that it makes your teen feel insecure.
1. Royal Society for Public Health Instagram ranked worst for young people’s mental health
2. Connect Safely A Parent’s guide to Instagram
3. Mothers Circle 5 Instagram safety tips for teens