Below we present FIVE of the most important things every parent needs to know about Instagram and the secrets it holds. Scroll down to find out what the number ONE scariest fact of all is!
If you have a teen, chances are they have an Instagram account. Since it was launched in 2010, Instagram has become one of the most popular social media apps with teens around the globe. Instagram’s 400 million daily active users post more than 80 million photos a day. Statistics show that 20% of all Internet users are on Instagram! The Pew Research Center found that 52% of teens say that Instagram is their favorite social networking site. Teens love Instagram for its simplicity and easy to navigate design. Sharing pictures with their friends and family is easy to do on Instagram.
Teens consider it, along with Snapchat one of the most convenient ways to keep in touch with their friends. They use Instagram to capture special moments, post their best selfies, funny memes, favorite quotes, and to simply share their interests with friends. However, with so many people and so much content on Instagram there are a few things that you should know and discuss with your teen before you make the decision to allow them to use the app. If they are already using Instagram, it is never too late for us parents to learn more!
After you read this post be sure to get our newest free resource the Ultimate Guide to Apps for Parents!
#5 – Age Requirements
These days, even when we take notice that something has an age restriction we tend to not give it a second thought. At Netsanity, we believe that age does matter when using social media, and here’s why:
COPPA…Instagram’s policy states that children must be at least 13 years old to use its service. This minimum age requirement comes from the required standards set by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule. Websites and online services may not collect data on children under 13 years old without parental consent — but if a 9 or 10-year-old joins Instagram pretending to be 13, COPPA can’t protect them.
Readiness… Just because your children seem ready and tech savvy at younger and younger ages, it does not mean that they are ready for social media. Before they reach the age of 12, it can be difficult, for a child or tween to sometimes fully understand the impact of their actions online or off . However, many parents continue to allow their children to join age-inappropriate social networking apps, which could possibly put them at risk of being victims of cyberbullies or online predators before they are old enough to know how to react to a dangerous online situation.
#4 – “Hidden” Settings
Chances are pretty good that your teen is pretty tech-savvy and once they sign on to any new app they have those settings down in no time! However, when using Instagram there are a few not so obvious settings that you should be aware of.
Let’s look together under the Instagram settings icon:
Blog: After you find the Instagram settings icon on the top right side of the screen by your child’s name and click on it. It will bring you to the Options section. If you scroll down you will see Blog almost near the bottom. Click on it and you will see that it takes you directly to Tumblr, an app that you may not want your teen exposed to. Tumblr is rated 17+ in the app store because it is full of inappropriate written content and plenty of pornography. If you aren’t familiar with Tumblr we recommend that you spend just a few minutes navigating around and you will quickly see why Tumblr has a 17+ rating. When you use Netsanity blocking your teen from age-inappropriate apps like Tumblr is easy with our feature appblocker. With one-click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps that you find inappropriate and even the ones that you feel your teen just needs to take a healthy break from.
And probably the one of the most important settings…
Settings:There are important privacy settings that allow users to determine who follows them. Go back to the Options section and under the Account section look for Private Account and switch the colored icon to On. This is the setting that we always recommend to users of every age! This will only allow those friends that your teen actively approves to see their pictures/posts. These privacy settings are a good way to keep away any unwanted followers or strangers because your teen will have to approve each follower request that they receive. We recommend setting this up with your teen from the start and reviewing the procedure with them along with a reminder for them to always keep this on and to only approve followers that they know in real life! We have noticed that many, many teens and tweens on Instagram have public profiles. If your teen is already on Instagram than this is a good time to do a check up on their settings!
If the privacy setting is swiped to OFF then your teens account is open for public viewing!
Location:There is an important feature on Instagram that you need to also make your teen aware of. Teens can easily share the location of where they took the picture when they post. This setting allows a user to tag their picture to a particular address or location. If you click on that location once the post is up, the app brings you to a map and a small dot that shows exactly where were they were when they took the picture. We saw so many pictures that we were able to easily click on and even see the users home location or their favorite coffee shop that they just might visit regularly. To ensure safety, follow these directions: Go to your teens phone settings, select Instagram, click on location, select never.
#3 – The Ugly
Your teen will certainly have days when they are scrolling through Instagram and they see a friend on an exciting vacation, a party that they weren’t invited to or a classmate standing next to a bright and shiny new car with a bow on top, it’s human nature to feel a little jealous.
Hanna Krasnova of Humboldt University Berlin, co-author of the study on Facebook and envy said that, “A photo can very powerfully provoke immediate social comparison, and that can trigger feelings of inferiority.”
Krasnova’s calls this an “envy spiral” peculiar to social media. “If you see beautiful photos of your friend on Instagram,” she says, “one way to compensate is to self-present with even better photos, and then your friend sees your photos and posts even better photos, and so on. Self-promotion triggers more self-promotion, and the world on social media gets further and further from reality.” This is why it is so important to talk to your teens and remind them that just like they only post their best selfies and most interesting days, others are doing the same. No one is posting pictures of their boring Saturday night stuck at home alone watching reruns on television or reading a good book. However, some of us adults think that sounds pretty good! The point being, is that social media shouldn’t make your teen feel inadequate, and if it starts to that is a sign that they just may need to take a break.
Additionally, the number of teens who are unhappy with their bodies is continuously rising. One scroll through a teens Instagram feed and you will quickly know the answer. With social media an almost constant these days in our teens lives, parents need to understand that it is now even more of a platform than TV and Magazine covers were for us “back in the day”. We couldn’t carry our television set around with us all day. On Instagram, your teen will probably follow some of their favorite celebrities and bloggers where they are certain to be flooded with images of attractive, fit, well-dressed and seemingly “flawless” looking people. This can be dangerous for some young teens, so be sure to keep an eye on the conversations you hear or any sudden changes of behavior like a new diet/fitness routine, or you hear them criticizing or comparing themselves to others on Instagram.
#2 – Instagram Direct
Some parents don’t realize that Instagram also has a private message or chat feature called Instagram Direct. When using Instagram someone you follow can easily send you a private message with this feature. The message is easily viewed by tapping on the arrow on the top right of the feed. You should be aware that even If someone that your teen has not allowed to follow them can still send them a message! What happens is that the message will appear as a request in their inbox. Once the message arrives, your teen can either decline or allow the message by tapping the message then selecting decline or allow at the bottom of the screen.
Note: If your teen selects allow on the message, all future messages from this user will go directly to their inbox! On the other hand, if they decline the message, they will not receive messages from that sender again. Instagram also offers an option to block the user and REPORT their account. We encourage you to discuss these features with your teen before allowing them to have an Instagram account.
#1 – Not-So-Hidden Porn and Other Scary Surprises
Lastly, lets take a look at the search bar/magnifying glass, this is the area that allows users to search for their friends, and anything and everything on Instagram! This is also the area where you can search by using a hashtag (#happy)! Unfortunately, this is also the area where your teen can find endless inappropriate material without ever using a browser AND the search clear history can be cleared in an instant by simply selecting Clear Search History. While doing research for this section of our guide, we learned a lot about how many users get around Instagram’s restrictions of pornographic material. During a routine visit on Instagram to learn more, we stumbled on much more than we had planned.
We typed some random hashtags and even hashtags made up of only emoji’s that brought us to various non-private user accounts as well as plenty of private accounts just asking for you to friend request them. Literally, in seconds, we were able to see some very disturbing content. We will not elaborate – suffice it to say that what we saw was disturbing, graphic, and inappropriate.
We would like to demonstrate to you a mild example of some of the content that your child or teen can easily get to via their Instagram account, simply by typing in a hashtag.
- Open up Instagram
- Click on the magnifying glass icon
- As a simple example in the search bar enter: #addme or #roleplay
- Click on People or Tags
- Now select the hashtag below that shows whatever hashtag you entered (#addme or #roleplay) and click on either the number of posts or search the people.
It shouldn’t take much scrolling or clicking around to see for yourself. A little research will show you that today’s teens quickly learn secret hashtags and secret emoji codes that bring them to inappropriate material as well as pornography. Instagram does its best to fight this, but it is an ongoing battle. As fast as Instagram takes down a bunch of inappropriate tagged photos or videos even more are added using different tags. Some describe it as a game of cat and mouse. Just know that if your teen is on Instagram they will either already have or most likely eventually will see some type of pornography, so be prepared and have the conversation early and often.
If you allow your teen to use apps like Instagram is completely up to you! However, it is always easier to keep your teens safe and to instill balance with screentime on their devices when you use a trustworthy parental control. When choosing a parental control software or app parents have a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for teens to circumvent. These days, it is so important for parents to be watchful about what your children and teens are doing on their mobile devices and to be proactive. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and keep up to date with the latest news and updates on social media and how it affects your family.
Instagram’s New App: IGTV
If your child is using Instagram, there’s a good chance they have already discovered Instagram’s new app that was released on June 20, 2018; it’s called Instagram TV or IGTV. The Instagram developers created this video app in celebration of achieving 1 billion users and to give YouTube some competition. However, like other apps, there are things you need to be aware of with IGTV.
What is IGTV?
IGTV is a stand-alone video app that only lets its users upload or browse videos—they can’t create them because there aren’t any tools to do so. Using their tablet or phone, your teen can make channels, instantly watch videos of their friends or favorite celebs, follow other users, comment on and “like” the videos, change between “Following”, “Continue Watching”, “For You” and “Popular” tabs and share with their friends using Messenger. The key highlight is that when a video is uploaded to IGTV it’s shown in vertical format—it doesn’t matter what layout a video is created in. This is done to fit mobile screens. Two other appealing features to kids are the fact that there are no ads—for now—and the videos tweens and teens upload can be up to an hour in length. That’s quite an extension from the one-minute limitation on Instagram!
Here’s What You Need to Be Mindful Of
While this free app may sound great, there are still a few dangers that you, as a parent, must pay attention to.
- You already know that Instagram is sorely lacking in parental controls. Well, no doubt you’ll be very disappointed to learn that there aren’t any additional parental controls in IGTV. So instead of giving parents the ability to teach their children how to use this app properly, Instagram creators developed an app that could end up being a video nightmare.
- Here’s something you probably don’t know: If your tween or teen has an Instagram account, she has complete access to the IGTV app even if it isn’t installed on her device. The same holds true for the reverse—if your teen or tween only has the IGTV app on her gadget, she has total access to Instagram. That’s scary, isn’t it?
- Instagram is loaded with porn. Regrettably, it seems it only took a couple of days for IGTV to house this same kind of unsavory content. When your tween or teen opens the IGTV app, he will sign in using a Facebook or Instagram account. The next screen greets him with a video feed and search bar where your child can search for anything and everything they can think of. Each search result will bring up all the users who have created an IGTV channel for that thing he is searching for. For example, if your son were to type the word “sexy” in the search bar, he would get all videos relating to that word. Try it out…type in “sexy” and then a few other words teens would search for—like “drinking” and “pot”—and explore the shocking video results that pop up. These videos are certainly something you would not want your teen—and especially tween—to be watching!
Two Things You Can Do
Maybe you don’t have the time to check your teen’s apps as often as you think you should, and now that Instagram has a new app you feel you need to keep an eye on her usage even more. That’s where a trustworthy parental control can help busy parents like you. With good parental controls, you can block popular apps and inappropriate content. It is also always a good idea to create a schedule and set time limits to provide your children and teens with a healthy balance.
Something else you can do is turn off the app store or Google Play. Why? Here are three excellent reasons:
- Your kids could make in-app purchases and wind up spending much of your hard-earned money.
- There are sexually explicit apps in the app store and your tween or teen could end up seeing or downloading something they shouldn’t.
- If you’ve put a simple “safe” or filtered browser on your teen’s phone, all he has to do is go in the app store and download a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app that will let him pass through your home’s network controls; this VPN allows him to surf the web unmonitored. Another option he might take is to just download another browser like Google Chrome. He can then just use Chrome and bypass your filtered browser altogether.
Sit Down with Your Kids
Whether your kids have started using Instagram TV or not, you should have a family meeting to discuss these things with them:
- What are the reasons why kids gravitate toward new apps? Does IGTV make Instagram better? Or do they want to use it simply because it’s popular right now?
- What is special about IGTV that makes them want to use it and hang onto it? Why is this app valuable to them?
- When they are allowed to use IGTV, for how long and how they’ll use it; make sure your kids understand what’s okay for them to post and what’s unsafe.
In this digital world today parenting is not a simple task—and you know it’s not any easier for your teen with all the negative and atrocious stuff floating around on social media and video apps like IGTV. That’s why you’re staying informed and helping to guide your kids in using the ever-changing technology and not be victimized by it.