Like Any Social Media, Make Sure to Monitor
When using Instagram, or any other social media platform, it is always wise to take precautions. Make sure to discuss with your child what is acceptable to post and what isn’t. What is put on the internet is put out there forever, so it is important that nothing your child posts could be damaging to their future in school and work. You can keep watch by following your child and supervising what is posted.
Since anyone can follow anyone, it is also important that your child knows to keep their Instagram profile private. Then, confirm that they know everyone who they allow to follow them so no strangers have any
access to their personal information or pictures. Speaking of personal information, it is also wise to turn off location services so Instagram does not map your child’s location on their post.
Instagram Isn’t Always a Happy Place
When children browse through Instagram, they’ll often come across everything that everyone has been doing lately. Going to amusement parks, vacations to the beach, or going to the movies with friends, it all seems like everyone is having the time of their lives while they themselves are at home. It can lead the child to feel left out, thinking their friends are not inviting them to all their fun or that their lives aren’t nearly as exciting as their peers.
Even though this may not always be the real case, Instagram can often portray people’s lives as far more exciting and busy than they are. Seeing everyone show off like this could cause your child to feel inadequate or become depressed. If your child starts to feel this way, it would be best to sit them down and explain that Instagram does not accurately portray the full picture of someone else’s life, and that sometimes people cannot spend time with them all the time, but that doesn’t mean they want to leave them out.
Like any other form of social media, Instagram is also prime grounds for cyber bulling. Whether it be making fun of someone’s pictures, sending mean direct messages, or creating fake accounts to harass someone with, Instagram can be a scary place sometimes. Sadly, it is impossible sometimes to prevent people from being bullies, but as a parent, one can still take a stand to prevent your child from being subjected to it.
Here’s What Parent’s Need to Know about Instagram
Imagine yourself having a lonely summer vacation spent mostly at home. You sit down to check your Instagram account and you see endless images of your friends boating, splashing at the beach, or toasting each other at a new local hot spot, all without you! As an adult, you may chuckle and allow it to bother you for a moment, and then shrug it off. Now, imagine yourself at 13. How would you feel?
Being excluded socially is always tough, regardless of your age. These days however, our tweens and teens are much more likely to find out almost in real-time, what they are missing out on. Seeing the fun in full digital color, filtered and cropped to perfection, as you are omitted from the fun being posted – it can be painful. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, when many of today’s parents were teens and at home for the summer, one typically had no idea what one was missing out on unless a friend told you and even then, that rarely happened in real-time! Digital pictures certainly not included!
We understand that most tweens and teens who are active on social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or Facebook are not posting pictures determined in making others feel bad. Most kids are living in the moment, with little foresight as to whom may be left excluded in this new digital world.
As parents, we have seen our children on both sides of this emotional circumstance. Older teens tend to handle this better, but for the younger set, it can be an entirely different experience. Some younger teens, when discussing this topic, told me that they oftentimes feel depressed about missing out, or not being invited. They take this dismissiveness by their peers as a personal reflection on them.
There are things that can be done, most importantly being engaged and aware. You can’t address something you don’t know exists. Look for clues and signs. One is the absolute absorption in their mobile device, quickly followed by depression or looking uninterested in topics or family. Try to get some control over their state and find a root cause.
On any mobile device, when looking at the app age ratings, note that most apps have a minimum age recommendation of 13. Here are some additional tips when allowing your children to use Instagram:
- THINK – teach your children to always pause before they post. Teach them to ask themselves if the picture could make anyone feel left out or excluded?
- Recommend that they delay their postings so that the event isn’t viewed in real-time by others. This simple act, can often make all the difference to a friend who is sitting at home alone.
- Parents can model proper behavior by showing the same respect when posting or reacting. You know that pleasant feeling you get when seeing your own friends on social media on a romantic vacation in Hawaii, while you are at home cooking dinner and doing laundry!
- Instill balance with mobile parental controls like Netsanity, for example. Their Timeblocker scheduler, used on a regular basis, gives your tween a break from their mobile device. Sometimes you may need to resort to blocking some social apps, even if temporarily if the teen seems to be too obsessed. Appblocker can be used to block apps such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and others, on demand, if your child is having trouble tearing themselves away.
Sometimes all they need is a break!
We love social media as much as anyone, but we also know there’s a fine line between enjoying its benefits in moderation, and spending endless hours letting it bring you or your children down. We always recommend monitoring, communicating, and taking breaks from social media and all internet devices on a regular basis!