The 5-Minute Parent’s Guide to Instagram

If you’re a tween or even a teen, it’s all about Instagram. As my 13 year old puts it so eloquently: ‘Facebook is for the oldies’ – thanks very much!

As most of us ‘oldies’ spend the bulk of our time online on Facebook, we don’t have the same familiarity with Instagram. So when your tween is begging to join up – or already has – how do you manage it?

Well, here is my quick 101 guide to managing Instagram with your kids.

What’s All The Fuss About? What Is Instagram?

Instagram is a free photo and video sharing app that appeals to our kids’ love for media. And it’s so simple! You take a pic, add a filter, tag friends, add hashtags and then you upload it. That’s it! Other people (your followers) can then view your photo, like it and comment. You can also upload 3-15 second videos in the same way.

Taking, enhancing and sharing pics and videos is a sport amongst this generation of digital natives and Instagram makes this happen in a very simple yet very social fashion, hence its popularity.

At What Age Can They Join?

Like most social media platforms the minimum age is 13, however Instagram doesn’t ask users to specify their birthday. So, in all reality, any age child can join. All you have to do is register an email address and select a username.

How Do You Manage Privacy on Instagram?

  • Ensure your kid’s profile is set to private. This means they need to approve anyone who wants to follow them. This is the best way of keeping their pics and videos away from public eyes. And just like on Facebook, if they don’t know a person in real life, don’t accept them as a follower.
  • If possible, encourage your tween or teen to use a photo and username that doesn’t easily identify them. And check how they describe themselves in the profile to make sure they’re not giving away personally identifiable information.
  • Turn off location services. If location services is on, users can tag a location and pinpoint their exact location on a map: no thank you! On an iPhone you can disable location services through your settings option.
  • Use a strong password with a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters such as * # $ _  + or %. And NEVER share it!

Please be aware that many tweens and teens are very committed to gathering as many followers as possible, so implementing some of these strategies may be a little tricky. As with many parenting issues, these things are often a dance. You may need to negotiate and compromise :).

What Can Go Wrong?

As with every other social media platform, bad behavior can absolutely occur. Whether it’s cyberbullying, harassment, identity theft, beauty pageants or even sharing of nude pics, it is all possible. Preparing your kids for any of these situations is now a part of the modern parent’s job description. Teaching them to be good cyber citizens doesn’t happen overnight. It is something that we as parents continually need to work on – just like times tables!

But if things do go off the rails, here’s what you can do.

  • If your child is being harassed, they can untag themselves from posts sent by the harasser. Or more powerfully, they can block the ‘perpetrator’ easily. You’ll find the exact steps here. And please note, the person you block is not notified if you do this but could easily find out as access to your child’s profile will be denied.
  • Instagram takes user issues and concerns seriously and has developed dedicated procedures for reporting concerning content (Privacy and Safety Center > Report Something). If users are concerned about underage users, possible self-harm situations or impersonation accounts, Instagram has a protocol for reporting and responding. However, like anything, you may need to be in their face to get a situation sorted quickly.

Any Suggested Ground Rules?

Glad you asked!

Here are my Top 10 ground rules that might be worth implementing in your family, if you aren’t already!

  1. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
  2. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.
  3. Always double-check your pictures. Ensure there are no personal identifying features such as a school logo or road signpost.
  4. No pictures unless you are fully clothed – Yes, that includes swimwear!
  5. Do not post pics of others unless you have their permission.
  6. NEVER make fun of anyone, even if you think it’s a joke – NO exceptions.
  7. Think before you post.
  8. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  9. Delete any comments on your pics that are inappropriate or mean.
  10. Be mindful that ‘tone’ can be very easily misunderstood online. Be careful what you say.

Now before you start laying down the law to your kids, there is one thing you must do – join up! It’s very hard to really understand something if you haven’t tried it yourself. To be successful parents, we need to truly inhabit the world our cyber offspring are living in. So, join up, educate yourself and be informed!

But once you have jumped in, you may decide that your child really isn’t ready for the challenges of the ‘Insta’ world (or any other social app they want to use). Remember, you’re the parent – it’s up to you – but please be realistic.

Let me know how you go – you may surprise yourself and become an Instagram sensation!

Take care

Alex x

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