A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Instagram is a popular platform for instantly enhancing photos and videos with cool effects and sharing them across a number of social media platforms. The terms specify that users should be at least 13 years old and should not post partially nude or sexually suggestive photos but do not prohibit the portrayal of violence, swear words, or drugs. Users can flag photos for review, but mature content still appears in some photos and in the comment sections. Photos shared in Instagram are public and may have location information unless privacy settings are adjusted. Also, it's possible to save other users' photos. In the app's Direct section, users can send private messages directly to other users, and a green status dot shows your friends you're active in the app (which could show people that you're active but not answering their messages) unless you turn it off in settings. "Vanish Mode" lets friends send messages that disappear after users leave the chat. In a section called IGTV, users can subscribe to other people's video collections called channels (like YouTube). Tinder users can access other Tinder users' Instagram feeds directly from within the Tinder app, even on private Instagram feeds, if Tinder integration is enabled. As of 2016, users can livestream video, and video streams and selected private photos will disappear, Snapchat-style. If they want to send an audio message, users can hold down the microphone button and record a minute-long message to send. And, as of 2020, users can use the Reels feature to create TikTok-style short videos with visual effects and clips from popular music that they can share in their Instagram Stories or in their main feed. Users can use Remix to build on another user's Reels, like with TikTok Duets.
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What's it about?
All users can view popular photos and videos shared by other users on INSTAGRAM. Users who create logins also can share their own photos and videos, which can be seconds long or as long as 60 minutes. You can also livestream video, which will disappear after the stream ends, or share private photos that will disappear.
If you create a collection of videos, you can have a channel that other users can subscribe to on a feature called IGTV. After taking or choosing a photo, you can modify the lighting, contrast, and color with preset effects, which usually make the photo look high-quality and interesting. You also can add a border, blur effects, and change brightness. Users then add a caption, share the photo on Instagram and, if desired, via email or other social networks. Photos and videos are public by default, but you can choose to make your posts private in settings, as well as choose to share photos and videos with 15 or fewer friends via Instagram Direct. People can also save other users' photos.
Similar to Snapchat, Instagram offers "Stories," where users can post a series of photos or videos strung together; these last only 24 hours. Like TikTok, Instagram also offers "Reels," where users can create 15-second videos with music, filters, and visual effects. Users can remove followers, turn off comments, and like others' comments. The term "Finsta" applies to accounts kids use under made-up names, where they share content they want to share only with certain people. Finsta accounts are also used to post racier content and bully people. When you're active in the app, a green status dot is visible next to your name -- i.e., visible to your friends; you can turn that feature off in settings.
Is it any good?
This social network offers the cool photo effects of Hipstamatic powerfully combined with the social seduction of Facebook, the popularity filter of Reddit, the hashtag and follower sharing models of Twitter, the music-based videos of TikTok, and the curse and blessing of commentary on YouTube -- and that's just within the app. Instagram makes your photos and videos look cool and then makes it easy to share them instantly, across multiple platforms, allowing you to broadcast how #awesome your life is right now. The competition for cool can get a little tiresome (the comments are full of users seeking followers), and -- as with any huge social app -- it's an enormous mixed bag with a dark underbelly.
It's admirable that you can create notifications to remind you of how much time you've spent on the app each day, but each new feature -- like Stories, Reels, and the Shop -- seems intended to keep you scrolling forever. As with any social network, it's helpful to talk to kids about privacy settings and mindful sharing, since things shared on the internet can follow you forever. Overall, Instagram does a remarkable job of implementing a neat idea with an easy and fast interface, all for free. But the endless features, disappearing messages, and default to public accounts can make it tricky for parents to monitor.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about being smart about what and how they share on Instagram and online in general. We have some great tips on safety and being a good digital citizen.
Discuss online advertising and shopping. How do you know that something is an ad? What about when your favorite Insta star says a product is good? Is shopping from within the app OK?
Talk about using features responsibly. Is it OK to livestream? How can you use the polling stickers in a fun way that won't hurt any feelings?
Talk about the music used in Reels and apps like TikTok. What are the family's rules around music? What about dancing in videos?
- Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
- Subjects: Arts: photography
- Skills: Creativity: producing new content
Communication: conveying messages effectively, friendship building, multiple forms of expression
Tech Skills: digital creation, social media
- Price: Free
- Pricing structure: Free
- Release date: April 21, 2012
- Category: Photo & Video
- Size: 12.70 MB
- Publisher: Instagram, Inc.
- Version: 2.4.0
- Minimum software requirements: IOS 3.1.2 or later; Android 2.2 and up
- Last updated: April 9, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.