Instagram

App review by
Liz Panarelli, Common Sense Media
Instagram App Poster Image
Great app makes sharing pretty, private photos all too easy.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 83 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 242 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational value

Kids can learn some basic concepts about photography and exercise some creativity with Instagram. The service is designed to be an inherently social one, so teens using Instagram will learn some of the ins and outs (and perhaps ups and downs) of social networking. They'll have to make decisions about the kind of network they want to build and exercise judgment when they're communicating with others. Instagram isn't a deep learning experience, but it lets teens express themselves through photos as they build their social networks.

Ease of play

No tutorial, but intuitive to use. Create login, import contacts, and follow other users. An online help desk is available from the About menu.

Violence

Some photos or comments may contain violent material, but it's not widespread.

Sex

Despite terms that photos cannot be "nude, partially nude, or sexually suggestive," several photos show cleavage and some comments are sexually explicit. 

Language

Several comments contain swear words, including "f--k." Comments are not moderated. Words also could be represented in photos; the terms do not prohibit specific language so long as it is not abusive toward another user. 

Consumerism

Kids will encounter ads and photos promoting a commercial brand, as well as "sponsored" photos or videos, i.e., ads.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Photos or comments sometimes show or suggest the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. 

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. Instagram Direct allows users to send private photos directly to other users. 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 live-stream video, and video streams and  selected private photos will disappear, Snapchat style. Also, users can remove followers, turn off comments, and like others' comments. If users want to poll their friends, they can attach a sticker to an image to get votes. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared.

User Reviews

Parent of a 9, 11, and 17 year old Written bysmartcookie February 24, 2013

Fun, but best for mature, self disciplined kids

I have a 17, 11 & 9 year old, and the changes in social media over the past 5 years have been staggering. While safety is an obvious concern, the more... Continue reading
Adult Written byArceusBlitz1 June 19, 2012

13 and up? Really?

This is an amazing app. I'm addicted. But 13 and up for this is too much. I've seen 7 year olds sharing photos and following people. Instagram is way... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old May 25, 2012

Great if you show your kids the ropes

Very good. Teaches kids about the arts. Fun way to interact with friends all across the world.. HOWEVER, It's INCREDIBLY easy to have some creep get in con... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bycplovesbroadway April 23, 2013

A Fangirl's Favorite App

Let me begin by saying I am a *mature* 13 year old girl who is obsessed with books, celebrites from movies adapted from the books I love, and, um, IG. I have fo... Continue reading

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 60-second videos. As of 2016, you can also live-stream video, which will disappear after the stream ends or share private photos that will disappear. 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 brightness. Users then add a caption, share the photo on Instagram and, if desired, via email or other social networks. @music is a feature that allows musicians to share photos and videos specifically related to their bands or performances, which may give rise to more focused content. 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" which is a series of photos or videos strung together and only lasts 24 hours. 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 only want to share with certain people. Finsta accounts are also used to post racier content and bully people.

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, 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 we'd love to see more moderation for photos and comments to be totally safe for kids. 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. 

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.

  • Check out photography books from the library for kids who want to learn more about lighting, mood, and so on.

  • Talk about using features responsibly. Is it okay to livestream? How can you use the polling stickers in a fun way that won't hurt any feelings?

App details

For kids who love creativity

Our editors recommend

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