What should parents know about Instagram?

Kids and teens love using the photo-sharing app Instagram because it lets you apply cool effects and captions to your photos and videos and easily share them across a number of social media platforms. The ability to quickly change the look of your pics by adding anything from borders to blurring to brightness not only unleashes kids' creativity, it kinda makes their lives look a little more awesome.

One of the biggest draws of Instagram is the instant feedback you can get. Collecting a large number of followers -- and flattering comments -- is a badge of honor for diehards. On the other hand, negative comments can be really hurtful. If your kid uses Instagram, make sure she knows how to comment respectfully and deal with haters.

Parents also should know that, on Instagram, photos and videos are public by default and can contain location data. So it's important for kids to use privacy settings to limit their audience. Occasionally, negativity crops up, such as so-called "beauty pageants" where user photos are judged (and losers get a red "X" on their faces).

Also, some kids feel pressured to curate their lives to project an idealized image on Instagram. Sometimes teens create alternate accounts that they call "Finstagrams" (fake + Instagram) where they share more authentic versions of themselves (in an unattractive outfit or with a silly expression) intended for a close, small circle of trusted friends. Maintaining these separate identities indicates kids feel a need to convey their true selves but don't want to ruin their perfect image on their "real" (or, "Rinstagram") feeds. Despite these hitches, Instagram does a remarkable job of implementing a neat idea with an easy and fast interface, all for free.

Learn more about the pros and cons of Instagram and how to help your kid use it responsibly

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Parent of a 12 year old written by ell123

My 12 year old daughter wanted Instagram so I read about it, found out there were inappropriate images so I thought I would see how easy it is to navigate. I searched for makeup tutorials to see what I found because that's what most of her friends look at. I picked out one makeup post, clicked on a hashtag that said #girls. At the top of the page there was a post with line drawings of women - nude, but not shocking. However this had a #sexy hashtag. I clicked on that and found stuff that I don't want to describe. That took me only 4 mouse clicks in about one minute. So I thought I would report it but then found out that its not possible to report using a PC - can only do it on a phone. Needless to say I reported it but I imagine there are thousands of thousands of inappropriate images on Instagram that are that easy to access, and relying on the "community" to report it is not enough. its really troubling to me that parents would rather their child be on social media so they are not "left out" (which I think is code for - is not popular at school) even if it means exposure to higihly sexualised and even frankly pornographic images.
Adult written by Junebug83

Parents also need to know Instagram allows direct messaging not just commenting on photos and it allows disappearing photo messages through direct messaging, much like Snapchat. Once the disappearing message is viewed by your child it can’t be seen again.
Teen, 14 years old written by bkloo111

I think that all parents are in a sense correct, as Instagram is a safe site but there are many cons. In saying that Instagram can only be as safe a your make it for example, if you make your account private than only the people you accept can see your account. Instagram can be a safe site if the user using it makes it safe. no one here is wrong its just we all have different opinions and personally I would never have an account not on private. Whilst using Instagram or even any form of social media just simply be careful and do the right thing. :)
Adult written by Cindy B.

Regardless of the medium and the guidance a child gets the impact that negativity a child receives from their peers can be devastating. A child can be from the most supportive family, but when made the victim of any negative comments by their peers at the delicate ages of teen or preteen can effect relationships moving forward and more important the relationship they are building with themselves. When your child is on social media they are vulnerable and more than that exposed to the entire world, not just their friends. This may lead to predators that prey on vulnerability in children and teens. Keeping them safe means staying one step ahead of predators. This task is extremely difficult since there is no crystal ball to let us know what the future holds. Keep the lines of communication open and seek professional advice when necessary.
Teen, 13 years old written by Emma13

I think the first thing that all parents need to understand is that instagram is very safe if you put you account in private and you don't accept strangers or you don't follow strangers but that's not the only thing the second thing is that is really fun to post pictures add comments in your friends picture and everything also that you can chat to your friends or make a group
Teen, 13 years old written by floki

i really wish someone would make a thing like this that says, "yes your kids should have social media if he/she is over the age of 13 so that they can develop social skills and learn that the world isn't filled with just nice people." cuz like lets be real, if your kid is always home and doesn't have time to go out cuz of home work so everyone thinks he/she is lame and stops hanging out with him/her, your kids gonna lose friends. also if your kid thinks life is always good and its all a safe space then when they go out in the real world he/she is not gonna make it
Adult written by m s

I am writing this to give parents information that most don't seem to understand or want to admit. Yes teen boys and girls have hormones raging and this makes these social media sites a bit scary. But we all have to make decisions that help kids "fit in" at school. We can all say that that doesn't matter but it is generally impossible in this society for you to prevent their exposure to social media (friends, tv, movies). And they will feel left out at school especially in high school if they are the only ones not participating in a group chat or funny picture swap. I say this as a prior conservative homeschool parent, who has now succumb to the whole thing. BUT I'm not tech stupid. I often know so much more about tech, apps, web sight/adds, etc. then my own kids, which is why I tried to protect them from it all as long as possible (I've given in now that they are in high school). Here is the THING.....it is not your kids fault!!! There is definitely an agenda set forth from the gaming industry to mature your kids before you/they are ready. WHY? Because it is a billion dollar industry and their biggest demographic is 18-30year olds roughly. Mature content games are there biggest sellers. So their goal is to expose your kids to language, graphic violence, but most importantly SEX. Why? Because the porn industry is very much tied into the gaming industry. Ok so long story short, back to Instagram, and other apps, cable satellite, internet, kids don't have to be looking for sex, it comes to them!! For instance, you should not be afraid of who your child's friends are but who WANTS to be their friends. Check for your self-or ask your child, have they had any friend requests by naked women?? Or have they gone to the search page only to come across sexually explicit pics? If they click on one of these one time, Instagram (and other apps) ad track your child and then inadvertently they will get sent more/posts that are sexually explicit. YOU as the parent will not know this unless your child actually "followed" or "liked" the photos. And if their friends aren't as smart and do "follow" or "like" these pictures, then now your child will see those photos through their friends accounts, which again you will likely never know about. You CAN report/block the pictures/user as inappropriate, which is the first step in cleaning up their account due to the ad tracking but you have to be doing it often, but unfortunately this still won't prevent the inappropriate friend requests. When you do block a pic/acct take a look in settings under blocked users, whoa low and behold there are all those blocked users -not gone from your kids acct but right there for your kids to look back on whenever they want. Oh AND if any of the people they follow or are followed by have a twitter account, your child can now look at this unregulated account outside of Instagram and in fact can surf the web now. Sooo with all that being said, yes my son has an account now that he is older and no I don't trust that he is "safe" from exposure to this agenda. Unfortunately, there is no answer unless parents become informed and come together with our common goals. Parents need to stop saying "it's fine, my kids are very responsible and I trust them" Well as I've said, it is not them doing the wrong here!! Parents need to come together to stop this "agenda" of sexualizing our young children!! (as I was writing this, my son just showed me a friend request from "artyomsafonichev6848" her sign below her account name says "FREE MEET&FU*K") ugh....
Teen, 16 years old written by TeaAndCrumpets

I know this is being written almost a year later but THIS is what makes Instagram a pain. As a younger patron of the app, I can't stand seeing the profiles and posts that pop up on the explore page or even in the "Following" tab under what friends of mine have liked. All I can do is report them and block them but that seems to do nothing. Instagram usually replies with, "We don't agree with this violating Terms of Service" even though in my book, it does. I would love if people could come together to petition to Instagram to change how this is handled. Clearly they have no problem with scantily clad/nude women but I do. I don't search for it, I don't want to see it, I'm using the app legitimately to talk to friends and stay up with their lives and I get this stuff. I've gotten my explore page to the point where it's mostly diys, clean comedy videos, and food but still, the occasional nasty post pops up and "Report/Block" I go... There needs to either be filters for the younger users or those who wish to stay free of that stuff or more detailed TOS as well as report options. It doesn't help that celebrities get away with that and my friends like that stuff. I think that most of it isn't the kids in the wrong, you're absolutely correct.
Adult written by Harlene G.

Instagram, a fast and fun way of sharing life with friends, can be a platform for online harassment. Instagram is one of the most popular social networking apps today. It allows its users to apply effects on their photos and share them on other social media platforms. Another cool feature, which draws a lot of teens, is the instant feedback they can get after posting their photos. The instant gratification they get is like an online “badge of honor”. However, Instagram is also used as a tool for online harassment and cyberbullying. According to a feature published by NOBullying.com,“Despite the limitation of socialization and not providing too many features that make way for cyberbullying, Instagram bullying has become a huge issue recently”. Using nasty hashtags or writing cruel comments on a photo are some of the ways used by online bullies. Famous people and celebrities are also not spared from cyberbullying. Be your children’s guide when it comes to using Instagram. Keeping the lines of communication open will help them become responsible netizens. Visit the MomSecure website for more parenting tips on social media.
Parent of a 6, 12, and 16 year old written by KimShea01

We allowed our 12 year old daughter to have an Instagram account - that lasted about two months. She knew all the rules (private setting, no following or being followed by someone you don't know, etc.) and she still managed to pick up a couple shady followers that she said she didn't know how to remove from her account. One thing we were completely not aware of, is that there is a chat feature to instagram, including group chats. That's where the difficulty happened. She was being subjected to inappropriate chat, harassment, and being called names and sworn at by two followers. She was afraid to bring it to us, as she knew she'd broken the rules by having strangers as followers and communicating with them, but she was in way above her head trying to deal with it. This might be a little much for some 12 year olds...
Adult written by Caleb P.

Hello, I'm sorry to hear about your 12 year old, but I know for a fact you're going through exactly what thousands of parents are going through. I'm currently producing a documentary about the effects of social media on kids. Could I message you about the details? Your story might help lots of other people.
Parent written by Mel M.

I would love more info. I’m going through this with my 13 year old son. He got addicted to social media and bought himself a vape and we found talk of purchasing pot and also pornography. We knew this was a danger so we never gave him a device. His solution, buy a used device and use that without our knowledge. When we discovered it and took it away he lost his mind. He is going to start counseling, but I’m feeling so hopeless. I can’t give it back. He is involved with some very dangerous things.
Parent written by Anne Garrett

Good article. In our Southern California area, this is currently the main social media used by teens (besides snapchat). Facebook is now seen as the purview of middle aged people like parents -- ugh :) My 16-year-old has told me that, unlike Facebook, Instagram posts tend to be less frequent and more posed/edited/curated. So it may be a useful discussion to have with your child about how someone's "Instagram life" may be really different from their real life.