Let's make Instagram safer for young people.
We can’t ignore the popularity of Instagram. With a slew of celebrities using it every day to share titbits of their lives, this photo sharing app has become the epitome of cool since the day it launched. Children and teens are a substantial portion of the platform’s base, it with this comes a host of safety and security issues.
Teens love Instagram for many reasons, but most importantly, it’s because it’s where their friends are. They can use the app to keep tabs on their favourite celebrities, follow accounts that align with their interests, and, of course, maintain their own profile (or profiles) that present an image of themselves to their friends and sometimes to the world.
Teenagers can upload images and videos, post 15-second “stories” that disappear in 24 hours, interact with friends, send private messages, watch long-form content on IGTV, make Tik-Tok style reels for up to a minute, and browse billions of photographs. Teenagers and kids love how Instagram promotes innovation and creativity, but with all that freedom to share information, comes a host of serious security and safety related threats and issues.
In recent times the app has made multiple headlines due to its negative impacts on youth’s mental health, body image, safety and security.
Here are a few of the things that typically worry a parent in terms of social media usage:
Mean behaviour amongst peers, creating or encountering inappropriate or dangerous content, overuse of the platform, and issues of privacy that includes strangers reaching out to kids through apps like Instagram, compromising their safety and security. Another major issue is that the teenagers and children on Instagram end up comparing themselves to others which impacts their sense of well-being. Both parents and teens can learn to manage these risks and which is why we at RiskEye wanted to give you a quick guide to ensure that social is a safer space for everyone.
It’s difficult for children and adolescents to stop using social networks because it’s attractive to them, but parents can take some steps to protect their children. Below are some tips to reduce the risks of using Instagram for children and teenagers:
- Keep their profile private
Privacy is important. There are a number of tools you can share with your teen that will give them more control over their digital identity and footprint. One of the first things you may want to talk about is whether their account is going to be public or private. We recommend that teens make their account private, which is why anyone under 18 who signs up to Instagram will have the option to choose between a public or private account, with private selected by default. Understanding that they have control over who sees and interacts with the things they post online will empower teens to be themselves on Instagram while helping them to stay safe online.
We want to strike the right balance of giving young people all the things they love about Instagram, while also keeping them safe. We don’t want young people to be contacted by adults they don’t know or don’t want to hear from, and we believe having a private account is the best way to prevent that from happening. Having a private account will let your teen control who sees or responds to their content. If you have a private account, people have to follow you to see your posts, stories, and reels, and all follow requests need to be accepted by you first. People you haven’t accepted also can’t comment on your content in those places, and they won’t see your content at all in places like the explore section or using hashtags.
2. Sharing stories with only their close friends
Your teen can create a ‘Close Friends List’ and share their Stories with only the people on that list. They can add and remove people from it at any time, and people won’t be notified when they are added or removed from their Close Friends List.
3. Message/ DM controls
Instagram has taken several steps to protect young people from getting unwanted messages for adults, this year they introduced a new feature that prevents adults from sending messages to people under 18 who don’t follow them, that means, when an adult tries to message a teen who doesn’t follow them, they receive a notification that DM’ing them isn’t an option. This feature relies on the age people give when they sign up, as well as AI on Instagram that predict peoples’ ages using machine learning technology. It is recommended to take the time to teach them to distinguish possible predators and how to maintain healthy conversations. It’s also crucial that young people have the confidence to discuss any concerns with their parents.Open communication between parents and children about their online experiences will be vital.
4. Cyberbullying happens on Instagram.
As with every form of social media, some users report cyberbullying and trolling. The perpetrators can be a user’s friends or random strangers (if they have a public account). Cyberbullying is relatively common; A March 2019 survey from The Cyberbullying Research Center revealed that 36.5 percent of respondents experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lives. It’s been linked to emotional distress, school violence or avoidance, depression, and other negative consequences. Let your teen know that if they spot an account, photo, video, comment, or message that is intended to bully or harass someone, they can report it within the app and block and disable that account from interacting with them.
5. Understand the app yourself.
If Mom and Dad become familiar with Instagram, they can better monitor their child’s usage. Consider setting up your own account or looking through Instagram with your child. This will also help you answer your child’s questions regarding content, safety, and more.
6. Blocking accounts
Your teen can block accounts they don’t want to interact with. This will block people from seeing and commenting on their posts, Stories, Reels, and Live Broadcasts. We know sometimes teens don’t like blocking people because they worry that person will be notified—this isn’t the case. Instagram doesn’t notify people when they’ve been blocked, or who has blocked them, and you can unblock an account at any time. Now, whenever you decide to block someone on Instagram, you’ll have the option to both block their account and pre-emptively block new accounts that the person may create.
7. Manage Comments
Your teen is in control of who can comment on their photos and videos. In the “comment” section of Instagram’s privacy settings, they can choose to allow comments from everyone or only from people they follow. They can also remove comments entirely from their posts.
As well as turning off comments completely, Instagram also has controls that help you manage what comments can appear under your posts, hide comments that are offensive or intended to bully. Instagram has built in filters that automatically hide potentially offensive or bullying comments. You can also create your own custom list of words, phrases and emojis that you find offensive and add them to the list of words you want to hide.
We really encourage them to do this, to protect them from having to see hurtful comments.
8. A few other personal choices for parents
- Limit screen time to protect mental health.
- Turn off location settings on your child’s phone.
- Encourage kids to report bullying
- Teach best practices – Even with privacy settings installed, some safety concerns can fall through the cracks. It’s important to address these with your child before they use Instagram. For example, your child might think that Instagram stories (15-second clips that delete after 24 hours) can do no harm—but remind them that others can screenshot these photos and videos, which might lead to long-term consequences.
- Always monitor the photos your children upload on their profile. When it comes to teenagers, it’s essential to communicate the risks of publishing private photographs or data such as location.
- Children under 13 aren’t allowed to use Instagram without verifiable parental consent, per the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. And Instagram is now making it mandatory to ask a user’s date of birth when signing up. They recently announced the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to help understand the real age of their users (because people sometimes lie about their date of birth).
- If you come across content on Instagram that you suspect is illegal, talk to an expert on social media risks today to help deal with legal mitigation. RiskEye can help with you this.
Make social a safer space for your teens today, read more below or visit our website to see how RiskEye can help today!