It takes almost no preparation to take a photo anymore. You don’t have to carry a separate device with you or worry about film. Everyone is carrying a camera on their phones, and everybody has pictures to share. So it’s not surprising that Instagram, a photo-based social media site, is so popular with teens and adults alike. It’s natural for your preteen to want to get in on the fun. But is Instagram safe for preteens? Here are a few things that you may not know about the popular social media app so you can make an informed decision for your child.
Maintaining your privacy on social media sites is important for everyone, not just kids. But it’s especially vital for preteens who may not be able to protect themselves from predators as easily as older teenagers and adults.
If your preteen is going to use Instagram, it’s important to be aware of the privacy settings and make sure that your child is using them. Instagram allows users to set their accounts to private, which means that your child will have to approve any new followers manually. Of course, even with this privacy setting enabled, it’s important to talk to your child about not approving followers that they don’t know.
You should also be aware of the app’s location settings. Instagram allows users to tag their pictures to specific addresses and locations. Needless to say, you don’t want your preteen broadcasting your home address or the location of their school or places where they hang out regularly. If your preteen is going to use Instagram, make sure that the location tagging feature is turned off.
In theory, Instagram bans users from posting pornography and other types of inappropriate content. In practice, though, there’s plenty of both to be found on the site. Users tag their photos with secret hashtags, and kids are pretty good at discovering and sharing this information in order to find content that’s inappropriate for them to view.
Additionally, it’s easy to follow links within Instagram to outside sites. For example, under “Options” in the settings menu, there’s a link labeled “Blog”. Clicking on this link brings you to Tumblr, a site that’s known for hosting pornography and other inappropriate content, and is rated 17+ in the app store because of the material available there. If you’re worried about your preteen viewing explicit content, it may be better to keep them off of Instagram.
Many parents don’t think of picture apps as a tool that kids use to bully each other, but they can be used this way. There are many ways to do this: sharing embarrassing photos, altering someone else’s photos, posting mean comments or captions. Instagram also has a messaging function, called Instagram Direct, which could be used to harass another user. Your child should know how to report bullying content and block users who harass.
Even without overt bullying, preteens can sometimes end up feeling bad about themselves when they spend too much time on Instagram. Users tend to post their most attractive looks or most interesting moments, and this can trigger feelings of envy or insecurity in others. Preteens should be aware of this possibility and ready to take a break from the site if they start to feel insecure or pressured to keep up with their own photos.
If your preteen is already using Instagram, or if you decide to allow it, keeping track of their interactions and behavior on the site is important. You can’t keep them safe if you don’t know what they’re up to. Parental monitoring software can help you monitor your child’s Instagram use, among other things. To find out how it works, get our free trial.