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Published on Oct 04, 2021
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Sophia Clark

Is Instagram Safe? Parental Guide to Instagram

With daily active users of more than 500 million people, Instagram is one of the most popular social media apps. Like any other chatting app or social media platform, people can use Instagram to connect with new people and share their content digitally.

If you read this blog, you must have many queries about Instagram, like what makes Instagram so popular? What are its features and age requirement? And most importantly, is the Instagram app safe for your kids? If not, how can you keep them safe on Instagram?

Worry not! I am here to solve all your queries. This blog will be a complete guide for parents about Instagram and safety concerns for kids.

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Who is Instagram for? Age requirement for Instagram

According to Instagram's privacy policy, you need to be at least 13 years to use this app. However, there is no proper age verification or regulation. So if your kid is below the age of 13 and still using Instagram, you need to get them out of this app because it is not safe for them.

Teens and young adults mostly use Instagram. They use Instagram to chat with their friends, connect with new people, share content like photos, videos and stories, and more.

Instagram has also become a hotspot for business marketing and influencers. Many businesses have jumped to Instagram to market their products by targeting their niche customers. They also take the help of celebrities who have millions of Instagram followers to market their products.

Features of Instagram

Followers and Following

These are the prime features of Instagram. On Instagram, you can follow other people's accounts, and other people can follow your account. You can see the number of followers and follow on one's account going to their profile page.

The most followed person on Instagram is Cristiano Ronaldo, with a whopping 332 million followers and counting. However, the most followed account is Instagram's own account with 417 million followers and counting.

Followers are the number of people following your account, and Following are the number of people you follow from your account.

When people follow your account, they can see the stories, photos, and videos you've posted. They can see everything that you have shared on your account. If you want to limit the number of your followers, you can keep your account private.

Stories

On Instagram, you can add stories. An Instagram story can be a short clip or photo that lasts for 24 hours on your account. Stories simply tell your followers what you are up to or what you are doing today.

To add stories, all you have to do is swipe right on the Instagram home screen. Then you can take a picture or a video and add it to your story. You can also add an already taken picture or video by swiping up on the story adding page.

You can see the story of the accounts you follow at the top of the Instagram home screen. Just tap on the account's display picture, and you can view their added photos or videos.

Photos and videos posting

Like in other social media, you can post photos and videos on your Instagram feed. These photos and videos can be viewed by your followers or by everyone if your account is public.

Viewers can like and comment on your photos and videos. If your account is public, people can add your photos and videos to their stories as well.

Close Friends

Instagram allows you to create a list account that you can add as your close friends. A close friend list is simply a list of accounts of people you know very well or are good friends with. Then you can add stories in a way that only your close friends can view them.

Close friends' stories appear in a green circle. So if you see a green circle story on one of your following accounts, then the account has added you as a close friend.

Messaging

Like any other social media platform, you can also send direct messages on Instagram. You can send messages to a personal account or create a group chat. You can share texts, voice messages, pictures, stories, short clips, and more. So can also video chat with an individual account or a group.

Recently Instagram has also introduced the feature of Vanish Mode, similar to Snapchat. The Vanish Mode feature sends the message, which will automatically disappear once the receiver views it.

IGTV

Previously, you could post only a minute-long video on Instagram. But with the introduction of the IGTV feature, you can create and post videos that last longer than one minute and take up the full screen.

IGTV is an immersive video platform for long-form content. Like stories or images and videos in your feed, you can like IGTV videos, comment on them, and share with your friends.

Create short videos with Instagram Reels

Instagram has introduced many filters that you can use to create creative and funny shot clips or take pictures that you can add to your story, send to your friends, post in your feed or, save it to your gallery.

Instagram Live

You can also go live on Instagram. When you go like Instagram, it accesses your camera, and your followers can view what you are doing right now. They can comment on your Instagram live.

More than that, your followers can also request to go live with you, and if you want, you can accept their request, add them to your live video, and go in live together from your account.

Is Instagram Safe for Kids?

Though Instagram is a fun app with lots of exciting features, it can be a dangerous place for kids to be in due to the following reasons:

Instagram Addiction

Apps like Instagram are designed to be engaging. The algorithm to create Instagram is built so that it locks the attention of its users for a long time. So, because of this algorithm, people keep scrolling through the feeds on Instagram, watching photos and videos for hours.

Your kids can get addicted to Instagram without knowing, spending a large chunk of their time watching content and texting other people. Instagram addiction leads to mental health issues and a decrease in attention span. You kids start losing interest in recreational activities and get sleep deprivation.

Unhealthy competition and comparisons

Instagram has created a strong stigma around kids that if you have more followers, you are popular and better than everyone. This stigma has created pressure among teens to do whatever they can in their power to increase their followers than their peers, which ultimately has led to unhealthy competition.

So to increase their number of followers, kids can go around accepting friend requests from everyone. They can also go around sending messages and follow requests to everyone.

Without knowing, just for the sake of increasing their followers, kids may be accepting requests from bullies, online predators, scammers, or online groomers.

When people post their photos and videos on Instagram, they add filters and photoshop the images to make their bodies look better, and their faces look fairer. Such practice has led to unrealistic body expectations of teens.

Your teens go around surfing on Instagram and look at these images. Without thinking that it's fake, they start to compare themselves with those pictures. Then they bring themselves down by setting unrealistic body expectations, which can lead to eating disorders and body disorders.

Spam comments

Spam comments have become one of the most frustrating parts of Instagram. If you see the comment section of a popular Instagram account's post, you can find many spam comments.

These spam comments are inappropriate as they contain vulgar, sexual, and explicit language. Also, the spam accounts that make these spam comments have explicit, adult content, which obviously isn't appropriate for kids.

Online predators and scammers

There are lots of cases of predators and scammers creating fake social profiles and online grooming on Instagram. Online grooming occurs when a person makes friends with youngsters online and gains the confidence to abuse and harm them.

Grooming may result in sexual abuse, both in-person and online, and exploitation to get sexually explicit pictures and films of the kid. You also run the risk of your child getting their credit card information taken away by scammers on Instagram.

Internet bullying and harassment

Instagram has made it easier for bullies to harass and pass on hate speech because anyone can open an Instagram anonymously. So people can say anything they want to anyone by sitting in front of their device, and there will be no repercussions for it.

This anonymity has led to a rise in hate speech, hate comments, and bullying on Instagram. People can easily send hateful messages and comments to bully and harass your kids, leading to severe anxiety and mental health issues.

Sexting

Sexting (sex-texting) means sharing nude photos and videos via texts. With the introduction of Vanish Mode, Instagram has made it easier for people to send inappropriate photos and videos to one another as the message disappears once the receiver views it.

So without understanding the repercussions, teens can send out their nude pictures to other people, which can be a very dangerous move. The receiver can screen record those explicit images, and then you can imagine what hazards it can bring to teens' lives.

Things you can do to keep your Kids Safe on Instagram

Enable two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is a security measure that protects your Instagram account and password. If you enable two-factor authentication on your kids' Instagram, they will receive a message to enter a specific login code if someone attempts to connect to their account from an unknown device.

Two-factor authentication helps to provide security on Instagram against hackers and phishers. For enabling two-factor authentication:

  1. Open your kid's Instagram account.
  2. Go to the profile page.
  3. Tap on the three horizontal lines on the top right-hand side of the screen.
  4. Tap on the "Settings" option and then go to the "Security" settings.
  5. Tap on "Two-factor authentication" then on the "Get Started" button.
  6. After that, you have to choose a security method and follow the given instructions.

Limit your kid's Instagram screen time

The first thing you can do is to limit your kid's Instagram screen time. First, you need to find the amount of time your kid spends on Instagram. To do that:

  1. Open your kid's Instagram account.
  2. Go to the profile page.
  3. Tap on the three horizontal lines on the top right-hand side of the screen.
  4. Tap on the "Your activity" option.
  5. Finally, tap on the "TIME" tab.

There you can see the daily and weekly average time your kid spends on Instagram. If your kid spends a large amount of time on Instagram, you can set a time limit. Then, Instagram will send your kid a reminder once they have reached the time you have set.

Keep your kid's account private.

When your kid's Instagram account is public, anyone can follow them, send them messages and access the photos, videos, or stories they have posted. So to restrict strangers from accessing your kid's account, you can set it to private. To do that:

  1. Open your kid's Instagram account.
  2. Go to the profile page.
  3. Tap on the three horizontal lines on the top right-hand side of the screen.
  4. Tap on the "Settings" option and then go to the "Privacy" settings.
  5. Finally, turn on the "Private Account" toggle button.

Don't accept a follow request from an unknown account.

To protect your kids from online groomers, predators, scammers, or phishers, tell them to accept follow requests from only the person they know. Tell your kids not to chat or share personal information with strangers on Instagram.

Sometimes scammers can even create a fake profile of someone your kids might know. So make your kids aware of the fake accounts as well. Also, tell them not to click on suspicious links they receive in the direct messages as they can be from phishing sites.

Hide likes and views count

As I have mentioned above, Instagram creates unhealthy competition and comparison, especially among teens, which leads to anxiety and depression. You can control some level of unhealthy competition by hiding the likes and views count.

When you hide the like and views count, your kids can see the number of likes and views people are getting on their posts, and other people also can't see the number of likes your kids are getting on their posts. To hide likes and views count:

  1. Open your kid's Instagram account.
  2. Go to the profile page.
  3. Tap on the three horizontal lines on the top right-hand side of the screen.
  4. Tap on the "Settings" option and then go to the "Privacy" settings.
  5. Tap on the "Posts" option.
  6. Finally, turn on the "Hide like and view counts" toggle button.

Use parental control and monitoring apps.

Last but not least, you can keep your kids safe on Instagram by using parental control apps. Since Instagram doesn't have an inbuilt parental control and monitoring feature, you can use a third-party parental control app.

One of the best parental control apps that you can use to monitor your kid's Instagram account is Fenced.ai. Fenced.ai provides simple yet effective monitoring tools that give detailed information from your children's phones, such as

  • Shared images, videos, stories, and other multimedia files.
  • Video and voice calls
  • Group or personal text messages
  • Contact information of other accounts
  • Check app screen time

Therefore, you can monitor your kids and protect them from the dangers mentioned earlier on Instagram with the Instagram monitoring feature.

To sum it up,

Instagram is a popular app with more than 1 billion active users. As many people use it, it has brought many dangers like addiction, cyberbullying, unhealthy competition, sexting, spam comments, inappropriate content, and more. Therefore, if not monitored properly, Instagram isn't a safe platform for your kids.

So, to keep your kids safe on Instagram, you can keep their accounts private, limit their screen time, and hide like and view counts. You can also use third-party parental control apps like Fenced.ai to monitor their Instagram activities and keep them digitally safe.

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Sophia Clark

Sophia Clark is a writer from Sydney, kid-lit enthusiast, and mom of three kids who loves to writes about motherhood, parenting, and big feelings.