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Instagram – what is it, and should I let my child go on there ?

Instagram – what is it, and should I let my child go on there ?

Until recently, I’ve thought that Instagram was just a cool and convenient way to share photos, giving it an old-school Polaroid feel and share it on Facebook. But when my 8 year old daughter asked if she could go on to Instagram, I realised it was a whole lot more….

It’s a mini Facebook – and now owned by Facebook, it’s a place where people post photos and other people can “like”, comment on and share them. As it’s photo-based, it’s more than just posting your status in words. It’s a “Look what I did” or “Check out what I’m doing” or “See what I got?” or “Guess where I am now” world through instantly posted pictures with a caption. Kids don’t need a Facebook account !!

Wow, when you think back to the days when we were kids…
We had to ask our parents to use the phone.
If anything had happened at school that day with friends, we had hours to reflect on it before we had to face it again the next day, when it was usually forgotten.
Now, with Instagram, blackberry messenger etc, things continue away from school, and can spiral out of control – there is no escape!

“Insta”gram, as the name suggests, is quick. Click to take a photo with your phone, and with just one more tap, it can be shared out to Instagram. The process is a lot faster than having to take another step to upload and choose a photo to post out on Facebook.

With Instagram, there are two simple privacy settings – your account can either be private or public. Private means that only your friends are allowed to see your photos. Public is anyone. But (big BUT) everyone can see your bio (biography). Agh! All these creepy people out there could just be stalking kids Instagram accounts. Kids could be posting private information in their bios, thinking they have a private account. Hopefully they have learned not to write anything too personal such as their home address, a phone number, or what school they go to.

A big red flag for me were the number of friends your kids may have quickly. Many kids have at least 200 online friends, and many are friends of friends. But I can also imagine all the kids who just click on people and make them a friend just for the sake of tallying up more friends. That really compromises the meaning of ‘friend’ to me at an age that friends are really, really important. Before your child sets up an Instagram account, set up your own, even if it’s under a fake name, and be sure they make you a friend so you can see what is going on at all times.

If you decide that its ok for your children to go on Instagram, please consider the following points…

• The terms and conditions state that it is for ages 13 and up.
• Sign up with them.
• Do not let them use their real name, or any part of it for their username.
• Do not let them fill in the Telephone number field !
• Choose a secure password. Don’t use common words, names or birthdays, but use a mixture of upper and lowercase letters and numbers and symbols.
• Ensure photo sharing is set to private, so that they wont go out to the public areas where anyone can view them. You can set the Privacy setting through the Instagram interface by going to Settings and scrolling down to the setting labelled “Photos are Private” or “ Photo Privacy” and ensuring it is turned on.
• Work with your child to choose a profile picture – don’t use a photo of themselves – use something that represents what they like or are interested in.
• You can have a browse at followers profiles by tapping on their name and viewing their profile. If you wish to block or report them, tap on the menu button and choose the appropriate action.
• Be aware of the privacy settings for the “Photo map”. This creates a map of where each photo has been taken – very dangerous if it gets in to the wrong hands, as it will show where your child is most of the time.
o Go into the profile and select the Photo Map button
o Select a photo from the map and zoom into it
o Select the edit button and tell it to unpin the photo and procede to tap on each photo. It will ask you if you wish to confirm the deletion.
• Enforce the rule that they only follow and accept requests from friends and people they know
• Make sure they know that they won’t be in trouble if they show you something that they think is wrong or inappropriate. It is most probable that one or two of their friends will post things that they shouldn’t. If you child thinks they will be in trouble for showing you – they won’t show you – and I’m sure you would agree its better to see what really goes on!!
• Most children will post “selfies” or pictures of themselves – just enforce the rules that they should be appropriately dressed etc !!
• One thing I came across very quickly was that an awful lot of children post the chain letter type pictures – “share this within 10 mins or something bad will happen to you” – you know the kind of thing – make sure your child knows this kind of thing is rubbish and to just ignore them.
• Insist that you are allowed periodic access to their account, or create yourself an account so that you can follow what they are posting.

Let’s teach this next generation about taking control of their own safety and show them how to stay aware when they are online.

Instagrams tips for parents: click here