Parents, here is what I said in 2012 when we published an article about Instagram: Is It Ok for Kids? What Parents Need to Know. I said it then, and stand by it now. Instagram is changing the way people share photos and they do it simply and beautifully.
However, this photo sharing app is much more than that. It’s also a social media network made with the general, adult audience in mind. It was not made with the child, tween, or young teen in mind. Why do I say this? Three reasons:
- Instagram hasn’t implemented the children’s privacy guidelines outlined in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In fact, their terms say: if you are 12 or younger you may not use Instagram.
- If you have the time to review the nearly 300 comments to this article, you’ll see that kids, teens, parents, and adults write about the unhealthy or otherwise, non-youth friendly content (cutting, beastiality, violence, porn) that is explorable and well within reach of being discovered and viewed by your child or young teen.
- A parent isn’t notified of their child’s use of the social app. So if you’re not a digitally aware, digitally educated, or digitally involved parent, you probably have no idea if your child has the app.
Here are some of the most concerning comments:
“Ok so Instigram seriously is bad. my 9 year old daughter has an instigram and was lured into meeting with a 68 year old man who claimed he was a 12 year old girl. VERY BAD SITE!!! Never use it. Block it just a tip i dont want your kids getting sucked in”
“(W)e are going thru a similar issue that I never thought we would have to deal with. Our daughter is very smart, straight a s, very mature and was reposting info from a cutters site & we recently learned she had cut herself. I was stupid to believe she was only looking at pics of one direction. WAKe UP PARENTS, THIS COULD BE YOU. PLEASE MONITOR THEIR EVERY MOVE.”
“Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, or that it is age appropriate for you. Instagram requires that you be 13, if they find out you’re not they’ll close your account. If you still want one anyway, talk with your parents, let them look into it and help you decide if its right for you at your age. If they say no, I’d follow their advice, they only want to keep you safe.”
Perhaps you are the parent that knows enough to say: “No, Instagram is not for you at this age. We’re going to wait awhile.”
If you are, yet you believe your child may still have set up an “IG”, or “Insta” anyway, this is one way your child may have set it up even if you haven’t found it on their tablet or phone. Kids will often hide the app within a folder on the device’s home screen, among other apps, in an attempt to hide it from parents.
Follow how one 10-year old told us how they set up an Instagram account and hid it from their parents:
I went thought the same issues with my mom at age 8. I really wanted an insta but she said I was too young so I got it at 9 years. I am 10 now. There is a secret to get an insta… All you need to do is secretly create an email, get an insta, and ur set. My mom doesn’t know about my Instagram because she said 12 I could. I can’t wait so I created one and she doesn’t know because she checks my iPad. But I put it in the education section and downloaded a bunch of smart apps and put insta last. So when I am 12 I create a new account with her…delete it then keep my old one. It’s a genius plan and I never got caught and never will. It is fine what will ur parents do…
When parents have open communication with their kids, often times, compromises can be made about what apps are appropriate and allowed, and which ones aren’t. I recommend you go to CommonSenseMedia.org to learn what social media apps are best for your child. They do a fantastic job of reviewing apps, games and more.
I advocate for:
- an agreement in families about responsible use of technology and phones where rules and consequences are clearly outlined and agreed to.
- “open phone/open device” policy. Parents should be able to review apps, contacts, texts or other sections of a device where content is posted on the Internet. Private, unpublished spaces should be private and respected.
- Purchasing monitoring software should be utilized only if your child has continually broken your rules.
So, if you believe your child has set up an Instagram after being told not to, consider doing the following:
- Ask them.
- Sync their devices with yours. If Instagram appears under apps and you don’t have an account, there’s your answer.
- Look inside folders with labels such as “Games” “Educational” “Reading” or “Music.”
- Look for additional pages on their home screen.
Instagram is a social media photo sharing app that your older teen should enjoy when you believe they are socially and emotionally mature, responsible, and ready to handle the totality of the culture that is around them.
For those young people and families that aren’t ready for the adult culture, there’s Yoursphere.
Yoursphere is now available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch! Download it now!