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Three Features in Instagram Parents and Teens Need to Know About

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As we have discussed before on Yoursphere for Parents, Instagram is one of the most popular social media apps among kids and teens. While they do a wonderful job of making it easy and fun to share pictures, the app has a number of concerning issues when it relates to tweens and teens and their use of the app. You can learn about those issues in the hundreds of comments left by our readers.

As Instagram continues to grow and introduce new features, as parents, there are a few we need to be aware of so that we can educate ourselves and our children about them. I’d like to thank Tim Woda from uKnowKids for bringing this issue to my attention in his recent article. While these features may not have been added just last week, they may well have fallen below your radar. And while your teen, on the other hand, is likely well aware of these features, they may not truly realize the level of potential exposure and access they are providing to pretty much anyone.

The three features we want you to be aware of are Picture Map, tagging and Instagram Direct. Picture Map allows users to pinpoint the location a picture was uploaded. You can narrow the location down to within a very, very short distance – just a few meters. At the risk of sounding rash, this feature could really be used as an abusive tool – whether by a stalker, a troll, a cyberbully or a predator. Picture Map gives these abusers everything they need to find their target.

Between Instagram’s apparent disinterest in following their own terms of use, and not allowing those under the age of 13 to use the app, it cannot be brushed aside that this feature allows anyone to see – and know- that a selfie was taken in the library or on a specific playground. While It should go without saying that this information should always be kept private, it’s not. Look how easy it is to find exact locations.

picture map picture map 1 picture map 2

The best way for your teen to use this feature is not to use it. I encourage you to show your teen how this feature exploits their privacy by tapping on their pictures. Likely, they’ll be shocked at how much is disclosed! The feature can easily be toggled off, but unfortunately, it can just as easily be toggled back on. To keep your teen from using the Picture Map, follow these instructions with them:

iPhones, iPods, iPads:

To disallow Instagram from using your child’s location, go into Settings > General > Restrictions > Location Services and scroll down and tap on Instagram. Under Allow Location Access, tap Never. Now your child can’t turn on the picture map feature.

location services 1 location services 2

Android phones and tablets:

Unfortunately, there are no native parental controls on Android devices, so while you can easily go into settings and turn off location services, your child can just as easily turn them back on. Moreover, you can’t select which apps get to use location services and which ones don’t, so even if your child couldn’t change the settings back, it’s not something you’d likely want to do. The only way around this issue is with third party parental controls software.

The second feature you may not be familiar with is tagging. You can now tag people in pictures on Instagram just like you tag people in pictures on Facebook. This feature may be a concern if your teen is being bullied, or just likes their privacy. A bully could tag them in a picture of something obscene or hurtful and the image would automatically show up in your teen’s profile. So yes, that means your teen doesn’t even have to be in the photo to be tagged. While you cannot prevent someone from tagging you, you can block images from automatically appearing in your profile. To do so, go to your profile and tap the tagged photos icon. Then tap the settings icon and select Add Manually. Now, if someone tags you in a photo, it will not appear on your profile until you approve it.

tagged 1 tagged 2

The last feature on our list is Instagram Direct. This is effectively Instagram’s version of direct messaging, a common feature on many social networks. It allows you to send a picture with a caption (optional) to anyone.

Anyone can use Instagram Direct to send potentially inappropriate pictures and text to your child. What’s important to note – the more private your account is, the less likely you are to receive direct posts from people you don’t know. This is another reminder to enable privacy settings on your child’s account. (Follow the steps here.) If someone you or your child do not follow sends you a post, it will go into your requests queue where you can choose to accept or ignore the request. I highly recommend ignoring all direct posts in the requests queue because they could be pictures of anything from anyone.

direct direct requests

If your child is 13 or older and you are still comfortable with them having an account, and you believe they are mature enough to handle the content, culture and app features such as these, make sure their privacy settings are enabled. Talk to them about the importance of only connecting with people they already know in real life, and what kind of content is not appropriate for them to be exposed to or sharing.

Instagram is clearly fun to use, but it can also easily be misused by any of us (particularly kids and teens) if not educated. It’s an app best utilized and enjoyed by those with the capacity to use it responsibly.

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