APP Store rating: 12+ (“infrequent/mild alcohol, tobacco, drug, mature/suggestive themes, profanity or crude humor, sexual content and nudity,” etc.), although users are supposed to be at least 13 years old in order to comply with the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which applies to websites and online services that collect personal information.
A current trend among young Instagram users is to maintain multiple accounts.
“Finstas” is a general name for fake Instagram accounts, but “spam” accounts are a particular type of fake account.
Note – for all practical purposes, Instagram and Snapchat are very similar apps. If you’re not ok about one of them, you should not be ok about both.
Instagram is a simple way to capture and share photos and videos with friends, utilizing a variety of custom photo filters to enhance and beautify life’s moments. Instagram is one of the most popular “social media doorways” for young people because most parents perceive it to be the lowest risk since “it’s just pictures.”
WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT INSTAGRAM:
4-way video calling: Instagram Direct now allows users to video-chat with up three friends (four total people).
Instagram TV: fully accessible from the Instagram app. In an effort to compete with long-form video giant YouTube, we now have IGTV. There are no IGTV parental controls, meaning anything and everything is now going to be even more accessible by our young people.
Porn and tons of it: Because it’s built on pictures and videos, there is plenty of pornographic content. Yes, straight-up porn is very easy to find, and very easily hidden by erasing search history.
Hashtags are huge and horrible to control: The hashtag feature just creates a repository of specific themes for people to troll, i.e., #girls, #kikme, #snapchatnudes, etc. Hashtags are where the porn is.
The app is a self-esteem killer: This app can have significant impacts on the self-esteem of young girls, who see what perfectly posed photos gain the most attention, and fall victim to comparing themselves to others. Comments posted by others can be affirming or damaging.
Minimal parental controls: The Instagram app can’t be monitored with conventional web filters and is not stopped by OpenDNS. If you want to monitor your child’s Instagram activity, you should:
o Know their username and password
o Be their “follower”
o Use a monitoring service like Bark
o Make it clear that you are watching.
Set the account settings to “private”: This makes would-be followers ask permission to follow, and only allows followers to see posts (instead of the general Instagram public). NOTE: even if your child has a “private” account, that only protects his or her identity from an unapproved follower. It does not prevent him/her from searching and finding all kinds of trash, and since it’s so easy to erase search history, you will never know.
Giving away photo geo-location can be unsafe: Is it possible for strangers to see the location where your child snaps photos? With a public profile, YES. The default setting on Instagram’s photo maps is set to “OFF,” but it’s very easy to change.
There’s unfiltered internet access: Users can gain access to unfiltered internet searches in Google, Bing, and Yahoo through the Instagram Blog, which has a link to Twitter at the very bottom. When you click on it, you’re instantly taken to Instagram’s Twitter page, still within the Instagram app. Now, perform a search at the top for Google, Bing or Yahoo’s Twitter page, and on each, you’ll find a link to “google.com”, “bing.com” or “yahoo.com” where you can click and search (again, still within Instagram). It’s obscure, and teens would have to work pretty hard to identify this hole, but it’s there and parents need to know.
Instagram is on the front lines of cyberbullying:Some bullying is overt, through malicious posts. But, sometimes, it’s below the surface and hard to detect. This is often done through fake accounts (called “Finstas,” which we’ve written about extensively), by commenting on pictures, or by excluding someone from being tagged on a group photo.
Disappearing live videos and messages: Instagram has disappearing live video and messages in order to keep pace with its primary rival, Snapchat.
PRIMARY MONITORING SOLUTION FOR INSTAGRAM:
Bark is really the only service we trust with Instagram.Bark can see Explore searches, and public and private direct messages on Android phones. On iOS, they are much more restricted due to operating system rules, only having access to certain public direct messages. But, it’s the best we can do at the moment to monitor both Snapchat and Instagram.
OUR INSTAGRAM BOTTOM LINE:
Due to COPPA, we discourage younger middle school usage, but from a practical perspective, we know that many parents are going to allow it. Parents just need to know the risks and understand that it does have a very dark side in terms of content and potential impact on self-image if left unmonitored. We just do not believe Instagram is the right way for any middle schooler to start his/her adventure into social media. As a general rule, we typically use age 15 as a minimum age for kids to use this app. Remember, now that it has essentially copied Snapchat, they are almost the exact same app. Whatever fears you have about Snapchat also exist for Instagram.