If you have a tween or teen in your house, you may have noticed lately that they aren’t spending as much time on Facebook. Social networking sites like Facebook are still gaining in popularity with parents and grandparents, but teens and tweens are finding new social media apps to connect with friends, including Instagram and SnapChat.
What is Instagram?
Instagram is a mobile photo sharing app. Kids on Instagram can take a picture with their smartphone, edit or enhance it, add tags to it, and share it with friends.
Because they can also “like” or comment on photos, gain followers, and follow others, Instagram is also a social network: think of it as a simpler version of Facebook.
What is SnapChat?
SnapChat is also a mobile photo sharing app, but with significant differences from Instagram. You can think of it like texting, but with pictures. With SnapChat, users send a photo to friends and the photo is deleted 1 to 10 seconds later.
Safety Concerns of Instagram and SnapChat
Like with any online social network or photo sharing platform, parents have some concerns about the safety of apps like SnapChat and Instagram for their tweens and teens.
- Sexting – the ease of sharing photos with these apps make some parents worry about sexting, particularly with SnapChat. Remind children that anything they put online is permanent, and can still be captured via screenshot before it’s deleted.
- Cyberbullying – just like with other social networks, these apps could be tools for bullying others. Remind children to report bullying and never to write anything online that they wouldn’t say to someone in person.
- Inappropriate content – because both SnapChat and Instagram are designed for users age 13 and up, tweens and younger teens may be exposed to age-inappropriate content. Remind children to friend only those they actually know and to block anyone who habitually posts inappropriate pictures or comments.
Instagram and SnapChat are excellent tools for your children to connect with friends and share photos of things that matter to them, but just like any other tool, they are only safe when used correctly.
Establish rules about what is and isn’t okay to post on popular photo sharing apps like SnapChat and Instagram, and follow up with parental monitoring to ensure that your child is being responsible and safe.
Tim Woda is a passionate advocate for protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers – cyberbullying, sexting and online predators. He is the co-founder of uKnow.com, developers of uKnowKids.