Instagram is a mobile photo sharing app, which in the last few years has become one of the most popular social networks around. Don’t let the word “app” fool you: in addition to just posting pictures, Instagram helps kids to connect, discuss, and follow each other just like Facebook or Myspace.
Because Instagram is becoming so ubiquitous, it’s necessary for parents to know about the app and the potential safety issues it might raise for your child.
If your child hasn’t yet come home saying that all their friends have Instagram, it’s a good idea to educate yourself now. That way you can be prepared to have an intelligent conversation about the pros and cons of setting up an account.
If you think your child is ready to start using Instagram, here are some sound rules for use that will protect their safety and privacy:
- Don’t pick an identifying user name. All Instagram users choose a unique user name. Your child’s user name shouldn’t include their name, age, birthday, or hometown.
- Leave out your phone number. If your child gives their phone number at registration, it becomes part of their public profile. Phone number is optional, so don’t enter it.
- Manually make your account private. By default, all Instagram accounts are public regardless of age. You have to manually make it private, and then only approved followers can see your child’s pictures.
- Keep photo map turned off. Photo map allows people to see the location where your child took each picture. By default it’s off, so keep it that way.
- Know what’s okay to post. Set guidelines for what’s okay to post on Instagram. Shots with identifying information or suggestive content don’t belong online; ask permission before uploading pictures of other people and be extremely selective about posting photos of yourself.
Parents should also realize that conversations about sharing photos on Instagram need to be ongoing to be effective. Even if you’ve laid down rules for using Instagram, your child may forget in the moment and post something they shouldn’t.
Snapping a photo and uploading it to Instagram takes less than a minute and happens on the spot, meaning that your child might make a quick decision they later regret. If they have second thoughts about a particular photo they shared earlier, teach them to go back immediately and delete it – and applaud them for doing it.
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.