Is Instagram Safe for Kids to Use: How to Avoid Dangerous Communications
Today’s children are growing up with the internet and social media sites like Instagram, but is Instagram safe for kids? Well, the truth of the matter is that it depends. There are risks and dangers of Instagram, from cyberbullying to mental health and addiction issues.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any parental controls on Instagram. However, there are still ways to allow your kids to use the app while minimizing its more dangerous side. In this guide, we’ll look at the risks of Instagram and explore some ways for parents to keep their kids safe.
- What Is Instagram and How Does It Work?
- Top 10 Instagram Dangers
- Safety Measures Parents Can Take
- So, is Instagram Safe to Use for Kids and Teens?
What Is Instagram and How Does It Work?
Instagram is a social media platform and application. It first released back in 2010 and has become hugely popular since then.
Instagram stands out from other social media apps and sites, like Facebook and Twitter, due to its focus on photo and video sharing. Users can share their own photos and clips with their friends and followers. They can also follow their friends, celebrities, or other popular accounts from around the world.
This concept has proven hugely popular, especially with young people and teens who like to share fun photos of themselves. Users can also view updates and posts from their favorite singers, actors, and content creators. Here’s how it works:
- a user can create a free Instagram account and start sharing video and photo content. They can add filters and effects to enhance each image;
- users can also browse the site to view content from other users, leaving ‘likes’ and comments;
- users can follow each other to see their favorite users’ content in their main feed;
- there are also other features, like direct messages (DMs), which users can use to contact each other, and Stories, which are short clips or slideshows
Top 10 Instagram Dangers
So, is Instagram safe for kids? Well, simply letting a child or teen use this app without any guidance or control can be a big risk, as there is absolutely a dangerous side to Instagram. Here are 10 of the biggest risks to be aware of.
Privacy is a big issue for Instagram users. If kids are constantly sharing photos and videos of themselves, their homes, their schools, and so on, their lives can lose privacy. Everything about them can become public knowledge, accessible to any other Instagram user.
The Threat of Cyber-Bullies
Cyberbullying is another dangerous aspect of Instagram, especially for kids. Bullies can use their Instagram accounts to pick on other users, post mean comments, spread rumors online, and so on. These bullies can also be very effective at hiding their tracks by using fake names and accounts.
Unsuitable or Mature Content
Instagram is used by people of all ages, from kids to adults. The platform has content moderation tools in place to control certain kinds of content. However, there are cases where mature images or even graphic, violent videos find their way onto the service and can be viewed by any user, even children.
Users can often check their accounts many times a day and spend lots of their free time scrolling through the app. It can take over a person’s life and become a real and serious addiction.
Giving Away Personal Info
We’ve already talked about some of the online safety and privacy issues connected to Instagram. Another associated issue is that kids could inadvertently give out personal info. Other users can send messages and ask for a user’s name, address, phone number, etc.
Getting Unwanted Attention
Many kids create Instagram accounts to keep in touch with their friends. However, other users may be able to message them or comment on their pictures. Many users find that they receive unwanted attention from bullies, ‘trolls’, or even predators.
On Instagram, many users only share flattering photos and videos to show off the best aspects of their lives, like happy images of their relationships or pictures of expensive items they bought. This can trigger many negative feelings in other users as they compare their lives to the false, digital lives they see on the screens of their phones.
Body Image Issues
Instagram is filled with photos of traditionally beautiful people with flawless skin and toned bodies. These images are usually very strongly edited and filtered. However, other users can have feelings of inadequacy or problems with their own image when they’re bombarded with so many of these pictures.
It’s very easy for so-called fake news or misinformation to spread on social media. Even influencers can spread fake information across the platform, tricking people into believing false or even dangerous stories.
Tricks and Traps
Instagram is also a great place for scammers to operate since there are so many users to target. There are lots of scams on the site, including phishing attacks to steal user data or share links to malware programs.
The Mental Health Dangers of Instagram
Many kids can feel depressed or lonely on a site like Instagram if they don’t have many followers. They might also feel sad or anxious if they fail to get any comments or likes on their photos, especially if they see other popular kids from school with big, successful accounts.
Teens can also feel bombarded with negativity and hate on a platform like Instagram, as well as reading misinformation that can affect how they view themselves and others. Plus, it’s easy to miss out on sleep or hobbies if a teen is spending too much time on their Instagram account.
Given all these dangers and concerns, the answer to the question “Is Instagram safe for kids” is definitely no. But there are still things you can do to protect your child.
Safety Measures Parents Can Take
If you simply let a child use an account without any kind of care or control, Instagram definitely can be a safe place. However, there are steps and measures that parents can take to help their kids stay protected online.
Talk to Your Kids about the Dangers
One of the first things you can do is to simply talk to your child. Explain to them some of the risks of social media, such as how people can get addicted to it, how users only show the good parts of their lives, and how they shouldn’t believe everything they see online.
With more mature kids, you can also have discussions about issues like online grooming or the risks of sexting (the practice of sending sexual messages or photos to other users).
Avoid Location-Sharing Features
One of the privacy problems with Instagram is that it tracks a user’s location and can actually tag your location in the photos you share. This is called geotagging, and it’s quite a serious cybersecurity risk for kids, as any groomers or predators can use that location information to track children down.
Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t yet allow you to just disable this feature in the menus or settings. Instead, you’ll need to tell your children to not use the location tag when sharing content. If they do share a photo with a location tag, you can go in and remove it. This only works on the iOS version of the app, and here’s how to do it:
- Go onto your child’s profile and tap the three dots above a post you wish to edit.
- Tap on the Edit button.
- Then tap the location tag and tap on Remove Location.
Make Use of Parental Control Apps
One of the first things many parents ask about Instagram—does it have parental controls? Unfortunately, it doesn’t. However, there are several other parental control apps that you can download and use to help keep your kids safe and prevent them from becoming excessive Instagram users or even addicts.
Kids360 is a great example of this. Aiming to be the easiest app to keep kids off their phones, Kids360 allows you to set screen time limits for specific apps. Those apps will automatically lock once the limits have been reached.
You can set it up so that your child only gets one hour of Instagram usage per day, giving them time to focus on other activities.
Set Your Child’s Account to Private
If you leave the account on ‘Public’, then anyone can click and view your child’s content, see their personal information in their bio section, and send them messages. Luckily, it’s easy to switch the account to ‘Private’ in order to prevent this from happening.
In Private mode, the account will only be visible to approved followers. You and your child can control how follows the account to make sure that it’s only people that you know and trust:
- First, tap on the profile icon.
- Then, tap Menu, followed by Settings, and then Privacy.
- In the Account Privacy section, activate the Private Account feature.
- If you ever want to undo this change and return to the public, just go back to the Account Privacy menu and deactivate the feature.
Control the Content They Can See
Another issue with Instagram is the fact that users may see content that is unsuitable for them. Children could be exposed to violent images, pictures that are sexually suggestive in nature, or content related to mature topics like drugs and guns.
Instagram’s Sensitive Content Controls allow you to moderate and block this kind of content from appearing. These controls are actually activated by default when you make an account. However, they have levels of strictness, and you can set them to the highest strictness level to keep your kids as safe as possible from seeing things they shouldn’t see:
- First, open the Instagram app and tap on the account’s profile picture.
- Next, hit the button that looks like three horizontal lines in the top right, and open the Settings menu from there.
- Tap on Account, and then Sensitive Content Control.
- Tap the circle next to ‘Limit Even More’ to restrict as much content as possible, or leave it on ‘Limit’, which is the default setting, to only restrict some photos and videos.
Restrict Other Users from Interacting
Many Instagram users, including children, receive comments or attention from people they don’t want to connect with. However, the app has a range of features and functions to help you control who can interact with your child’s account.
In the DMs menu, for example, you can tap on a person’s username and then use the Restrict feature. This will stop the user from being able to send direct messages to your inbox, and it will also hide their comments to other users, too.
Another option is to simply block someone. To do this, find the user’s profile and simply tap on the block button.
Turn Off DMs
One of the big risks for kids is that random strangers could send messages to your child via the direct message feature. Users can receive mean messages, bullying messages, messages of a sexual or mature nature, or scams that try to steal the user’s private information.
Fortunately, it’s possible to turn off DMs for your child’s account, preventing random people from being able to contact them. Here’s how to do it:
- First, head to the main menu and then tap on Settings.
- Go to Privacy and then the Messages tab.
- Here, you can tap on different groups and control whether or not they can send you messages.
- Tap on ‘Others on Instagram’ for example, and then tap ‘Don’t receive requests’ to stop strangers sending you messages.
- You can also repeat this for ‘Your followers on Instagram’ to not even receive messages from followers.
Make Use of the Mute Feature
In some cases, one of the people your child follows on Instagram could be a bad influence or might affect their mental health. It’s possible to continue following these people but put them on ‘Mute’ to hide their content for a while. To do this:
- Head to the profile of the person you wish to mute.
- Tap on the Following button, and then tap on the Mute button.
- You can choose to mute posts, Stories, or both.
Comments can be very pleasant and positive, but it’s also possible for malicious users to post mean comments, spam messages, or use comments to bully others.
If you’d like to avoid any risk of your child getting cruel comments on certain things that they share, you can disable comments entirely:
- Go to the post you want to disable comments for.
- Tap the three dots in the top right.
- Then tap on ‘Turn Off Commenting’.
Create Custom Word Filters
Instagram also makes it possible to automatically hide comments and messages that contain certain words you don’t want to see. This is all managed through the Custom Word List feature. The Custom Word List lets you pick and choose any words you want to hide:
- Open your profile and click on the menu button.
- Next, head to Settings, then Privacy, and tap on Hidden Words.
- Tap on Manage Custom Word List and then Add to List.
- You can then simply type in words that you want to avoid. Once that’s done, any messages or comments containing one or more of your chosen words will be automatically filtered and hidden.
Enable Comment Controls
Instagram has a set of Comment Controls to filter or moderate certain kinds of comments or comments from certain people:
- Go to your profile and tap on the menu (three lines) button.
- Then tap on Settings, followed by Privacy and then Comments.
- On this screen, you can adjust various filters to control who you allow comments from, block comments from certain users, and hide offensive comments.
Have a Schedule
We’ve looked at some ways to control what kind of content your child sees on Instagram and how other users interact with them. However, another big thing to think about is how much your child actually uses the app. Spending too much time on Instagram can trigger addiction and mental health issues, so it’s important to have a schedule and take breaks.
as previously mentioned, you can use screen time apps like Kids360 to control how long your child uses Instagram each day. You can also set up a schedule with them, in which they’re only allowed to use the app at certain times or after doing their homework. If your child is feeling overwhelmed by Instagram, it might also be recommended to take a break for a while.
So, is Instagram Safe to Use for Kids and Teens?
Well, one thing we can clearly see is that there are risks and dangers of this platform. Dangers may include the likes of cyberbullying, scams, mature content, and privacy problems, too.
That might all make Instagram sound pretty scary, and you might not want your kids to use this app at all. However, at the same time, Instagram can also be a great way for kids to express themselves, make friends, and keep in touch with people they care about.
The key is to find the right balance, using the tips and tools mentioned above to let your children use Instagram in a safe and moderate way.
Is Instagram allowed for 12-year-olds?
Instagram has age restrictions in place to prevent anyone under the age of 13 from owning and managing their own accounts. However, younger children may use the platform with proper parental supervision.
Is it safe to share your name on Instagram?
There’s always a certain level of risk when sharing any kind of personal information online. However, something as simple as a name shouldn’t put a user in too much danger.
Is it safe to allow strangers to follow a child on Instagram?
No, this can be very risky. Strangers could be harmless, but they could also be groomers, predators, or scammers. Parents should be wary and check anyone who tries to follow their child’s account.
Is there a kid-safe version of Instagram?
Instagram doesn’t have its own kid-safe or kid-friendly version. There are other, similar apps out there that have kid-friendly safety features.
Why do kids make fake Instagram accounts?
There are many reasons a child or teen might make a fake Instagram account. They could use it to spy on or comment on other users’ profiles anonymously, for example. They might also use it to lead a kind of ‘second life’ or express themselves through a different persona.
The picture on the front page: mundissima/Shutterstock.com
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