How to Navigate Instagram Safely

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

Cyberbullying. Hacking. Identity Theft. Suicides. Pornography. Kidnappings. Spying. Every day, there seems to be a new story about the horrors of social media. It is enough to make any sane person want to throw their phone in the river and hide in a hole. Unfortunately, social media is not going away. Our world has changed, and the best thing we can do is learn how to navigate it safely. This starts by knowing the information…let’s start with Instagram.

The stats:

Instagram was launched in 2010, and it has quickly become one of the most popular apps in the US, especially among teens. As of 2018, Instagram boasted over one billion monthly active users, who post about 95 million photos and videos every day. That is almost 66,000 photos and videos posted every minute.

The Instagram fever of American teens requires that their parents learn how to use the app safely and teach their teens to do the same. Here are a few tips you can use to navigate the “Gram.”

Tip #1: Always always always abide by the age requirement. Here’s why…

a. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 mandates that parental consent is required to collect data on children under 13 years old; this no longer applies if an underage child lies about their age. Websites and data companies are free to pick up names, birthdates, locations, and more about users over 13. The age requirement is the only way to prevent that.

b. Children’s brains are literally not developed enough to make prudent decisions. Here I can cite cases of cyberbullying on social media done by 12-year-olds who lied about their age. Their victim committed suicide, and those children will live with that for the rest of their lives. Kids may look like they know what they’re doing, but they don’t always make the right decision. For the same reason that you wouldn’t let a 12-year-old drive a car, you shouldn’t let them use social media apps.

c. There are kid safe networking options. Apps exist that allow children to connect with other children and allow for parental supervision. ( Also, see our blog on Bark Monitoring Service for a great, non-invasive parental control option).

Tip #2: Always use the privacy settings…this should be a no-brainer…

How to access Privacy settings: Instagram app- person icon in the bottom right of the home page> three lines on the top right > settings (bottom of list)> Privacy and security> Account privacy> toggle the switch on.

You can turn on two factor authentication in the Privacy and Security list. We highly recommend doing so because the level of security it adds is so worth the minor inconvenience of using it.

Turn off location settings for Instagram. Here’s a scary thought: The picture you just took of your kids playing at the park is embedded with a geotag that shows pinpoint map location of that picture. Any person who can access your page can access those geotags… so if your account is still public and you have location services turned on, your kids are an easy target for a kidnapper or your house (since you’ve probably taken pictures there too) for a burglar. Oh, and those adorable first day of school photos are just as bad. Turning location off is just prudent to protect yourself, your family, and your property.

Tip #3: Be aware of hidden access points to inappropriate footage.

And, they are hidden in plain sight. Try this (Disclaimer: you will probably NOT like what you see): Open your Instagram app and click on the magnifying glass on the bottom of the screen. Type in #roleplay. Enough said. Your children can access this, and what’s more, they can erase their search history. Back in those privacy settings, there is a clever little “clear search history” option that erases the fact that you were ever there. Personally, I would be shocked that any account open to the public is accessible using this method.

Instagram is just part of this new world we live in, and teens are learning too. Parental guidance may not be “cool,” but it is prudent. Be brave enough to have those really tough conversations with your kids. Trust me… they are worth it, and if you don’t, who will?

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