Raising the first generation of digital natives is not an easy task for any parent, no matter how tech-savvy they are. Today’s kids use apps like Instagram almost intuitively – to share photos, videos, messages, and stay connected with peers and family. Teens across the globe consider their digital identity to be as important as their offline world. Which is why it is more important than ever to take an active part in your kid’s online lives, such as taking the time to introduce your child to Instagram and other popular social media platforms.
Research shows that 72% of teenagers in the US use Instagram. Indeed, this platform provides an amazing opportunity to connect with the world. It also comes with great responsibility, and one of the jobs of a modern parent is to help kids navigate the online world.
In order to help kids create a safe and supportive online community, you as a parent first need to understand what makes kids spend so much time online. After that, you need to learn how to empower kids to have a great and safe experience on Instagram.
If there are some of you who are still unfamiliar with what Instagram is, we are here to help. Buckle up cause we are taking you for a “quick ride” through the basics of the platform with the addition of how you can introduce your kid with Instagram. 🙂
First Things First…
Instagram is a free online platform that allows users to share photos, videos, and messages with their online community. Before you say it’s a useless selfie platform let us assure you otherwise. Instagram can be an outlet for one’s creativity, a showcase of their talents, and a way to connect with friends and like-minded individuals who share the same interests and passions. Not so bad after all, right? 🙂
The app can be used to:
- Send direct messages (DMs)
- Send disappearing messages that recipients can see only once (similar to Snapchat)
- Create text, photo slideshow, video, or live stream stories
- Create Instagram TV (IGTV) channels and broadcast their video content (much like YouTube).
Safety and no-abuse policy is something that Instagram’s employees take very seriously. As a part of their efforts to promote good online behavior, the team behind this platform is dedicated to inspiring positive action through various support programs (#KindComments, #HereForYou, #PerfectlyMe, #Pride #RoleModels, and #CaptureConfidence being some of them). Through these programs, people across the world can connect and share their experiences and support each other with words of kindness and advice.
How to Create a Great (and Safe!) #InstaExperience
Every parent wants their child to have an enjoyable experience using one of the most popular apps in the world, and our guess is that you are no different. In order to achieve this, you need to sit and talk to kids about the things that can be done to create a positive digital landscape. Here are some of the topics that should be covered…
1. Manage Their Digital Footprint
First of all, your child needs to know what a digital footprint is and why it’s so important. We all have our digital footprints formed by our everyday online activities. They tell a story about who we are, what our interests are, and what we stand for.
Having this in mind, you need to talk to kids about what kind of content would or would not be OK to post online. Even though your little digital natives might seem like tech prodigies, they still have to understand the social context and learn what’s the appropriate online behavior.
Read more: Are You Aware of Your Digital Footprint?
Remind your kids that they should be respectful and supportive of their friends and other people – both online and offline. The “golden rule” goes online and well – treat others the same way you would like to be treated.
2. Be Careful About Sharing Personal Details
The minimum age for having an Instagram account is 13. If your child is younger, you still have some time to get to know the platform. (Hell yeah!)
However, if you don’t belong to that group and have a child old enough to have an Instagram account, one of the most important conversations you should be having is about privacy matters. Starting with whether their profile should be open to public or private.
Kids have to be aware that their digital footprint is under their own control. They should be aware of who they are allowing to see and engage with their online posts. Most importantly, they need to be aware that what happens online, stays online, and that they need to think twice before every post.
Another important part of this talk is regarding their profile information. The profile picture, bio, and username are always public and visible to everyone on the Internet. The real name and phone number can be listed in the profile details as well. You as a parent, need to explain why this information should not be displayed. Remind them that not all people online have good intentions. Also, make sure to mention that sometimes people might misuse their personal information against them.
Just in case you didn’t know already, here is the difference between a private and public account on Instagram:
- A private account allows your teen to approve the people who follow them, and decline follower requests. The content on their private account is only available to the users/followers they have approved. Of course, they still need to be aware that their private posts are always just one screenshot away from everyone else.
- A public account means that all the content they share on Stories, Feed, or Live can be seen by anyone at any time, including people who are not their followers. In addition, people can follow them without approval.
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The good news is that they can switch from public to private account (and vice versa) at any time by adjusting the Account Privacy in Settings. Also, they can choose who can leave comments on their posts and stories, and turn Show Activity Status setting ON or OFF so that their followers can’t see if they are online or not.
And if by any chance your kids no longer want to interact with certain people, they can block them from seeing and commenting on any content they release. They can easily do so by tapping on “…” on that person’s account and tap Block. An account can be unblocked whenever they want. The blocked user is not notified that their account has been blocked from your teen’s Instagram.
3. Managing Interactions on Instagram
Instagram offers many ways to manage the interactions on the platform. Your teen can:
- Report an account or any type of content that has the intent to bully or harass them or anyone else online. This is completely anonymous and their information is not shared with the reported person. All they have to do is tap on “…” of the account or post, swipe left on the comment, or tap and hold the message and tap Report.
- Manage comments through the Comment Controls in the app settings. It’s possible to:
- Allow all comments
- Allow comments from people they follow and those people’s followers
- Allow comments from people they follow
- Allow comments from their followers
- Remove comments from all or individual posts.
- Block comments by blocking an account,
- Filter comments by tapping Manual Filter and entering words, phrases or emojis they don’t want to appear in the comments section.
You should explain to your kids that it’s really all right to do any of the actions mentioned above. They should not be afraid to block or report anyone who is upsetting them in any way. They should not feel obligated to accept a Follow request or follow someone back either.
4. Finding the Right Balance Between Online and Offline
Considering the many opportunities for learning and fun the online world offers, it is no wonder kids these days seem to want to spend all of their time online. However, they need to develop skills to monitor and balance their technology usage from the start. Both of you need to work together to figure out what’s the right amount of time spent online and how to balance it best.
There are several ways and tools you can use to control the time your teen spends on Instagram:
- Kids can monitor their activity through the Activity Dashboard and also set a daily reminder to control the time they spend on the app.
- An additional feature that can help them with their Instagram time management can be found in the Notification Settings. By tapping on the Mute Push Notifications, Instagram will not send push notifications during the chosen period.
- You’re All Caught Up option is enabled automatically and can definitely help your teen with FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. This notification pops up when they scroll through all the new posts since their last log-in.
What Else You Need to Talk About?
Instagram is a great way for kids to stay in touch, connect with the world, and find their “tribe”. At the same time and as in the offline world, certain individuals can use their presence and actions there for manipulation, bullying, and targeting them with inappropriate behavior and content.
That’s why parents need to keep all lines of communication open. By doing this, you try to make your children comfortable talking to you about any issue, whether it happened in the real world or online.
When creating rules about the amount of time they spend on Instagram, who they follow, what kind of content they post, etc, make sure to do it together. When they take part in the process and understand the reasons behind the rules, they are more likely to follow and respect your mutual agreement. Most importantly, that is the way they learn about how to use technology in a safe and responsible manner.
An important thing to remember about this agreement is that if you want your child to follow the rules of online etiquette, you need to set an example. So if you set the “no-phones-during-the-meal” rule – do not use the phone yourself. Or if you agreed that the entire family puts away their devices overnight, make sure everyone really does that.
Next, make sure to clarify that people tend to share an idealized version of themselves and their lives. They have to be aware that not everything they say online is necessarily true. Seeing these idealized images all day every day can seriously affect a person’s mental health, self-esteem, productivity, and overall happiness, and there is numerous research to confirm this.
If a child doesn’t understand this on time they can start feeling the pressure to have perfect profiles (and lives!). That’s why it’s important to explain that their worth as human beings do rely on their Instagram fame. It relies on who they are inside how they treat others. Remind them why it would be better for them to follow people and organizations that really mean something to them – that could help them feel valuable and broaden their view of the world and themselves.
Your child and you are a mighty team, but learning how to navigate the digital landscape and be responsible digital citizens is a journey. Don’t be discouraged by discussions, disagreements and possible missteps. Just be supportive and show them how much you care.
Your Child and Instagram: Final Thoughts
Instagram and other social media platforms play a big part in our children’s lives. They belong to the generation that uses technology instinctively and with a great level of comfort, but it’s our role as parents to teach them how to use f apps, platforms, and the Internet in general, so they can have a positive online experience. We hope this short guide helps, and if you have any questions – feel free to ask in the comments!
This article is part of our series on Generation Alpha
We seek to provide answers to your most pressing questions about keeping your kids safe online, introducing them to the digital world, and helping them be their authentic selves online.
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