In an earlier post, I shared the results of my research when looking into How Kids are using Instagram. If you allow your child to be on Instagram, here are some suggestions about how to teach them to use it safely.
- Don’t let your kids have an account until they’re 13. If they whine, tell them they can be reported and their account will be shut down if they violate this Instagram policy.
- Tell your kids to not use their first and last names when setting up their account and explain why it’s important to skip that. Help them create a username for their profile that’s something fun that they identify with, but something that will not allow strangers to identify them.
- Tell kids to leave the phone number field blank when setting up their account. This information is optional and there is no reason to provide it. This information becomes part of their public profile (if they leave their account public – which they should NOT).
- Make sure they understand the importance of using a strong password and help them come up with one. For more information on strong passwords, see this post: Teach Your Kids to Create Strong Passwords.
- When setting up their profile, explain to your kids why it’s not a good idea to use their own portrait as a profile picture. Encourage them to use a picture of something they like that represent them or their interests, rather than their own face.
- Make sure your child’s account is set to ‘Posts are Private’. With this setting ‘ON’ users have to send a request to connect with them on Instagram and photos, profile information and posts are not viewable by the public. I was astounded by the number of accounts I found that were wide open for anyone to see. This is probably because the default setting for ‘Posts are Private’ is ‘off’ and many don’t realize it.
For a quick tutorial, see this post: Tutorial: Make Your Instagram Account Private.
- Once the private account is set up, be sure to tell your child that they should not accept any followers except those they personally know. Also, make sure they do not follow any members that they do not know. You should check on this to make sure the content coming into their news feeds is appropriate. If not, you can report a member user or at the very least, “unfollow” them.
- If your child’s account is linked to any other social media sites, make sure you are using the privacy controls on those sites as well; otherwise, their Instagram pictures may be publicly available on those sites. Each time they upload a photo to Instagram, they’ll have the option of sharing to each of the social networks they have enabled, or to none. If they choose not to share with other social networks, the photo will post only to Instagram, viewable only by those who follow them on the app.
- Talk to your kids about posting things that might intentionally or even unintentionally hurt someone’s feeling or tarnish someone’s reputation. Bullying is incredibly easy with the tools available at our children’s fingertips. Kids may not even realize that some of what they post falls into the category of “bullying”…teach them to be respectful and that there are serious consequences for cyber-bullying.
- Encourage your child to use Instagram in fun and creative ways, without putting anyone at risk. For more information, see this post Creative and Safe Ways To Use Instagram.
The bottom line
If your kids are going to be using apps like Instagram, you need to have the important discussions with them about how to use it safely and you need to be constantly checking on how they are using it. If you don’t have time for that, they shouldn’t be on it.