Should I let my daughter have Instagram?
I'm asked that question at almost every one of my parenting workshops, and it's no wonder. Almost every teen has the photo-sharing app. If your kid doesn't... their best friend does.
Instagram was the fastest growing smartphone app of 2013's top 10 Smartphone apps (Nielsen data), growing 66% last year and ranking 7th overall for the number of users. Yes, Facebook is still number one for Average Unique Users... but ask any teenagers which app they prefer.
Jump on a young person's Instagram and you'll quickly get an idea of who they hang out with, where they spend time, what they enjoy, and sometimes even what they eat. Instagram provides a unique little porthole into their world. A picture tells 1,000 words... right?
This brings up some interesting ramifications for parents. Do you know what your kids are posting on Instagram? How do they look to friends... and to predators? Instagram can be a fun and innocent app, but like all social media, it requires responsibility by the user. As Instagram's own faq page states:
"All photos are public by default which means they are visible to anyone using Instagram or on the instagram.com website. If you choose to make your account private, then only people who follow you on Instagram will be able to see your photos."
Parents need to have conversations with their kids about social media responsibility. I've witnessed the horror stories when parents don't. If your kids are one of the 31 million Instagram users, make time to talk about basic common sense social media decisions like these:
- Only chat with people you know face to face.
- Don't post anything you wouldn't want Grandma to see.
- Never post a mean comment about someone.
- Consider setting up privacy settings so only followers can see your photos. Then they have to send you a follow request which you can either approve or deny.
- Be careful posting your location. If you allow anyone to follow you, then they may be able to see the location information when you post a picture of your home or your school. You can remove those locations from your photos by editing your photo map.
- Always report any abusive behavior, the app makes it easy to do. Also, feel free to block a user if they creep you out! (Just don't block Mom or Dad---they pay your phone bill!)
Many of these are common sense to today's social media users, but parents should never assume their kids know this. If your kids ever download an app, spend some time on the app's website and read their Privacy and Safety suggestions.
Instagram is a great photo-sharing app that can be used innocently... or dangerously. So parents should be sure to engage in conversations with their kids before they start snapping pics.