What Parents Need to Know About Instagram

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What Parents Need to Know About Instagram

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Do you know what your kids are sharing online? And what sites they are using to do their sharing? It’s a good time to ask. Have you heard about Instagram. If you have not, you will. FaceBook recently paid over 700 Million dollars to purchase this social network (deal approved September 6, 2012) that has over 80 million subscribers.

What exactly is Instagram?

It is like Facebook and Twitter got together and had a baby, Instagram is a free photo-sharing program and social network  service that was launched in October 2010. The service allows users to take a photo and then share it with others Instagram users (followers) in real time. Remember the “Instamatic” cameras of your youth. Instagram makes that concept digital, shoot a picture, and “instantly” share it with a friend.

Why kids like it?

Kids can set up a private network that only their followers can see. So kids feel safer with their “exclusive” network of followers and parents seem to be more accepting of Instagram as a safe online medium. Kids also like to share pictures. Posting photos of the family dog, things around the house or activities with friends are fun to share. Sometimes kids and even adults can’t explain why something is funny or cool, but a picture is worth a 1000 words. A quick snap and short sentence can create instant attention.

And it is this attention that kids enjoy. They wait for others to comment on their photo or post and give their “like” sign of approval. Kids can chat for hours over an Instagram post with others joining the conversation. Fun, fast, and funny-what kid would not want to participate?

What Parents Need to Know

According to Instagram, it is not for children under the age of 13. Instagram has strict   Terms of Use   and Community Guidelines   that make their age requirement clear. That said, many younger kids are using it. I am personally aware that the majority of my son’s fifth grade class is on this photo sharing service. The age of participants is not verified by Instagram, and kids can download Instagram without their parent’s permission.

I am not advocating for kids to be on Instagram, In fact, debating the age appropriateness with children or adults can be difficult, time consuming, and answers will vary. There is, however, an argument to be made for teaching kids how to use social media — to share their experiences and take on the world online — and Instagram has a way of encouraging people to be creative about it. I could see this app sparking an interest in photography, visual art, and graphic design. Also, banning your tech savvy child from Instagram could be a true challenge. There comes an age where it is better to know what your kids are doing than to have your kids hide it.

During your conversation about Instagram with your child, here are some key points to cover.

  • Friends should be people you know—classmates, family members, camp friends. Friends should not be friends of friends of friends.
  • You, as the parent, will set and check the privacy setting on Instagram so only their followers can see their photos. By default,   anyone  can view the photos  uploaded to Instagram. Parents, it is your job to ensure you child does not accidently turn off privacy settings.
  • Parents should follow and monitor their children’s use of all social media on an almost daily basis, but especially Instagram as it is very popular right now.
  • Educate and speak with your kids about what they are posting.
    • Make them aware that others may feel left out if they post an excessive amount of photos with a particular friends.
    • Discuss appropriateness of the jokes and photos they share.
    • Emphasize that kids are to avoid posting and responding to rude comments.
    • They should make you aware whenever they feel upset by a post.
  • Designate time when your kids are allowed to be on Instagram. After homework, before bed, weekend only, etc.
  • Network with the other parents. Check in with them at school functions or social gatherings to make sure they are aware their kids are online and enforcing consistent rules.