How to Protect Your Kids on Instagram

Protecting children on social media can present many challenges for parents. Although you don’t want to limit your kids, you also want to protect them on the open waters of the global web. Finding that balance is difficult, but not impossible. 

Instagram is a popular mobile photo app for both iPhones and Android devices. It boasts over 400 million daily active users who have shared over 40 billion photos to date. Of particular note for parents: 17% of teenagers say Instagram is the “most important social media site.”

If you have a teen or a preteen, there is a good chance they are on Instagram or want to be.

What is Instagram? 

Instagram is a photo app that lets users share photos and videos with each other, in a stream that is organized much like a Facebook timeline. You can also add fun filters that change your appearance and draw on images. Other Instagram users can view your photos and comment on them.

As with any social network, especially one that features photos and videos, Instagram can present some safety concerns for parents. However, there are ways you can make the platform safer for children, and we’ve explained them below.

Communicate Clear Rules for Your Child 

You can’t control what other people share on Instagram, but you can discuss with your kids what you allow them to see. Make sure your child knows why you’ve made your rules, as they’re more likely to obey you if they understand the logic behind your guidelines.

kids on instagram

Some areas to consider for rulemaking:

  • Content rules — Images and videos that kids are allowed or not allowed to see (e.g., prohibiting adult images or videos)
  • Time rules — Windows of time when kids are allowed to use their devices (e.g., stop using devices an hour before bedtime)
  • Context rules — Places and situations where kids are allowed to use mobile apps (e.g., in the car, at family meals)

Configure Instagram Settings

Instagram allows for ways to ensure your child’s privacy on its site. It’s a good idea to take advantage of these features by making use of the app’s privacy and security settings.

Make Your Child’s Instagram Feed Private

By default, anything your child posts to Instagram can be seen by anyone. An easy way to limit your child’s exposure to strangers is to switch Instagram’s settings to make their Instagram account private. Private accounts can only be viewed with the permission of the account owner. That means your child (or you) must approve anyone who wants to ‘follow’ your child and see their Instagram feed.

Here’s how to switch your child’s Instagram account to private:

  1. On your child’s device, access their Instagram profile by tapping the person icon in the bottom right corner. 
  2. Tap the settings icon (a cog on iOS or three dots on Android) on the top right corner.
  3. Under “Account” make sure “Private Account” is switched on.

Private accounts prevent unapproved viewers from accessing your child’s Instagram photos and videos. However, unapproved people can still send a photo or video directly to your child. See our advice below on how to monitor your child’s incoming Instagram messages.

Don’t Use Location Sharing

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that letting strangers know where your child is taking photos is a pretty bad idea. With location sharing on, anyone following your child’s feed will be able to know when they’re at home, school, or anywhere else.

Unfortunately, Instagram offers no way to turn off location sharing altogether. Instead, the app allows you to add your location after you upload a photo or video. It’s wise to instruct your child never to add locations to their Instagram posts.

If photos have already been shared with location information, you can remove locations on an item-by-item basis without deleting the photo. Here’s how:

  1. Tap the three dots above your photo or video.
  2. Tap Edit.
  3. Tap the location name.
  4. Tap Remove Location.

Monitor Your Child’s Usage 

Although your kid may not like it, it’s a good idea to monitor their Instagram account, at least initially. It’s a good practice to set up regular safety checks and discuss any concerns with your child.

Here are some effective monitoring techniques that can help keep your child safe.

Keep Personal Details Private

Even if you’ve made your kid’s Instagram account private, their profile information is always public. Any Instagram user can see whatever your child includes on their profile — like their picture, bio, and username.

Here are some things you can do to limit public information:

  • Remove any information from your child’s profile that you wouldn’t want everyone else on the web to know.
  • Ensure that your children understand why it’s important for them to keep as little personally-identifiable information as possible in public view.
  • Help your child create a pseudonym that can remain appropriate for them as they grow older.
  • Continue to monitor your child’s profile and feed occasionally to make sure no additional personal information has been accidentally shared.

Block Unknown or Harassing Followers

As we mentioned above, one of the most disconcerting aspects of social media, including Instagram, is that there’s usually a way for anonymous individuals to send direct messages to your child. Understandably, that can make parents anxious.

Instagram doesn’t offer a way to protect users from receiving anonymous messages. However, you can take action after the fact. Remember to check in on your child’s Instagram followers on a regular basis and if you see anything fishy, you can block followers and people who send inappropriate direct messages.

protect your kids on instagram

Here’s how:

  1. From your child’s list of Followers (or in the direct message folder), tap through to the profile of the user you wish to block.
  2. Tap the three dots in the top-right corner.
  3. Tap Block.

You can block anyone — even people who aren’t followers. What’s more, blocked users don’t know that they’ve been blocked. If you block someone accidentally, just follow the steps above to unblock them again.

Remove Photo Tags

Photo tags are one of the handiest features of Instagram — but they can also be a way for people contact your child. When someone tags your child in a photo, that photo is automatically added to your child’s profile in the Photos of You section. Instagram will inform you via message that you’ve been they’re tagged in a photo.

In this way, tags can be used to notify an Instagram user that they should view any photo, regardless of whether that person is in the photo or not. In this case, the tag works like a direct message, getting the attention of your child and encouraging them to view the photo.

In this situation, you have a few options.

You can hide the picture from appearing on your kid’s profile:

  1. Open the photo you want to hide.
  2. Tap the three dots (settings icon) in the top-right corner.
  3. Tap Post Options.
  4. Select Hide from My Profile.

You can untag your child from being in the photo:

  1. Follow the previous steps to get to Post Options.
  2. Tap More Options.
  3. Tap Remove Me from Post.

You can set your kid’s profile to only allow photos to be manually added to their profile. In this case, no tagged photos will automatically appear on their profile:

  1. Tap your child’s profile picture, then tap the three dots (settings icon) in the top-right corner.
  2. Tap Tagging Options.
  3. Tap Add Manually.

instagram for kids

Delete Photos

If your child has posted photos to Instagram you wish to remove, it is an easy fix:

  1. Tap through to your child’s profile.
  2. Swipe to find the photo you want to remove.
  3. Tap the three dots (settings icon) in the top-right corner.
  4. Select Delete. This permanently removes the photo from your child’s Instagram feed.

Revoke Access by Third-Party Apps

Instagram allows some other apps to integrate with it. For example, Instagram has created its own apps that work in concert with their flagship app:  Layout (combines multiple photos into one), Boomerang (creates GIFs from videos), and Hyperlapse (creates a time-lapse video).

Other photo manipulation apps like Prisma and Aviary can also post directly to Instagram. (You can see a list of other third-party apps on TechRadar.)

Although the apps we mentioned are fun and trustworthy, not all third-party apps are above-board. These apps can constitute a privacy or security threat to your child, their device, and personal information.

It’s a good idea to review the apps connected with your kid’s Instagram on a regular basis and revoke access to apps that don’t pass the smell test.

Here’s how:

  1. Tap through to your child’s profile.
  2. Tap the three dots in the top-right corner.
  3. Select Linked Accounts.
  4. Scroll down the list of sites that are linked.
  5. Tap Unlink to revoke access for an app.

Report Inappropriate Behavior 

Like most social networks, Instagram allows you to take some action against users who violate their terms of service. In addition, they publish Community Guidelines. It’s worth it to read both of these documents to get a feel for what Instagram allows and disallows.

Inappropriate Images, Videos, and Comments

If someone sends your kid an inappropriate image or video, here’s what to do:

  1. On the post you want to report, tap the three dots above it.
  2. Tap Report Inappropriate.

You can also report inappropriate comments that someone has made on one of your child’s posts:

  1. Tap Comment while viewing the image.
  2. Swipe left on the offensive comment.
  3. Indicate why you’re reporting the comment by choosing either Spam or Scam or Abusive Content.

Harassment and Bullying

Instagram provides several ways to handle bullying and other forms of harassment on its platform. As we’ve mentioned in previous sections above, you can report the inappropriate post or comment, and then block the harasser.

Conclusion

Instagram can be a fun app for kids to play with. However, it’s intended for people aged 13 and over so letting younger children use the app may expose your child to photos and videos that they aren’t old enough to understand. The app can also present privacy concerns and content that’s inappropriate for younger children.

Even if your child is over 13, parents may want to monitor children who use Instagram to ensure they’re safe. And, as always, keep the lines of communication open between you and your child so they feel comfortable discussing any issues the app presents.

For additional helpful information on Instagram’s Privacy and Safety Center:

 

Natalie has been blogging since before the word “blog” existed. Her work has been published on Engadget, Laptopmag.com, Tom’s Guide, and About.com. She lives in Southern California with her husband, their feline-American children, and a banjo.

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