Keeping your child safe on Instagram

Teen on instagram on smartphone

When your child or teen gets a phone, it's likely that one of the first apps they'll want to put on it is Instagram. The platform has compiled a new guide on how young people can use it in a positive way and how you as a parent can support that (whether you have your own account or not). Here are the essentials.

Create a private account

This means that others have to request to follow the account and see the photos, and you can approve or remove followers at any time.

“My DD's account is private, I'm her friend/follow her on it and I also have the account linked to my Instagram so everytime anything happens it comes through on my phone. I think you have to be very careful and aware.”

Block other accounts

You can avoid unwanted interactions by blocking any account from seeing or commenting on posts.

“My DD12 has it. I also have an account and I monitor hers. I can't believe a) what other kids post and b) that some of them are online really really late. I've made her delete a couple of people because they constantly post really offensive stuff.”

Report bullying

You can anonymously report content that seems intended to bully or harass.

Filter offensive comments

Instagram automatically filters offensive language. You can also create a custom list of words or emojis that you want to be filtered out.

“Maybe try talking to your kids about inappropriate images they may come across, and pointing out why (both of) you think they're inappropriate.”

Time management

There are a variety of tools and features which encourage healthy habits – these include average time spent, daily time reminders, and the setting to mute push notifications.

“It doesn’t matter how responsible your child is, they can find themselves at real risk of harm from online activities even if they’re sitting in their own bedroom unless they’re given the right boundaries and advice (appropriate to their age) and the right supervision.”

Ask questions

A good way to check that your teen is using Instagram in a positive way is just to ask (easier said than done, we know). Here are some questions to try:

  • What do you like about using Instagram?
  • How do you feel about the amount of time you spend online?
  • What would you do if you saw what seemed to be online bullying?

“I have my DD's Instagram account connected to my own iPad and look at it a couple of times a week. She knows and understands that that's our rule. It's just a part of keeping her safe online. I check on content and that she's not following strangers. I don't have any concerns, yet. It's mostly just her school pals sharing pictures. She's not on Facebook or Twitter though.”

Use of multiple accounts

It is fairly common to have more than one account on Instagram, and there are a few reasons for doing so. It could be that one is a personal account for family and friends, and the other is an account for a passion or hobby of theirs, such as art or photography.

If you're worried about this, speak to your child and listen for red flags (such as them being evasive about their other account) about what they might be putting on another account and their reasons for doing so.

For more information about your child's online safety and digital wellbeing and health, head to Instagram's new website for parents. Still feeling stressed and bemused? For those less social media savvy, there's a glossary on the site that you can use to demystify common terms and the platform as a whole – to enable you and your teen to discuss Instagram confidently and effectively.

“Educating yourself, adequate supervision, not succumbing to the 'but everyone else is doing it' mentality, would be a start.”

Note: the minimum age for an Instagram account is 13 years old.