Instagram is a lovely app….for adults. Yes it’s available for teens aged 13+ but here’s the thing. Instagram is really a search engine for billions of images. Your child can search for anything on Instagram, cats, celebrities, dogs, funny photos and ….porn. Instagram is also a photo sharing and messaging app. For cyber savvy parents the biggest problem is that if you have any adult content filters on your child’s device or on your home internet, Instagram bypasses all of these. It’s an app, so it won’t be able to be filtered for adult or violent content.
The type of content your child can come across via a perfectly innocent search within Instagram’s search engine could include, drug use, violence, porn, very very violent porn, gun sales, subscultures that include pageant style beauty and ugly competitions, anorexic and self harm cultures, sexual role playing, pretty much anything really. Kids also share #hashtags for Instagram, and even though some obvious search terms on Instagram like #boobs are banned by the site, other more obscure versions have been created to take their place.
Instagram and popular messaging app, Kik Messenger also have a very unhealthy relationship. Putting the search term for Kik user names “#KikMe” in Instagram not only brings up every single user with their Kik name on their Instagram profile…over 15 million now…but also the most explicit type of porn available on the internet.
How do you prevent your child from using the search feature in Instagram? You can’t.
You can, and should enable the “Posts are Private” setting under the “Edit Profile” setting. This will hide your child’s pictures from public viewing, it also means they must approve followers.
Finally, it’s important to understand that kids do not use social media in the same way as adults do, kids explore more, and share what they find, sometimes to show off or shock. Do NOT base your experience on Instagram to determine safety for your child.
Instagram is also being used extensively for bullying. Kids are setting up fake accounts of the victim and then posting out embarrassing posts as a way to bully. I have enquires more from parents about impersonated accounts set up to bully more than any other type of cyber bullying.