Our Complete Guide to Instagram

What are the key features of Instagram?

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InstaFeed

Teens can see the best moments in their friends lives, follow celebs, and get inspired when it comes to their interests and hobbies.

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Filters

Teens love to experiment with filters and can transform photos into professional quality images.

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Insta Stories

Teens can create stories with photos and videos that will post to the top of your followers’ feeds. You can tag your friends, initiate a poll, and ask questions. These Insta Stories disappear within 24 hours.

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Instagram Direct

Teens use the direct messaging feature to communicate individually and with a small group of friends.

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 Hashtags

Teens use hashtags to find content and activity around topics they are interested in. Unfortunately, it can be easy for them to stumble upon inappropriate content.

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Close Friends

Instagram now lets users choose who they want to share their Instagram stories with. A user can designate followers as “Close Friends,” and the feature offers a way to share more “personal” stories.

Recommendations

Recommended Time

32 Minutes

In an extensive study, Instagram users report being happy when spending up to 32 minutes per day on the app, and then shift into unhappy territory when they continue using beyond that point.

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Recommended Age

13+

While it’s not illegal for children under 13 to use social media, parental consent is required. Otherwise, social media companies are prohibited by law from collecting personal data on children under 13.

Note: Parents can set a specific time limit by using Apple’s Screen Time.  Click here to learn how to set this up.

What Parents Should Know

Body Image

Because Instagram is “the place” to post the best photos, teens can get anxious about the number of likes and comments they receive which can make them especially body conscious when posting images of themselves.

Social Pressure

With social status measured by the number of likes and followers, teens who rack up a large following gain social currency. Teens often accept follow requests from strangers to boost the appearance of popularity.. Teens expect their friends to show support for their posts with likes and comments, so when a post doesn’t perform well, teens will remove it in embarrassment. These highly curated profiles perpetuate the ‘perfect life’ syndrome.

Cyberbullying

One in five 12-to-20-year-olds report that they’ve experienced bullying on Instagram. Instagram makes it easy to set up anonymous profiles, which can be used as a ‘Hate Page’. Much of the bullying occurs over group chats which cannot be easily monitored, Insta Stories which disappear after 24 hours, or in the comments section of friends photos. Some high schools have anonymous “Confession-style accounts where users submit gossip about other students at school.” What is particularly alarming is that the victim has no idea who’s behind the bullying and is powerless in getting the harassment to stop.

Self-Expression

Teens feature only their content which makes Instagram a favorite vehicle for self-expression.

Inappropriate Follow Suggestions

If your teen follows major sports stars or celebrities, he or she may get inappropriate follow requests with graphic hashtags.

Private Accounts

Because of the social pressure many teens feel about what they post, some create private accounts known as “FINSTAs” or Fake Instagram accounts so they can be more real with friends. 60% of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 admit to having a secret account.

Child Predators

Unfortunately, Instagram is far from immune when it comes to predators. A social media monitoring service (i.e. Bark) reported 300 instances of child predation to the FBI in 2019 alone. In one example, they cited that 15 men initiated contact with an 11-year-old girl within two hours of her post.

In our testing, we simply typed #halloween, and look what came up (1st screenshot on the left).

#Sexy has over 27 million posts and there are dozens of porn hashtags with thousands of posts within them.

Tips for Parents: How to Protect Your Teen on Instagram

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How do I protect my teen’s privacy?

Parents who want to protect their teens’s privacy should ensure his or her account is set to private. With a public account, anyone can follow your teen, but with a private account, your teen must first approve someone’s request.  

1. Make your teen’s account is private

  • Log in to your teen’s account, go to your your their profile and tap 
  • Tap Settings and Click on Privacy 
  • Tap Account Privacy then tap to toggle Private Account to ON
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2. Make sure your teen does not share personal information on their bio or in their posts (e.g. no phone numbers)

3. Turn on Require approval when your teens’ friends want to tag them in a photo 

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4. Ask your teen not to include their location when posting

5. Set the expectation that your teen should only accept follow requests from people s/he knows

  • Even if your teen’s account is private account, you should anticipate that your teen will still receive random follow requests.
  • To decline these requests, click on   in the bottom navigation and decline.
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You may find Our Family Agreement helps to set expectations with your teen for how they will use social media.

How do I protect my teen from being bullied or harassed?

Instagram has released several new features to curtail bullying on the platform. While there’s no way to prevent another user from saying something unkind about your teen, there are a few steps you can take.

1. Control Comments

Instagram now allows users to manage who can comment on their posts.

2. Use the Restrict Feature

Sometimes your child may not want to overtly block someone, because then that person may realize that he or she’s been unfollowed. However if you’re concerned about unwelcome comments, you can use the new Restrict feature.

If a user restricts a follower, this means that when that follower comments on your post, no one will see the comment, including you. However, the follower still thinks s/he has commented.

What Should I do if my child is being bullied or harassed?

1. Make sure commenting is turned off

To turn commenting off or on for a post you’ve shared on your iOS device:

  1. Tap  above your post
  2. Select Turn Off Commenting
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You can also turn off commenting for a post before you share it. On the screen where you add a caption or location to your post, tap Advanced Settings, then tap Turn Off Commenting.

2. Block the user

You can block specific users to prevent them from contacting your teen directly, mentioning your teen in comments or tagging your teen in photos:

  • Tap their username to go to their profile
  • Tap  in the top right
  • Tap Block
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When you block or delete a user that person is unable to view or comment on any of your posts. People aren’t notified when you block them.

3. Report an inappropriate post.

  • Tap their username to go to their profile
  • Tap  in the top right
  • Tap Report
  • Then Choose if its a Spam or its Inappropriate
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3. Temporarily Disable or Delete your teen’s account

If you temporarily disable your account, your profile, photos, comments and likes will be hidden until you reactivate it by logging back in. To temporarily disable your account:

  • Log into Instagram from a mobile browser or computer. (You can’t temporarily disable your account from within the Instagram app)
  • Tap or click   in the top right, then select Edit Profile
  • Scroll down, then tap or click Temporarily Disable My Account in the bottom right
  • Select an option from the drop-down menu next to Why are you disabling your account? and re-enter your password. The option to disable your account will only appear after you’ve selected a reason from the menu
  • Tap or click Temporarily Disable Account
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4. Permanently delete your account:

  • You must log in to Instagram from your computer or browser.  You can’t delete your account from within the Instagram app
  • Go to the Delete Your Account page
  • Select an option from the drop-down menu next to Why are you deleting your account? and re-enter your password. The option to permanently delete your account will only appear after you’ve selected a reason from the menu
  • Click Permanently Delete My Account

How can I protect my teen from seeing mature content?

It’s nearly impossible to shield a teen from inappropriate content on Instagram, especially if he or she follows celebrities with a big fan base. 

However, you can change the settings on your teen’s account and disable Similar Account Suggestions so that your teen stops receiving inappropriate suggestions for whom to follow. Here’s how:

  • Log into Instagram app from your phone’s
  • Tap or click   in the top right, then select Settings
  • Tap on Notification and Select followers and following
    • Recommendations for others – select off (your teen’s account will not be recommended anyone including friends of friends)
    • Recommendations from others – select off (your teen will not receive recommendations to follow other accounts)

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Note: If your child follows someone they don’t know, that person can then request to follow your teen.  If your teen accepts the request, then your child can be contacted by that person through Direct Messaging.

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How do I monitor my teen on Instagram?

No one wants another full-time job, but parents are well-advised to monitor their teens’ social media accounts.  The extent to which you do this is totally personal preference and based on your own parenting philosophy. Here are 6 methods:

1. Create your own account and follow your teen.Turn on notifications from your teen’s profile, so you will be updated every time he or she posts:

  • Go to their profile
  • In the top right, tap  
  • Click on Manage Notifications
  • Toggle on Feed Posts and Stories
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You will not receive any other types of notifications.  

2. Make access to your teen’s account easy: From the Instagram app on your phone, sign in to your teen’s account. When you do this, you can easily toggle between your and your teen’s account to monitor activity.

  • Go to your profile and tap 
  • Tap  Settings
  • Scroll to the bottom and tap Add Account
  • Enter the username and password of the account you’d like to add
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You’ll need to know your teen’s phone passcode and Instagram login details. For easy password storage, you can use the locked note feature of Apple Notes for security. 

3. Spot check your teen’s account, periodically by reviewing:

  • Direct Message history
  • Posting activity
  • Who your child is following and who is following your child
  • Posts your teen is tagged in
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4. Check to see if your teen has multiple accounts: the best way is to go directly to your teen’s phone. Tap on their username at the top of their profile to see if they have multiple accounts. By no means is this foolproof. 

To switch between accounts:

  • Go to your profile
  • Tap your username at the top of the screen
  • Tap the account you’d like to switch to
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It’s not unheard of for teens to create FINSTAs (Fake Instagram Accounts) accounts to sidestep parents’ watchful eyes, but they may also be seeking closer communication with a smaller group of friends. Setting clear expectations is always a good policy. (See our Family Agreement in Best Tools)

5. Sign up for a social media monitoring tool such as Bark to be notified of any potential issues. 

  • It notifies you if it’s algorithms detect potentially concerning activity
  • Teens feel their privacy is protected because parents only see the activity that has been flagged
  • Bark monitors all posts, but cannot monitor direct messaging activity and Instagram stories
  • Bark may also detect when a teen creates another account if:
    • Bark is monitoring text messages and your child’s email account (Instagram requires verification with a phone number or email)
    • Your teen’s Instagram shows a sharp drop in activity which may be indicative that your teen is using another account (they will notify you)

See our Introduction to Bark for more information.

6. Follow your kids’ friends (and be stealth about it).

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