Parenting Help

Keeping Instagram Safe 

Dynamic ImageShould I let my daughter have Instagram?

I’m asked that question frequently at my parenting workshops, and it’s no wonder. Almost every teen and tween has the photo-sharing app. If your kid doesn’t… their best friend does.

Instagram was the fastest growing smartphone app of 2013’s top 10 Smartphone apps (Nielsen data), growing 66% last year and ranking 7th overall for the number of users. Yes, Facebook is still number one for Average Unique Users… but ask any teenagers which app they prefer.

I understand the craze. My own teenagers have been posting pics on it for years, and last week my 16-year-old daughter finally convinced me to join the bandwagon. I downloaded the app, created my own Instagram profile and starting snapping pics.

So what is this fascination young people have with Instagram?

Young people love to express themselves through social media, and Instagram provides them with a creative way to do it with pictures. Jump on anyone’s Instagram and you’ll quickly get an idea of who they hang out with, where they spend time, what they enjoy, and even what they eat. Instagram provides a unique little porthole into their world. A picture tells 1,000 words… right?

It’s intriguing how much you can learn about someone from what they post on Instagram, that’s why dating app Glimpse lets users create their profiles by simply using nine photos from their Instagram app to communicate to others who they are.

This brings up some interesting ramifications for parents. Do you know what your kids are posting on Instagram? How do they look to friends… and to predators?

Instagram can be a fun and innocent app, but like all social media, it requires responsibility by the user. As Instagram’s own faq page states:

“All photos are public by default which means they are visible to anyone using Instagram or on the website. If you choose to make your account private, then only people who follow you on Instagram will be able to see your photos.”

This might not sound like a big deal, and most of the time, it’s not. But I’ve witnessed the horror stories when parents didn’t talk with their kids about social media responsibility.

Parents need to have these conversations with their kids. If your kids are one of the 31 million Instagram users, make sure you make time to talk about basic common sense social media decisions like these:


  • Only chat with people you know face to face.
  • Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want Grandma to see.
  • Never post a mean comment about someone.
  • Consider setting up privacy settings so only followers can see your photos. Then they have to send you a follow request which you can either approve or deny.
  • Be careful posting your location. If you allow anyone to follow you, then they may be able to see the location information when you post a picture of your home or your school. You can remove those locations from your photos by editing your photo map (more on how to do that here).
  • Always report any abusive behavior, the app makes it easy to do. Also, feel free to block a user if they creep you out! (Just don’t block Mom or Dad, or they won’t pay your phone bill!)

Many of these are common sense to today’s social media users, but parents should never assume their kids know this. If your kids ever download an app, spend some time on the app’s website and read the privacy and safety information. Instagram has Privacy and Safety suggestions on their blog.

Bottom line: Instagram is a great photo-sharing app. It can be, and usually is used innocently, but it also can be a place where mean comments are posted, or where predators lurk. So parents should engage in conversations with their kids before they start snapping pics.

If you found this article helpful, you’ll enjoy The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices. Each chapter includes discussion questions engaging kids in conversation about the pics they’re posting, the comments they’re making, and the content they’re streaming.

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Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for parents on his website Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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