Should my kid have Instagram?
That’s a question parents have to deal with today that our parents didn’t have to deal with.
If you’re a Tween or Teen parent you’ve probably already had to deal with this or will very soon.
You’ll hear your kids saying “well [insert friends name] has Instagram and their parents don’t care.”
And it’s that exact statement “don’t care” that you have to struggle over, because you do care. You care about your child and thus the struggle of “should I or shouldn’t I” and the dangers of Instagram.
We’re going to tackle this for you now with everything you should consider.
Parent’s Guide to Instagram
You’re probably familiar with Instagram already, but just in case you aren’t, we’ll go over the apps features before diving into what you need to know before letting your kids join the platform.
What is Instagram and How Does It Work?
Instagram is a free social networking app that lets you post pictures and videos, follow friends and celebrities alike, and send direct messages. The platform was purchased by Facebook several years ago but is more appealing to teens because it’s visual in nature.
When you’re ready to post, just click the plus icon at the bottom of your profile and take a new picture of video or upload one already on your phone. You can add filters and edit the images or videos to make them look more unique and eye-catching.
Instagram has a number of features, including:
DMs (Direct Messages): You can access this feature at the top right hand corner of your home screen. You can send messages to people you don’t follow as well as those who don’t follow you.
Disappearing Messages: This feature is similar to Snapchat, where the image or video is timed and can be viewed only once before disappearing.
Stories: These are 15-second videos or images that you can add to your profile (yours can be found by tapping your profile picture). You can add hashtags, gifs, music, text and other features to your story. They disappear after 24 hours unless you choose to save them to your profile as a “Highlight.”
IGTV (Instagram TV): These are longer form videos that you can stream, similar to YouTube.
How old do you need to be to use Instagram:
You’re supposed to be 13 in order to use the app, but because there’s no way for them to verify your age, it’s not difficult to get around this rule and create an account at any age, really.
What kinds of content will my child have access to on Instagram?
The kinds of content your kids will see largely depends on who they follow. If they follow just their friends, the content they see will likely be harmless. However, if they’re following celebrities and other users, they’ll likely be exposed to mature content, including possibly pornography, drugs and swearing. With celebrities, specifically, they’ll likely be exposed to marketing messaging (which can actually impact their confidence).
And, as already mentioned, they can receive DMs from people who they don’t follow, so it’s possible they could be exposed to not only sexual or mean messages but also pornography in their Instagram messages.
What are “Rinstas” and “Finstas”?
Don’t panic if you find out that your child has a rinsta or finsta account. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Finsta” stands for “fake Instagram” account and is typically meant for only close friends to see. It is intended to reflect your child’s true self, not necessarily the version they want the entire world to see. This could be a good or a bad thing depending on the nature of the content, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing, by default, as your child is still figuring out who he or she is.
A “Rinsta” account is a “real Instagram” account and is the one that’s public-facing and usually highly curated. This type of account usually creates an image of your child that would be hard to achieve in real life (the highlight reel).
But as we mentioned at the beginning of this section, don’t panic if you find out that your child has a Rinsta or Finsta account. If they understand the importance of setting their privacy settings and not posting certain content, it can be a great creative outlet for your child and a great way to connect with friends.
How Can You Monitor the Account?
There are a number of ways you can monitor your child on Instagram:
Create an Account and Request to Be Friends with Your Child: As long as you’re following all of your child’s accounts, this is an easy way to keep track of what your child is posting.
Follow Your Child’s Friends: If you’re close to your child’s friends, you might want to consider following them on Instagram, as it will help you keep track of not only your child’s behavior, but also who he or she is hanging out with.
Check the Account Periodically: Require that your child provide you with all passwords and periodically do spot checks on the account periodically, looking at posts as well as DMs.
Install a Third-Party Monitoring App: There are a number of apps available that allow you to monitor your child’s phone use. However, be aware of the risks involved if you don’t tell your child that you’re monitoring the phone as well as the risks of monitoring it, even if you do tell them.
How Can I Prevent My Teen or Tween from Getting Hooked on Instagram?
Outside of safety, one of the biggest concerns for parents is the addictive nature of Instagram (and cell phone use, period). And it’s justified. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, social networks go as far as to hire psychologists and scientists to manipulate us into looking at the app more often and staying on it longer.
But too frequent use of social apps or cell phone use can and does impact our happiness and relationships.
So it’s important to put limits in place too, not only for your child, but for you as well.
Pay attention to the “Your Activity” feature within Instagram. You can also, in that area, set daily reminders to limit your time on the app and mute notifications so they aren’t always pulling your attention away from your family and encouraging you to pick up the phone.
If cell phone use is an issue, and not just Instagram, consider using Screentime on the iPhone or the Family Link app on an Android.
Why You Should Let Your Child Have Instagram
While there are risks if used improperly, there are a lot of benefits to having an Instagram account.
It can be a great way to share messages back and forth with friends (like we used to pass folded notes when we were kids). It can also be a great way for your kids to express themselves creatively. They could use Instagram to share poetry, artwork, videography or photography.
More than that, though, colleges expect to see that kids have Instagram accounts. Many colleges now browse a teen’s Instagram account during the admissions process to find out what interests he or she has and decide if the college program is a good fit. If no Instagram account can be found, it’s actually a red flag to colleges that perhaps there’s a Finsta account out there with content that shouldn’t be online.
Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Child Have Instagram
Some of the arguments against are around safety, porn, bullying and child trafficking. For the irresponsible tween or teen who hasn’t been educated on these topics, they’re all valid reasons to justify preventing your child from having Instagram.
We’ll assume, though, you reviewed the guide to Instagram for parents above and will sit down an talk with your teen frequently about Internet safety.
One suggestion, though, for not only Teens on Instagram, but also us, adults, is to turn off notifications. As we’ve shared previously, app and social media developers build their platforms to keep you on them. This can be distracting to anyone, especially children who have a strong need for social connection.
Another argument against Instagram is the fact that the content is often highly curated. Kids see pictures of their friends or acquaintances having fun and doing glamorous things… and it can cause them to feel bad about their own lives, in comparison. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing. It can cause a decrease in happiness and a spike in anxiety and depression. In fact, this is the reason social media use is credited with a decline in happiness among kids, according to the World Happiness Report.
The same can be said to an increase in exposure to marketing messaging on Instagram. Celebs and marketers are telling kids that they “need” things to be cool and fit in… and if they don’t have those things, they can feel bad about themselves and experience a decrease in confidence.
Conclusion: Should My Kid Have Instagram
Arguments can be made both for having an Instagram account as well as arguments against having one. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether your child is mature and responsible enough to handle the responsibility of an Instagram account.
Do keep in mind, though, that if you ban Instagram, more likely than not your child will just create an account on a friend’s phone without you even knowing it.
In most cases, the best approach is to teach your child how to use Instagram and the internet safely and talk about what should and should not be posted online (and why). It’s also incredibly important to make sure your kids limit their usage and have rules in place around when and where it should (or should not) be used. Let them know that scientists are actually paid to keep them on the app longer and how it can impact their mental health and happiness.
Instagram, by default, isn’t a bad tool.
When used in balance with other activities and with a purpose, rather than just mindless scrolling, kids can come away from the apps feeling happy and connected.
Do your kids have Instagram? What have you told your child about using Instagram and Internet Safety? Comment below, or head over to our Facebook Group and let us know what you think.