While no one wants to be a helicopter parent, if you have a tween chances are you’ve surfed their Instagram account to see what content they’re posting. If you’re concerned about keeping your child safe while he or she is using Instagram, read on…
Familiarise yourself with Instagram: The more familiar you are with the app, the better you will be able to monitor your child’s usage. If you don’t already have an account, consider setting one up for yourself and playing with it a little to get a better understanding of how it works.
Ensure your child’s privacy settings are on: When you create an Instagram account, you have two options: public and private. Any Instagram user can view and follow a public account whereas private accounts can only be viewed by followers. This means that only approved users can view your images and stories. Many people who want to gain a social media following opt for the public account, but this option has so many safety concerns – especially for kids. It might be worth setting your child’s account to private (if it’s not already) because you never know who might engage with his or her videos and images or even send them unwanted messages or comments.
Don’t let social media negatively impact on your child’s mental health: Instagram is driven by “likes” which can turn the platform into a popularity contest. This can affect your child’s self-esteem, contribute to anxiety, and even spark feelings of envy. Children might also go out of their way to create “impressive” content like taking part in dangerous challenges or posting photos of them wearing inappropriate outfits to get these likes. Kids also often don’t realise that not everything they see on Instagram is real. With so many filters and photo editing you can use to alter your appearance; it can create a desire for unattainable perfection. According to psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt, depression and anxiety in American teens have increased since 2011 (Instagram was launched in 2010).
Keep a lookout for trolls and cyberbullies: You can “block” accounts from interacting with your child’s stories and posts. The blocked person won’t be notified that they’ve been blocked and they can be unblocked at any time. However, if your child doesn’t want to block someone, you can mute the account without that person knowing. If you’re concerned about cyberbullying or your child being exposed to crude content, go to “Filters” in the Comment Controls section to remove offensive words and phrases from their Instagram feed, Explore page, profile, and live videos. While there are built-in filters that can help you choose words and phrases, you can also create your own customized filters.
Use Apps to monitor your child’s social media: Chances are your child will restore his old settings minutes after you’ve set up all the privacy settings. A third-party app will make it easier for you to monitor your child’s social media usage. Appsafe is a great South African parenting tool to view kids’ social media activity, block porn, control apps and games and even track SMS messages and calls.