Is Instagram Safe for Kids? What Parents Need to Know
Instagram users are growing exponentially, but there’s a dark side--which is why it’s often called Instaporn! The question parents are asking is a good one: Is Instagram safe for kids?
Instagram has become “the most popular social media platform with tweens (ages 8-12) and teens (ages 13-18), with no signs of a slow-down."
Instagram currently has 700 million monthly users and 300 million weekly users. (Just for some perspective, the entire population of the United States is 322 million!) And it's growing fast!
According to this chart in the Motley Fool, it's number 7 out of 10 of the world’s biggest social networks.
World's biggest social networks
- Facebook (1.9 billion users)
- WhatsApp (1.2 billion users as of February 2017)
- Messenger (1.2 billion users as of April 2017)
- YouTube (1 billion users)
- WeChat/Weixin (889 million users)
- QQ (869 million users)
- Instagram (700 million users)
- Qzone (638 million users)
- Twitter (328 million users)
- Weibo (313 million users)
Kids love it and so do adults. And Facebook loves it because it owns Instagram and makes a lot of money from selling ads.
But is Instagram safe for kids?
Recently we received this question from a mom named Catherine:
How about how to use Instagram without getting all the bad videos?... My cute 12 year old daughter loves Instagram with her friends. She just doesn't tap on the videos. But someday she might. How to avoid that???
And here’s our answer:
At this point, there’s no blocking porn on Instagram. The best we can hope for is a better filter that recognizes pornographic images and blocks them. Covenant Eyes (affiliate link) is working on that feature (listen to president Ron DeHaas describe it here) but it’s not available yet. (Sign up with Covenant Eyes and be the first to have access.)
5 Instagram Tips for Parents
- I would not advise allowing a young child (under 13) on Instagram. I probably wouldn’t allow my child to have a smartphone with an internet connection at that age either. There are no iron gates on the internet and kids that age do not have as much self-control as you might think.
- Before they get onto Instagram, I would make sure they have been taught about the dangers of viewing porn and they understand what the plan is for rejecting it when they see it. Read Good Pictures Bad Pictures with them. Educate yourself on the research on how porn harms kids. Learn more here. Help your kids to understand how porn can hurt them.
- Have lots of talks with your kids about the pitfalls of social media apps as well as the benefits. To that end, I highly recommend reading the New York Times best seller American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teens . It’s extremely eye-opening and I learned a lot about American boys as well.
- Be aware that kids often create a Finsta (or a Fake Instagram) account for posting to a select group of friends and to hide what they're posting from their parents. Here's how to find out if your child has one.
- I would get a signed social media contract before I allowed them on Instagram. Here's one I like from Scary Mommy because it actually makes the child agree NOT to look at pornography. (So many of these contracts don't mention porn at all!)
So, I would have to say NO to the question: Is Instagram safe for kids? It’s not. And in my opinion, most kids are not going to have the judgement and self-discipline to use it without getting hurt by it.
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Brain Defense: Digital Safety Curriculum - Family Edition
"Parents are desperate for concepts and language like this to help their children. They would benefit so much from this program - and I think it would spur much needed conversations between parents and children.” --Jenet Erikson, parent