Why is Instagram safer than Facebook and other social media platforms? …It isn’t.
Whilst some of the dangers of social media are more prevalent on certain platforms, they all pose the same risks and Instagram is widely recognised as being popular with teenagers and younger children and will attract danger accordingly.
- Instagram is a social network just like Facebook. It has the same age limit and risks.
- Users potentially have access to 100 million monthly active users. When Facebook bought it in 2012 Instagram only had 13 employees to block users, remove inappropriate material and do everything else needed to run the company.
- Even with an account set to private, users biogs are public and viewable from any internet browser.
- Many users (especially children) are motivated by collecting followers and will often not consider the consequences of following or being followed by strangers.
- Followers can very easily use images, biog and post content, geotagging, hashtags and other followers to locate users.
What are the risks?
- Access to age inappropriate material (Instagram are heavily reliant on its users to report inappropriate material). Sexualised images, posts which promote self harm or offer damaging ideas about body image… the list is extensive.
- Cyberbullying. There are many ways Instagram is used to threaten, undermine and intimidate. A number of high profile teenage and younger suicides have been attributed to social media use (including Instagram)
- Overuse. Checking Instagram feeds is addictive. Large companies invest large amounts of time and money on harnessing the “social media feedback loop”. There is increasing evidence that overuse of digital devices and screens can cause anxiety and sleeping issues.
- Grooming. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre is reporting an increasing number of grooming cases. Many victims of online sexual abuse have never met their abusers. Instagram is also being used by terrorist organisations to recruit vulnerable young people.
My child already has an account what can I do?
Parents have a responsibility for the safety of their children. In the same way that you should know about other aspects of your child’s life you should know about their online activity. You are not being nosey!
- Talk to them about it. It is not enough to just follow them and assume you will have the full picture.
- Make sure they have their account set to private
- Make sure they do not geotag their location in posts
- Talk with them about what is appropriate to have in their biog (profile) as this is public and accessible to anyone
- Look at their followers and following lists. Who do they know?
- Do they have more than one account? Ensure all of the above is in place for all their accounts
- Make sure your children know what to do if anything doesn't feel right
- Expect your children to be polite and respectful just like they are in the "real" world
- You can always says that you have found out more about Instagram and social media and think it would be safer if they closed their account. They have many years of the pressures of social media ahead and there is no need to start now. Whatever they may tell you, a significant number of children their age do not have Instagram accounts.