Instagram Launches New Features Supporting LGBTQ Youth Just in Time For Pride Month
The new features include gender-inclusive profiles and a LGBTQ+ Youth Safety Guide for building an empowering online community.
Instagram launched new features for Pride month, including gender-inclusive profile options and safety tips for young users. The photo-sharing app partnered with The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, to create a guide for kids, teens, and young adults for online safety and self-care.
The Trevor Project guide reads that we “hope that LGBTQ young people know that no matter what they experience through social media, they are still deserving of love and respect, never alone, and beautiful the way they are.”
Here are some simple tips from Instagram and the Trevor Project’s guide on how you can help LGBTQ kids ensure Instagram is the best place it can be for them.
Instagram accounts can now reflect user’s identities.
Instagram’s profiles aren’t limited to the gender binary anymore. Users who don’t identify as male or female can customize their gender identity in an open-ended field. You can access this through your profile: select “custom” under gender and type in your gender identity (gender nonconforming, two-spirit, etc).
P.S. If you use popular hashtags such as #lgbtq, #bornperfect, #equalitymatters, #accelerateacceptance, or #pride2019, you’ll see the text turn rainbow in both the main Instagram feed and Stories.
Make Instagram feeds a safe space.
Mute, Unfollow, or Block
If your child is uncomfortable interacting with someone on Instagram, there are several ways to make sure that someone is no longer in their feed. You can “mute” an Instagram user if you just don’t want to see what they’re posting anymore—this is best for people you find annoying but not harmful. You can “unfollow” Instagrammers who are posting unfriendly, unhealthy, or inappropriate content. And you can “block” anyone who is harassing or bullying you.
And don’t worry, the users aren’t notified if you mute, unfollow, or block them. None of it is permanent. If someone cleans up their act, you can always choose to follow them again.
Also, kids can choose a select group of up to 15 friends to get Instagram updates as “Close Friends.” That means they can post silly stuff or inside jokes for those eyes only without worrying about who else might see.
Choose Comments Carefully
You can work with your kids to decide who can comment on their posts, whether it’s just their Instagram followers or also includes people they follow. And did you know you can filter words that appear in Instagram comments? Although Instagram’s settings filter out flagrantly offensive language in comments, you can choose to keep specific words out of your kids’ comments.
P.S. This is a great opportunity to talk to your kids about language, because even if you’re up to date on most teen slang, there might be some words you don’t even know can be hurtful.
Help kids build a community online.
“For some of us, accessing the supportive and fabulous communities we deserve can be hard to do offline,” the Trevor Project Youth Guide reads. “That’s why Instagram can be a great place to engage with LGBTQ inclusive and life-affirming content and communities.”
“Follow other LGBTQ pages to find inspiration and support,” teen activist and influencer Corey Maison suggests in the guide. “Especially to know you aren’t alone.”
Kids (and parents) can follow hashtags such as #YouAreNotAlone, #SelfCare, #TransIsBeautiful, #LoveIsLove, #LoveWins, #BeKind, and #YouMatter to find posts and people with stories of shared experiences.
“I go through tags posted by queer and trans people of color pretty often,” activist and influencer Leo Sheng shared in the guide. “Over time, I found more queer and trans people of color sharing their stories, creating a community, showing just how different our journeys can be, and providing a visual reminder of what liberation, justice, and honoring our history looks like.”
Listen to kids in their social media worries and needs.
Let’s face it, kids and teens usually use Instagram completely differently than adults. For the grownup user, Instagram tends to be a place to post pretty pics and make IG stories about your family outings. For kids, it’s a mix of Twitter, Facebook, and the aspirational Insta goals that made the photo-sharing app famous. That means besides the obvious FOMO-inducing Instagram stories of which kids are where when, there are memes galore (both innocent and teeming with misinformation and sometimes hate speech). So it’s important to listen to your kids questions about things they might see friends liking, watching, or posting.
Also, make sure kids know that if they see something concerning on Instagram, they can always talk to you and report it to the site. It’s crucial in cases where posts contain references to self-harm or suicide—and the guide stresses that kids need to know this isn’t telling on someone; it could save someone’s life. According to the Trevor Project, lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens are almost five times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual kids of the same age. And 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt, with the majority saying they did so before the age of 25.
Users can tap the three dots above a post (it looks like “…”) and flag the post as “inappropriate,” making sure to select the reason as “self-injury.” If a post is reported as such, the next time that user opens the Instagram app, they’ll have a message connecting them to resources such as a helpline.
If LGBTQ kids (or parents) need someone to talk to, The Trevor Project runs a 24-hour support center with a chat feature, text line, and phone hotline. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can also be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
There’s always someone to listen. As the guide says, “You are not alone.”