To promote a safe and supportive community, Instagram's new "Parent's Guide" is full of resources to help you manage your child’s privacy, interactions, and time spent on the social media platform.

By Nicole Harris

You can’t ignore the popularity of Instagram. With a slew of celebrities using it every day to share little tidbits from their lives, the photo-sharing app has become the epitome of cool since it launched in 2010. And for better or worse, no one knows cool better than kids. 

With an Instagram account, digital natives like teens and children – who make up a substantial portion of the platform's user base – can upload images and videos, interact with friends, send private messages, and browse billions of photographs. Users love how Instagram promotes innovation and creativity, but with all that freedom to share information also comes with a host of safety issues, including mean behavior and inappropriate content which are particularly concerning for parents.

(Keep in mind that children under 13 aren’t allowed to use Instagram without verifiable parental consent, per the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Still, many tweens and kids work around the system with fake birthdays and a parent’s email address, whether they have permission or not.)

To help create a safe and supportive environment for everyone, Instagram has collaborated with National PTA to develop a new resource for families called Know How to Talk with Your Teen About Instagram: A Parent’s Guide. Available in video, print, and online versions, the guide teaches parents how to start a dialogue about Instagram safety and encourages them to take action when it comes to their child’s privacy, interactions, and time spent on the platform.

“We know many parents and guardians think about what their teens are doing online, and we feel a great responsibility to make sure Instagram is a positive place for them to connect and share,” says Marne Levine, the chief operating officer of Instagram since 2014. She says A Parent's Guide includes “the basics of our app and a description of our tools, plus a discussion guide for how parents and guardians can have an open conversation with their teens about Instagram.”

Education and social media expert Ana Homayoun, M.A., P.P.S, worked with Instagram to create the discussion questions, which are designed to “help parents and guardians learn more about how teens are using Instagram and to ensure they're using the app in a positive way,” says Levine.

“I work at Instagram, and I'm also a parent," she adds. "That's the lens I bring into the office each day, just like many other parents who work here. We know the social media landscape will continue to change, and we're committed to being here every step of the way to make sure parents and their teens have the tools they need to make the choices that are right for them.” Instagram has also collaborated with organizations like Scholastic, National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center to help distribute the guide to parents.

Here's a breakdown of the best resources and tools outlined in Instagram’s new guide for parents with kids using social media:

Protect Their Privacy

In terms of account privacy, Instagram users have two account options: public and private. Any Instagram user can view and follow a public account; this is beneficial for those looking to gain a social media following, but it presents a host of safety concerns. Private accounts, on the other hand, lets your child approve their followers (only approved users can view their images) and remove followers at any time. You can easily switch from a public to a private account, and vice versa.

Is your child receiving unwanted messages and comments? Instagram's blocking Interactions feature lets you “block” accounts from interacting with your posts, stories, and Live broadcasts.

Manage Unwanted Interactions

Instagram has many features to prevent bullying and other negative interactions, which can happen online as well as offline. Settings allow you to choose who can interact with posts, delete negative comments from your feed, and block users. Built-in filters can automatically remove offensive words and phrases from Feed, Explore, Profile, and live videos – and users can also create their own customized filters. What's more, Instagram implements self-injury and suicide prevention check points, which help promote mental health awareness.

Limit Session Length

Does your child spend an absurd amount of time on Instagram? Monitor their behavior with the Activity Dashboard, which lets you see their daily and weekly Instagram usage. You can set a daily time limit reminder and mute push notifications. Another time-saving feature: Instagram now displays a message saying “You’re All Caught Up” when you've scrolled through every new post on your feed, preventing users from wasting time on already-seen content.

Detect Bullying

Every so often, Instagram users come across an unkind or unwelcome photograph. New technology detects bullying behavior in photos and captions, forwarding them to Instagram’s Community Operations team for review. "This change will help us identify and remove significantly more bullying — and it’s a crucial next step since many people who experience or observe bullying don’t report it,” says Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram. “It will also help us protect our youngest community members, since teens experience higher rates of bullying online than others.”

Inspire and Promote Kindness

In an effort to inspire kindness among its users, Instagram recently teamed up with New York Times bestselling teen author, dancer, and actor Maddie Ziegler to launch a “kindness camera" feature. “Swipe to open the camera, tap the face icon at the bottom, and choose the new camera effect. In selfie mode, hearts will fill the screen — and you’ll be encouraged to tag a friend you want to support. Your friend will receive a notification that you mentioned them in your story,” says Mosseri. Friends can then share the photo or use the camera effect themselves. The feature also works with the rear-facing camera by providing an overlay of comments in different languages. Followers of Maddie Ziegler will automatically have access to the camera; if you don’t follow her and see the effect on another user’s page, simply press “try it” to add the feature to your own account.

Instagram’s new resources have been receiving positive feedback from supporting organizations, such as PFLAG National, the nation's first and largest organization for parents, families and allies of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people."Online security is of the utmost important to all parents, including parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer kids, who are so often bullied for being who they are,” says Liz Owen, director of communications at PFLAG National. “We at PFLAG thank our friends at Instagram for their continued action on and support of the constant parental quest to give youth the room and tools they need to express themselves creatively and authentically, while still protecting them to the fullest extent possible."

PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center also expressed their support: “We love the final resource Instagram put together and know that it will help many parents navigate this important conversation with their child. Instagram really is creating a kinder and safer online space for everyone!” they said.

Check out Instagram For Parents:




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