Instagram invited us along to let us know what they are doing to keep us safe online, particularly in terms of their teenage users. The trouble with parenting is that there wasn’t the issues with technology for young people when we were growing up. Instagram have launched new resources in collaboration with parenting experts, parenting organisations and charities to help with parenting in the digital age; and provide practical tips about managing time, privacy, and interactions on Instagram. We also heard from inspirational young people using social media for good.
How Best to Support Teens Online
The most important thing about bringing up teens, with whatever the situation is, is to keep talking to them. Understand why they do/use things and what is available to make sure they have safe and positive experiences. The sooner you can have the conversation the better – also explaining to tweens the reasons why different social media platforms have age restrictions.
Things Parents Worry about with their Teens Online?
- Fake Reality/Things taken out of Context
- Online Footprint
- Inappropriate Material
- Too Much Screen Time
How Instagram is helping to keep Teens Safe
First of all Instagram is a platform for those over the age of 13 years old. It has inbuilt technologies to identify those it feels are under this age as well as a report option and will close their account (parents can apply to prove they are over 13 if this has been done in error). These technologies are also being extended to detect and delete bullying comments. One of the biggest problems are those sent through direct messages. Instagram does not tolerate bullying so again it is possible to report this if it happens. This is completely anonymous.
Keeping things Private on Instagram
Keeping safe online is one of my biggest worries as a parent. It is so easy for children to say/do the wrong thing and put themselves in danger without even realising. This and seeing inappropriate material that isn’t suitable for their young eyes and ears to make sense of.
On Instagram you can decide on whether your posts are private or public and if you have to approve friends or not – as well as being able to hide your activity status. You can add, remove, block (or unblock) and mute users. There are settings for who can comment, blocking comments and removing comments completely. There is also an option to filter out certain words, phrases or emojis from comments too.
Again I think having the conversation with my children is so important about why this is so, and what may happen as a result. Encourage your teen to start with a private account, only accepting people they know. We have the same with computer games – mine are not even allowed to add friends of friends because they may not really be who they say they are! We also talk about not sharing private information such as real names, location, school etc. The biggest thing I stress to them though is that once something is online it can possibly be seen by everyone (it only takes a quick screenshot) and so to be very careful before putting something out there. My favourite video to demonstrate this is “I saw your Willy” by the NSPCC:
Online Distorted Reality
I think that there’s an idea that a lot of what teens put online and see is a fake reality – with lots of selfies taken before the final (often edited) version of themselves go up. It turns out that it is the older generation who are more likely to do this but again just keep having the conversation about what is real, filters and editing etc. It is important to talk about feelings and how our online behaviour can be impacted on others – and how others make us feel. I think this will help with the whole taking things out of context. We need to think about how just to be kind to others – and parents should lead by example. The “pile on” effect was mentioned – and that’s when someone says something someone doesn’t agree with and then everyone joins in to tell them how wrong they are. It is times like this we need to stop and think about how we would feel if it were us in that situation – and act accordingly to how we would like to be treated.
Managing Time on Instagram
Parents can often worry that teens are on screens too much and not going outside and having fresh air like we used to. However, Instagram comes with an Activity Dashboard which shows how much time has been spent on Instagram for the past day and week, as well as an average time. You can set a time limit and control your notifications – setting a break so that push notifications will not appear for a selected time period (maybe they intend to do homework/study for that amount of time). There is also an automatically enabled you’re all caught up message when they are up to date with their friends and communities. I think we also need to stop and think about what we were really doing when we were outside as teens (I know in my case I was not climbing trees and playing at the park once the teenage years hit!) and what with the increase in knife crime how much screen time really is a problem.
For more tools and resources to navigate healthy social media habits with teens visit:
I was invited to Instagram and my travel expenses covered.