Instagram has recently been criticized for its potential dangers to children such as online bullying, online sexual assault, and sensitive content. In March 2021, Instagram announced that it would be releasing a new version of Instagram – an Instagram for kids with a host of safety features aimed at helping the youngest users of the community (under 13) use the app safely. The Instagram for kids version may be functionally similar to Facebook Messenger Kids.
So, this is Instagram safe for kids? The article below will help you understand:
- What are the new features of the upcoming Instagram for kids version?
- How will it impact children and parents?
- Whether this Instagram for kids really helps kids use Instagram safer?
What is Instagram?
Instagram is a free social network that allows users to share photos and videos, follow celebrities and friends, and send messages. Other Instagram users can view your photos and comment on them. Instagram is owned by Facebook.
How does Instagram for kids work?
Besides some key features, Instagram has not made an official announcement about how it works or how parents control their children’s app usage. But since Instagram was acquired by Facebook, and Facebook already has Messenger Kids, it’s very likely that Instagram Kids will act like Messenger Kids: allowing parents to register and manage their child’s account through their Facebook account, in other words, it allows parents to completely monitor their child’s actions on Facebook.
The same goes for this new version of Instagram for kids. It is predicted that parents will have the right to accept or reject the person requesting to follow or the person their child wants to follow. Because of the risk of accessing age-inappropriate information often in the Discovery section, hashtags, friend requests/texting, these functions may be locked for an Instagram for kids version.
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How safe is Instagram for kids? What are the features?
The new safety features of an Instagram for kids version include:
- Instagram tries to find out a user’s age when signing up with a new AI algorithm and Machine Learning
- Limit DM (texting) to people who are not on kids followers
- Remind teens to be more cautious when DM
- Makes it harder for adults to find and track teenagers
- Encourage your teen to keep their account private
In addition to the new safety features, in collaboration with The Child Mind Institute and ConnectSafely, Instagram has also published a new Parent’s Guide. This guide explains the different privacy options for kids, provides a glossary of common terms and suggests helpful ways to initiate safe Instagram conversations.
Is this version of Instagram safe for your kids?
According to the Instagram announcement, although the Instagram for kids version has new features seen as the right direction to perfect the app, many parents still doubt the effectiveness of these new features.
The evidence is the fake age declaration. Instagram only reflects that age verification is complicated and a common problem of social networks. As a result, the new security features only offer “encourage” and “remind” functions, meaning that the right to decide whether to text with strangers or to keep the account private is up to teenagers.
What about kids (under 13) already using Instagram?
The Instagram for kids version doesn’t help the kids who are most at risk: those who are already using Instagram (not old enough to register or perjury). Currently, parents and social networks are always debating who the duty to protect their children is.
Instagram is a photo/video sharing and messaging social network so it is truly a search engine for billions of images. Your kids can search for anything on Instagram from dogs and cats, celebrities, recipes, to harmful content like pornography.
The types of content your child has easy access to in Instagram’s search engine can include drugs, violence, porn, violent porn, child pornography, weapons, and extremes trends like anorexia and self-harm culture, sexual impersonation, and other more frightening things. Kids also share #hashtags for Instagram, and although some explicit Instagram search terms like #boobs have been banned, your kid can search with other slang phrases easily.
How to better protect your child when using Instagram?
Have an open discussion with your child about Instagram
Parents themselves are the most reliable support to protect their children, especially when they are playing in the virtual world. Social networking site policies only serve as additional support, not the primary protection factor for your child.
According to Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Injury, parents should initiate an open and positive conversation with teenagers about the purpose of using social media, and how to use them effectively and educate them about the potential risks of social media to children. Besides, you need to show your child that you are there for them whenever they have questions or problems using social media.
Staying up too late, staying away from family members, suddenly not wanting to use social media, low self-esteem, suddenly quiet, etc. This could very well be a sign that your child has been sexually assaulted online or has become a victim of cyberbullying. Being sensitive will help you to solve the problem in time.
Install Internet content filtering tools
Proactive first. There is still a very high risk that your child will access harmful content on the Discovery) because the content that receives a lot of clicks will easily be displayed first (it is inevitable that adult content always gets attention from most users).
So in addition to regularly educating and chatting with their children, many smart parents are using AI-based content filtering tools to hide 15 types of harmful content on the Internet, including:
- Horrifying content like gore, accidents, ghosts, violence, murder, terrorism, etc
- Content about stimulants, addictive substances such as alcohol, beer, marijuana, drugs, etc
- Content with aggressive elements, hurting others like Hate speech
The special thing is that this free porn blocker extension is completely free, helps to minimize your child’s access to harmful content, ensuring a healthy online environment for your child but at the same time, not invading their privacy rights. Also, it:
- Does not have a feature that allows parents to see their kids’ messages, calls
- Does not have a feature that allows parents to stalk their child’s social media activities
This is probably the best balance between keeping children safe online during covid-19 but still not being too intrusive on their right to privacy.
Encourage your child to switch account to “Private”
Unlike the public mode which allows anyone sees the profile, private accounts only allow your child’s followers to see what they post. In other words, only approved users can view images or your child’s story (non-followers can only see the display name, profile picture and bio).
This helps keep your child’s private pictures more secure, only the children allow them to know, however, even if those pictures are kept private, you should also advise your child to refrain from posting too much on social media so as not to disclose private information or facilitate online bullying.
Constantly updating the dangers on the Internet
Negative effects of social media on teenagers like dangerous challenges of TikTok, how social media makes your child at risk of committing suicide, etc. Updating information and knowledge yourself is always one of the sustainable tips over time when you are quickly aware of the problem, educate your children promptly about the problem and its consequences, your child will know how to proactively protect themselves from those risks.
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