Users naturally love Instagram for the way it fosters innovation, creativity and enables users to express their individuality, but with all the freedom to share that information comes a range of safety issues, including access to inappropriate content, online harassment or cyberbullying, etc.
Among these harmful factors, there are questions like “Is Instagram safe for kids?”, the below article will analyze 4 things on Instagram that are negatively impacting your child every day, gradually changing your child for the worse if they are not using it wisely and carefully.
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.
After creating an account, Instagram allows your kids to follow their friends, celebrities or anyone they want. This is a photo-based social network, so your kids can only share pictures/videos. Instagram also has types of filters and image editing tools to make your child’s posts look more eye-catching and engaging.
Instagram has a feature that adds a location to its posts, but kids and teens shouldn’t use this function, besides a few other functions like:
- Direct messages (DM): Your child can send messages directly to one or more people – including followers and non-followers.
- Story: These are 15-second videos or slideshows, after being shared, Stories will last for 24 hours and anyone who follows your child will see and your child will know who watched. After this time, Stories will disappear unless your child adds Highlights. At this time, others can still see the story on the Highlights section even though it expired, but Instagram will not show who has watched.
- Vanishing Messages: This is a Snapchat-like feature that allows your child to send a timed photo or video message that the recipient can only see once before they disappear.
Besides, your child’s account will have 2 modes: Public and Private. In public mode, everyone (even if they do not follow your kids) will see their posted photos/videos, whereas in Private mode, only those who follow the child will be able to see them (those who are not followers can still know the display name, profile name and bio).
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Is Instagram safe for kids? How old should kids be to use Instagram?
“Is Instagram safe for 10 year olds” or “Is Instagram safe for 12 year olds” are commonly asked questions by parents. Due to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), most social networking platforms are designed for users aged 13 and over. All exceptions ‘all ages’ (such as Minecraft) require consent from a parent or legal guardian before a child can create an account if the he/she is younger than 13.
The law states that 13 years old is the age when children are independent enough to enter the online world on their own. However, whether Instagram is really right for your kids depends on the final decision of parents and legal guardians. If your kids are over 13 and you feel they have reached the age you deem appropriate when they set up their own social media accounts, you can allow them to register.
According to the terms of service, the user must be 13 years old, but there is no age verification process, so it is easy for children under 13 to register and access inappropriate content. Common Sense rates Instagram 15 years or older because of its mature content, the high risk of reaching strangers. Now Instagram has announced they will be releasing a version of Instagram for kids under 13, but is it really effective and safe?
Why do young people use Instagram?
Teenagers who use Instagram as a way to express themselves and show off their talents like singing, artwork, poetry, etc. tend to have a positive experience with the app. With a balance between using Instagram with other activities (not just endless surfing the newsfeeds), your child can build a useful network of friends and build positive images and reputation of them.
However, life is not a rosy color, if not used intelligently and properly, your child will be negatively affected which in turn, affecting their cognition, physical and mental development.
4 things Instagram making your child worse every day
Perfectionism – what Instagram users strive for
Instagram is driven by “likes”, which can quickly turn the platform into a contest to see who is the winner of getting the most dose of likes. This emphasis on followers and likes can affect kids’ self-esteem, and they may become jealous when their friends get more likes or become overly concerned with being considered mediocre if their likes and followers are low.
This leads to the case that many children try to create as much impressive content as possible to get the attention of others, increasing followers and likes. This can lead your child to take on dangerous challenges, take risks in unsafe places to take the most unique photo, or pose in inappropriate clothes (easily fall victim to sexting).
Young people can also have a hard time realizing that not everything they see on Instagram is real. Photo-editing tools and filters can change a person’s appearance, which can create a desire for unattainable perfection. It also reduces a child’s confidence and makes your child obsessed with other perfect bodies while shows low self-esteem of their body. Some hashtags like #thighgap or #skinnyinspiration) also making children have distorted views about their self-image.
Risk of accessing highly harmful content
Instagram has the Discovery feature, which algorithmically organizes content publicly based on user interest and interaction. Content that receives lots of likes, comments, and clicks will be easily displayed first. Often the content that easily gets attention will be related to adult, pornographic images/videos.
Besides pornography, because searching on Instagram can also use hashtags, so your kids can face dangerous challenges, users with false or racist views, individuals using substances, violent photos, and other inappropriate content.
Many parents have prevented their children from accessing harmful content such as porn, violence, gore, etc. by using Internet content filtering tools, helping their children live in a safe and healthy network environment whether your child is using the browser to surf Instagram or using the Instagram app.
Your kids can connect with anyone on Instagram
As mentioned, Instagram users have two account options found in the settings: public and private. Public mode allows any Instagram user to view and follow your child’s account; This is beneficial for those who want followers or likes on social media, but it raises a lot of safety concerns.
You never know who can interact with your child’s photos and videos, save them and use them for malicious purposes such as defaming, making fun of your child’s body, or sending them unwanted messages and comments.
This is a constant problem in every other social media network. Due to the anonymity, not traceable, the complete culprit could be your child’s friends or random stranger (if your child has a public account). Online bullying is relatively common – a March 2019 survey from the Online Bullying Research Center found that 36.5% of respondents had experienced cyberbullying at any given time in life. It causes them to experience anxiety, anxiety disorders, school violence, depression and other negative consequences.
A recent study found that teenagers who spend a lot of time using smartphones and social media are more likely to have symptoms of depression and suicidal behavior. Instagram has also been linked to anxiety, loneliness, and “fear of missing out” (FOMO). If you don’t prepare online content filtering, your kids may encounter inappropriate, sensitive photos or videos – even ones that show self-harm or eating disorders.
Protecting children on social media can pose many challenges for parents. Even though you respect their privacy, give them freedom and don’t want to limit them, you need to protect them in this Internet world full of harmful things so that they can grow strong and healthy.
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