This article was contributed by Instagram

Instagram is a photo sharing application which allows everyone to create and share photo and video content as well as hosting livestreaming sessions.

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Instagram FAQs for parents

Instagram is now bigger than Twitter. What's the big attraction? And is there anything parents and carers need to know?

Why do kids love Instagram?

Instagram is a photo-sharing and video app with a whole lot of emphasis on sharing. It's like photo-enhanced socialising- a way of communicating mainly through images, creating ongoing mixed-media conversations that includes plenty of likes.

Does Instagram have a minimum age?

Yes, it's 13, in compliance with the GDPR. But Instagram doesn’t ask users to specify their age and there are many younger children who use the service, often with their parents’ permission. Whether Instagram is 'safe' depends more on how it’s used than the age of the user, but Instagram will delete underage accounts if they’re notified and can verify that users are under 13.

What are the risks of using Instagram?

There's nothing inherently dangerous about Instagram, but the main things parents worry about are similar to other social media: mean behaviour and inappropriate images that can hurt a child’s reputation or attract the wrong kind of attention. 

What's the best way to help kids stay safe on Instagram?

Respecting ourselves and others makes us safer. Our posts and comments become part of our public image. Respecting others in the way that photos are shared, tagged and commented on reduces risk to ourselves and to others. While most kids are smart about this, parents may want to be sure their children aren't posting inappropriate photos or having inappropriate interactions with people they don't know, which leads to the next question...

Should my child's profile be private?

Having a public account on Instagram means anyone can follow you. A private account means strangers can't follow you, so many parents prefer their children to use Instagram with a private account for sharing only with friends and relatives. However, that doesn't guarantee that your child won't be seen on Instagram (or any other photo-sharing service) because people post photos of each other. So even if your child doesn't have an account, that doesn't mean they won't appear in a photo on Instagram. This means it's much better for children to be aware of the implications of posting pictures of other people without their permission and to be clear about what to do if they're unhappy with images that have appeared of themselves.

As with all social media, how positive or negative a young person's experiences are on Instagram depends mainly on the person, their friends and how they use the app, and also on how confident they are with how they look, and are viewed by others.

What are Instagram Stories & Go Live?

Instagram also includes a stories feature, similar to Snapchat. Users can take photos and videos, apply filters and location geo-tags and then post them to their Instagram story. They can also upload older photos from their camera roll to their story and it will stay viewable for 24 hours. Users are told when someone takes a screen shot of their story, but not if anyone takes a screenshot of their video.

As well as replying to a person's Instagram story with a written message, users can now reply with a video or photo of their own. All the camera features, including filters, stickers and video loops, are all accessible when replying. The response will disappear after the recipient has viewed it and there will be a notification if it is a screenshot or replayed.

Combined with Instagram Stories, users can also opt to ‘Go Live’ and stream whatever they are doing to their followers.

If the person’s Instagram is public and is popular with hundreds of viewers, then it may show up on the ‘Popular’ page encouraging others to watch the stream too. Viewers can send comments to the person streaming and send heart emojis to show appreciation for the video. Users can set their account to be viewed by friends only.

Once the Instagram live stream is over, it will stay viewable to users as part of their Instagram Story, unless the person chooses to delete it.

Can I see if someone has read a direct message? 

If you send a direct message (DM) to one of your friends on Instagram you will be able to see when they have read it. It will show a read receipt (seen). As of January 2018, there is no way to turn this feature off.

What is the ‘last active’ feature?

In your direct message box, you can see the people you previously messaged and when they were last active. It also shows you if they are active (live). It is easy to disable the ‘last active’ feature if you don’t want people to be able to see it.

Just follow these three quick steps:

  1. Go into your profile and tap on the settings
  2. Scroll down to ‘Show activity status’
  3. Turn on or off depending on your preferences

It is worth noting that once you turn this off you won’t be able to see the activity status of other accounts, but, you can turn this feature on or off easily in the settings.

Can I see how much time my child has spent on Instagram?

Yes. As of August 2018 Facebook and Instagram have launched a feature that enables you to see just how much time you or your child spend on their mobile apps. You can do this on Instagram by going to Settings > Your Activity.

The feature gives you an overview of your usage for the last 7 days as well as a daily average, allowing you to identify excessive days. It also gives you the option to set a daily reminder, enabling you to set time limits for yourself ranging from 1 minute to 12 hours. Once you’ve reached your limit you will be sent a notification, although this can be ignored.

This is part of an effort by Facebook and Instagram to tackle social media over usage. While it won’t stop your child indulging excessively on social media, it may help make them more aware of just how much time they are spending on these apps.

Further reading

Read about Instagram's tool to block offensive content.

Instagram’s tips for parents

Instagram: a parent’s guide

Staying safe on Instagram

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

Updated: August 2018

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