What parents need to know about Instagram (Finstagram and Rinstagram)
What is it?
Instagram is a popular mobile photo app that lets users apply cool filters and hashtags to photos and videos and share them to their feed and other social media platforms. Other Instagram users can view photos and comment on them.
Instagram has over 1 billion monthly active users and over 500 million daily users. 71% of the billion monthly active users on the Instagram app are under the age of 35 (Statista, 2019).
Every day, 100 million+ photos and videos are uploaded and 4.2 billion “likes” are given. Most liked photo on Instagram is a photo of an egg with 54.2 million likes.
The most popular hashtags on Instagram are #Love, #Instagood, #Photooftheday, #Fashion, and #Beautiful.
Is Instagram appropriate for children?
According to the terms of service, one must be 13, but there is no age verification in app.
Instagram’s main feature (sharing photos and videos) promotes an exaggerated focus on perfection, body image, status, popularity. Whether the comments are flattering or negative, Instagram can be a platform of anxiety: always looking for something perfect to capture, waiting for confirmation, dealing with public criticism or disapproval.
Instagram is the app with the highest bullying incidence among children. In a Bitdefender study, 40% of them say they were bullied on Instagram, more girls than boys, 49% vs 27%.
Some 57% of the Bitdefender study respondents cited appearance as the most likely topic for bullying. Comments can be really hurtful, making teens feel: different/insecure (45%), sad (45%), depressed (40%) and strange/odd (35%).
In response to the pressure of living up to the standards of the Instagram community, teens create alternate accounts that are called “Finstagrams” or “Finsta” (fake + Instagram). Here they share more authentic versions of themselves to a close, small circle of trusted friends (10-15 followers) while not “ruining” their perfect image from the real Instagram (aka Rinstagram/Rinsta).
Instagram also recently introduced a new feature called “Restrict: that allows users to block interactions from users that are likely to spread hate, bully, or are unwanted for any other reason. This is different from blocking someone because with “Restrict” users won’t know that they are blocked. They can still leave comments on an account, but no one will be able to see them.
How to protect children on Instagram?
Instagram can boost children’s creativity and playfulness by working with photos and videos, but it can also make children pretend to live a perfect life (and suffer when they don’t). If your kids use Instagram, make sure they knows how to tell the difference and to comment respectfully, and help them deal with hateful reactions.
Here’s how you can help:
1. Make your children’s Instagram feed private so it can only be viewed with the permission of the account owner.
2. Encourage them to use the “Close Friends” feature that lets them create a list with their closest friends with whom they can share stories, photos, videos.
3. Don’t use location sharing, to minimize the risks of strangers knowing where your children are.
4. Monitor your children’s usage, in terms of time and people they interact with. Check “Your activity” feature to see the amount of time spent on Instagram per day and ‘Restrict’ feature to silence cyberbullies.
5. Report Inappropriate Behavior, Images, Videos and Comments.
6. Talk to them about very popular phishing scams that happen on Instagram: i.e. emails are sent by unknown parties to trick them into entering username and password somewhere, so they can promptly steal it and take over legit accounts. Check and respond only to “Emails From Instagram” that you can find in Seetings/ Security category in the account.
7. Ask and talk about their Finstas. Even if it is private, children must be aware of what they post online and who they accept in their small circle of followers. The risk is someone takes screenshots of posts from their Finstas and shares them on the Internet, making them public.
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