Instagram is steadily growing in popularity among young and teen social networkers.
At first it seems a relatively harmless way of sharing photos with each other. You can crop, adjust, reduce red eye and add filters. Even very ordinary photos can suddenly become appealing and interesting. Instagram is a photo sharing application that makes photos fun.
We are hearing from a lot of schools that Instagram is quickly taking over the social networking circuits and creating havoc within and between social groups. It is the sideways slide into social networking. Set up an account and within seconds you are able to comment, like and check out what their friends are doing. Facebook is out, Instagram is in.
How does it work?
Users can upload a photo from their library or take a photo right then and there and use Instagram to change the way the photo looks. Instagram may be used as a photo-sharing social network on its own. Users also have the option to upload the photo to a number of other social media sites simultaneously, including Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr and Foursquare depending on which one(s) the user syncs their settings with.
What parents need to know?
Instagram is a social networking service, and just like all other social networks “You must be at least 13 years old to use this Service”. Why 13? The age of 13 has to do with COPPA – the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act which simply applies to the online collection of personal information by persons under 13 years of age. A child, who has provided a fake birthday to get onto a social networking site, is helping the social networking site break the law, as they are unknowingly collecting information from children under the age of 13. The internet is the biggest public place we can possibly hang out in. Rules, guidelines are there for good reason.
The most important thing for users and parents to be aware of is that Instagram defaults to a public setting. Your profile and photos are public unless you tell it otherwise. Many parents may feel more secure knowing that their child has set their account to private, but watch to see how many followers your child has allowed onto their site. A child with a private setting that claims to have 222 followers means they have accepted 222 people to follow them, and not many tweens can say the socialise face to face with that many kids – no way! Remember even a private setting is still in a global public space.
You can set your profile to private by:
- Go to profile page and hit the cog button
- Scroll down to Privacy
- Photos are private – slide the toggle to ON
Signing up for an Instagram account requires that the user provide a Username. In many cases young children are using their real first and last names to create their accounts. To make matters worse, the sign-up process has an optional phone number section where users can submit their phone number as part of their public profile.
Once a photo has been taken, uploaded and is ready to share, the option of geotagging comes up. This option has to be entered; however as with most touch screen devices these errors can easily occur. Geotagging is a great way to showcase where the photo has been taken, but it also alerts others to where you have been, if not where you might be at that moment.
Blocking and reporting users and content
Although it seems innocent enough, there are users out there that will post inappropriate pictures. People will and do upload nude photos, drug use, bestiality – you name it. Instagram, does provide easy to use tools to block or report someone. Visit http://help.instagram.com/ for assistance.
What can I do?
As a parent, continue to monitor your child’s internet presence. At this time, it is not possible to sign up for an Instagram account on their website; it must be done by downloading the app. This means it may be on your child’s mobile device without you even knowing about it.
Help your child adjust their privacy settings so that their information is only shared with face to face friends. Speak with your child about the safety concerns you may have if they accept requests from people they do not have real life relationships with.
Sign up with Instagram yourself and have a go so that you understand how it works. If your child has an account, follow your child and monitor their behaviour to determine if Instagram is an appropriate hang out for them.
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