If you are a parent of a school aged child you probably know that Instagram is all the rage for kids. My son started asking for an account way before I was comfortable with him having one. In all honesty, my concerns at the time were more about what he would see than what he would post. My assumption was that he would post mostly selfies and sports pics, and now that he finally has an account I know that to be true.
Nonetheless, it is important to set up ground rules with your kids prior to opening an Instagram account. Based on what I have learned so far, here are 10 tips for parents whose kids want to join Instagram:
– 1. When setting up your child’s account, do not make your password your birthday or anything easy that someone else could guess.
– 2. Keep the account set to private, particularly for younger children. Instagram terms say that you must be at least 13 years old to use the service. Given that it would be nearly impossible to check their birth certificates, many of the users on the site are, in fact, younger than 13. Go to “Edit Profile” and at the bottom you will find a button to click onwhich says “Posts as Private.”
– 3. Follow your child’s account. My son had been bugging me to get an Instagram account for some time. When I finally decided he was ready for an account, the first rule was that I must follow him so I can see what he posts. He follows me as well and can see what I post too. The second rule is that if I see something inappropriate and tell him to pull it down, it must come down immediately. No questions asked.
– 4. Tell your child not to give anyone the password to anyone, EVER. That was our third rule. I have already heard about too many accounts being hacked by kids who think they are being funny. And your child, as the account owner, can be held responsible for any activity that occurs through that account.
– 5. Do not allow your child to approve anyone who he or she does not recognize without your permission. Kids tend to make up nicknames or not put an easily recognizable profile picture up on the site. So on occasion, your son or daughter might get a request from someone whose handle is not familiar. Even though a user’s account is private, anyone can request to follow. So while the unrecognized person is likely to be a friend or acquaintance, there is still a chance that it is someone unknown to your child.
– 6. Set rules around what your child can and cannot post. The other day my son took a photo that he was planning to post in Instagram. Luckily I noticed in time that in the background of that photo was a piece of paper with our address and phone number on it, as well as other personal information. He just retook the photo without that paper in the background. Remember that your child’s account may be private now, while he or she is younger, but at a later date that button might be pushed making the account public to everyone. Also, you can note to your child that Instagram terms say a user may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content.
– 7. Set guidelines for commenting on other people’s posts. There should be nothing that could be remotely perceived as bullying or harassment, intimidation or threats, even if your child thinks of it as kidding. As we call it, nothing mean, nothing that could be taken in the wrong way, and nothing that could come back to bite you later.
– 8. Speaking of commenting, do not comment on your child’s posts without knowing whether he or she will be comfortable with that. Only you and your child can decide that together, but it is absolutely worth a discussion. Your kids may truly appreciate that you are respecting his or her online space.
– 9. Likewise, do not tag your child in photos without a discussion first. Sure, you can post photos of your kids if you choose. Just remember to ask before you tag your child in a photo that he or she might find embarrassing. Some children will not mind at all, while others may feel uneasy about being tagged by a parent.
– 10. Check your child’s account often. I have heard a few stories from parents who found questionable posts from their children several months after the fact. Do not assume that a few months of clean posts and comments is enough to stop checking the account on a regular basis. Kids will be kids, after all!
Even with a few simple rules, your child can truly enjoy the Instagram experience. And you will feel more comfortable about it too. Are your kids on Instagram? If so, what have you learned? Do you have any other tips to share?