Why do kids love Instagram?
Instagram is a photo-sharing app with a whole lot of emphasis on the sharing – more like photo-enhanced socializing. It's a way of communicating mainly through images. Young people like taking, enhancing, sharing and commenting on photos - but they're not just commenting; they're socializing with photos, creating ongoing mixed-media conversations that include plenty of likes and links.
Does Instagram have a minimum age?
Yes, it's 13, in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. 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 photos that can hurt a child’s reputation or attract the wrong kind of attention.
What's the best way to help kids stay safe in 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 provocative 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. That doesn't, though, 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 and their friends and how they use the app.
Instagram Stories & Go Live
Instagram now has 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 the person takes a screenshot of their video.
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.
Updated June 2017
Update October 2016: Since this article was published Instagram has added a story mode where people can take videos throughout the day and post them for everyone to see. They have also added a private message feature.
Updated September 2016: Please note, since this article was written, Instagram has updated some of its safety settings and its logo. Find out about more about the latest parental controls on Instagram here.