During my workshops for The Motivation Project I take photos with the teenagers involved and both the participants and myself love seeing these images up on Instagram. They love the fact that they have a new person to follow and who may follow them back, a new connection. Recently, I was asked to provide a bit of an explanation about Instagram as some parents were unsure about this social media outlet and therefore (understandably!) whether it was safe to allow permission for me to post their child’s image online. This is for all parents who may be worried about their child’s social media activity…
Your child or teenager may want or already have an Instagram account. If you don’t know much about this form of social media, you will likely have concerns. Let me tell you a bit more about Instagram and how you can help your child enjoy social media in a safe and fun way:
Instagram is a form of social media on which it’s users share photos/images of their choosing. My experience of young girls and boys on Instagram is that their images consist mainly of themselves with their friends and the odd selfie or two. The idea is that users can follow each other and in teen world, the more followers the better. Sound distressing? Here’s the catch; users can set their profile to ‘private’ which means no one can see, like or comment on their images without first requesting to follow them. If your children are smart online, and trust me most of them are, they will decline requests from anyone who they don’t know.
I have only ever followed young teenagers whom I have met in my workshops and the good news is so far, I have never come across a teen who has their Instagram profile set to public. See, they deserve more credit!
Instagram has a policy that it shouldn’t be used for under 13 year olds but we all know that young people are smart enough to change their birth date to be allowed an account! You could enforce the 13+ rule with your child but it’s probably more realistic to ensure you’ve followed the below steps to make sure that they can enjoy social media in a safe and fun way.
Double Check Privacy
Although I have never yet encountered a teenager who has their profile set to public, double check with your child that they have followed this crucial rule of thumb. Not only does it mean their images can’t be seen by anyone they have not accepted, it also means that their non-followers can’t see any comments they make or comments/pictures their friends have tagged them in, regardless of whose profile it may be on!
I think teenagers are smarter than we give them credit for in this area, but make sure that they know to only accept follow requests from people who they know personally.
This is probably the trickiest part of a teen being on Instagram. Just because no one can see their images doesn’t stop them from seeing other people’s. They can follow anyone they like including celebrities and lingerie models. Although, most teens I have come in contact with are more concerned with following Emma Watson than Victoria’s Secret! My social media workshops are mainly to impart the knowledge that there could be implications on young people’s self-esteem due to social media; you may want to limit the time they spend on these outlets per day as a prevention tool.
Just because they’re accepting people they know, it won’t necessarily protect them from online bullying. Bullying online can be worse than in person as negative comments are there for all (their followers) to see and aren’t easily removed. Make sure you’re aware of any, at times subtle, behavioural changes, especially the way they act with their phone. If you notice anything odd or different then it’s time to talk.
I’m encouraging young people to use social media as a positive outlet so if they’ve taken my workshop they’ll hopefully just be showering each other with compliments online!
Make sure they know that their Instagram profile nickname is NOT a place to display their full/family name. In this instance, the sillier their Instagram profile nickname, the better. It stops unwanted followers as it makes them harder to find so of course serves as an excellent prevention tool.
In addition to this, they shouldn’t use the location feature on any of their images. Let them know that their pictures are great but no one needs to know where they were taken.
You may have noticed that most of the above involves communicating with your teenager about what they do online. The more they know that you’re trying to understand and respect the fact that they want to use social media, the more they will feel comfortable coming to you if anything does go wrong. If anything ever happens that makes them feel as though their online identity is in jeopardy, you want them to come to you first!
Top tip: Ask them to demonstrate to you how Instagram works. They’ll probably love the role reversal as they can teach you something and you might even have a little fun!
Can’t beat em, join em!
If all else fails it may be time for you to open your own Instagram account. It’s the best way for you to have true peace of mind that you know what it’s all about and that your teen/their friends are practicing good online safety.
P.S. If you still have questions or concerns please feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to help!