Q: My 10-year-old son started using Instagram. He and his friends post and follow pictures. I was shocked when I saw that he has 200 followers and most he doesn’t even know. Help, this feels out of control.
A: As a parent, I empathize with you. Children’s access to social media does feel out of control. Instagram seems innocent enough, and yet it’s social media and not for children under 13. Even for teens, it’s questionable; they lack the judgment to know what’s right and wrong when it comes to posting comments and pictures. What seems cute or funny to them is not always appropriate or acceptable to others. How many times have we seen adults publicly apologizing for making off-color comments online? Allowing your child or teenager access to Instagram or other social media apps before they have the maturity to handle it makes them more vulnerable than they already are.
Here’s what you need to know:
Instagram is social media and, like Facebook, is meant to be restricted to users ages 13 and older with parental guidance.
Photos uploaded on Instagram can, by default, be viewed by anyone, anywhere.
Sharing the photo location is also an option, which allows followers to know your child’s location.
Instagram can be and has been used for cyberbullying.
When your son uses Instagram (or any social media), add privacy restrictions, follow his account, and learn how he portrays himself by reading his posts and viewing his pictures.
Remind him often that his posts can’t be taken back once out there in the world. Messages remain and can make a lasting impression.
Keep ahead of him regarding social media; learn about the social media he is asking to access. Even if you don’t intend to allow it, learn about it and the risks associated with it.