What Parents should know about Teenagers and Instagram | Mum In The Madhouse

What Parents should know about Teenagers and Instagram

At the end of 2018, I attended a conference at Instagram about Teenagers and social media, specifically teenagers and Instagram. I am not going to lie, it has taken me all this time to try and process the thoughts that came out of the event and also from my experience of parenting one teen and one soon to be teen boy. Plus add that to the fact that I once was a teen and a pretty tearaway one at that (I hope my boys are better behaved than I was)!

What parents should know about teenagers and Instagram. Get up to speed on the photosharing app and its safety features to discuss with your teenager.

Teenagers and Instagram

Firstly, I am going to hold my hands up and say I succumbed to peer pressure and both of my boys have private Instagram accounts and both have since they started senior school. Yes, I know this is against the guidelines which state 13, however, I know a lot of their mates had it even earlier (I know, I am trying to justify it)!

Secondly, I think that I am pretty clued up on social media since it is part of my job and therefore, I am more aware of the pitfalls but also aware of how much it can enhance your life when used well.

The biggest takeaway of the whole day for me is that teenagers make no differentiation between their online and offline life – It is all real life. So we need to discuss it as such. I have always included online issues when we discuss things such as bullying, stranger danger and such and this was really reinforced as the right decision by the teens I talked to (who were all 16 and over) and to other people on the panel.

The purpose of the conference was to launch Instagrams parents guide resource. The guide (which you can download here) is full of advice on how to ensure you have the correct settings for your child, how to use the tools and inspiring accounts to follow. It is a pretty comprehensive resource for parents of Teens and I believe a must read before allowing your children access to the app.

Instagram is taking steps to make the app a safe place for our teenagers and have filters that automatically remove offenses phrases and words but from experience, I know that they do not pick up everything, so it is important to arm your child with the knowledge of how they can filter specific words (and emojis) and block comments from individuals and how to anonymously report people.

However, I do feel that there are many more steps that need to be taken by Instagram to ensure that it is a safe place for our teens and this was compounded this week with the news about Molly Russell’s death. I would like to see a way to way to stop children under 16 from having access to certain search terms and hashtags and a stronger policing of the platform.

My Top Tips for Teenagers and Instagram

Familiarise yourself with all the safety features. When you first give your child access to Instagram ensure that you are aware and have turned on all the filters and blocked any offensive words that you do not want in their comments or direct messages. It is important to know on Instagram that photos and videos are public by default and can contain location data. So it’s important for kids to use privacy settings to limit their audience.

Make sure you are aware of any social media app before allowing your child access and don’t rule out using a parental control app. If you are unclear then ask a friend or older teen to talk you through it. My friend’s older children are a great source of information and advice and they always know the pitfalls. There is a lot more to Instagram than it being just a place to share selfies, the messaging side is a big draw for most teens and people. Knowledge is power and the more you know the more you can guide them.

Don’t assume that they will only have the one account you are aware off. I know lots of children who have more than one Instagram account in addition to the one their parents know off. The internet is not a private place and if they are looking for privacy then they should be writing in a diary and not putting it on the internet. As I tell my boys’ I pay for their phones. I don’t follow my kids on social media (as that would be embarrassing for them) so, I rely on a small group of friends and family (who do follow them and I follow their children) who police their activity and I know will come to me and share anything and I reciprocate with them.

Keep an open line of communication with your children at all times and , I have access to their passwords and also to their accounts, however, I do not check them that often now, but they understand that I do and what is acceptable and unacceptable. We work on the line that if they wouldn’t be happy for something to be read out in front of their class at school then it isn’t suitable for the internet. My boys’ are pretty switched on thanks to lots of classes and discussions at school and I learn from them as much as they learn from me.

The mute facilities are a fabulous way of removing content from your stream and also stories (each can be muted separately) without the user knowing, so perfect if you need a break from the content without the risk of offending anyone by unfollowing them. Not that people should be offended if you unfollow them but the politics of being a teen are hard to navigate.

My biggest tip would be talk and listen and then keep talking and listening and don’t start a conversation when you are tired and emotional. There is a saying about listening to the little things with your children as they will one day be the big things. I think this is the best way to approach technology with them. I admit to my boys’ that it is as much a learning curve for me as it was them as when I was their age the internet didn’t exist (Gosh that makes me feel old)! I reiterate that I love them unconditionally and that they can come to me with any issues at all and we will deal with them together in ways that are appropriate for everyone and I must be doing something right as when the boys wanted extensions on the screens moved past a set time as they got older they both wrote is a letter explaining what they wanted and why they wanted. They were polite and quite persuasive and although we still don’t let them have their phones in their rooms after a set time we did compromise.

What parents should know about teenagers and Instagram. Get up to speed on the photosharing app and its safety features to discuss with your teenager.

I would love to know how you deal with technology and your teenagers and if you have any tips or things to add.

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