Today, I have some very valuable information to share.
While most parents understand Facebook, there are very few who understand Instagram – a photo sharing social networking app. And that’s the reason why more and more children prefer having an account on Instagram, instead of Facebook.
Although, the legal age for accessing these sites is 13 years, younger children bypass the age restriction by simply registering with a false birth date. This also means that they don’t get covered under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which protects kids from data tracking.
So if you have a child belonging to the ‘selfie generation’, here are five things about Instagram which you must know:
1) Though Instagram is primarily a photosharing and messaging app, in reality it’s a search engine for billions of images/videos – from cats to celebrities, funny photos to porn; it’s all there! Kids share #hashtags (search terms) for Instagram and even though some obvious search terms like #bikinibody are banned bythe site, ironically, innocent ones like #goldcoast could bring up porn content.
2) What’s worse is – Since it’s an app, Instagram bypasses all ‘adult content filters’ and parental software controls. Restrictions and filters set up on a smart phone don’t apply to apps like Instagram. Unfortunately, it’s very likely that your child comes across R and X-rated content, unintentionally. Children could also use the app to hide conversations from parents who check text messages, exposing themselves to cyber crime, bullying and poor mental health. The “Discover Section” or “Search Section” of Instagram is filled with sexualized images and explicit material.
3) The cool thing about Instagram is that it allows users to easily apply photographic filters and visual effects that can transform mundane images into spectacular works of art. Somewhere this might create feelings of inadequacy in young minds. They tend to feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough since other users add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect’!
4) Instagram has “followers” similar to Twitter. Anyone on Instagram can potentially see pictures and videos that your child posts unless your child is using private account mode and is using that tool’s access restrictions.
5) Instagram also features a map that may show where your child’s pictures were taken. It does this based on the geotagged photo capability of their smartphone. To turn off Instagram’s ability to geotag future photos, you must disable its access to your child’s phone’s location services.
The fact is that our children are vulnerable (because they are children) and we need to stop pretending that social media platforms, like Instagram, are safe for them (because they are not).