Instagram 101 : parent’s guide

Monday 6 October 2014

Did you go on Facebook just to check-in on your child? If yes, you are probably missing out on a part of your child’s virtual identity. Facebook is no longer the most used social network among teens. According to a study conducted by Piper Jaffray , teens consider Instagram as the most important social network. Twitter and Facebook complete the top 3. So, should you let you kids use Instagram ?

Instagram, a public and mobile photo-based social network
To post pictures on Instagram, you need a smartphone. You cannot post from your computer. That being said you can look at pictures from a computer. By default pictures and profiles are public. Like Twitter, you have followers on Instagram. You can follow someone else’s profile, see their pictures and vice versa. When posting a picture, users can add a comment and use hashtags. Through hashtags people can find a photo in a given category when they search. Like Facebook people can comment and like pictures.
Let’s use an example, you post a picture of yourself at Beyonce’s show with the hashtag #Beyonce and #selfie, all people around the world looking for one of these hashtags will see your picture and will be able to like and comment. That’s how you increase your follower base.
Celebrities have quickly understood the potential of Instagram. Singers, actors, athletes are now on this platform. It’s a visual media, it’s good for their image, ego and for self-promotion.

Teens report their lives on Instagram
Launched in 2010, Instagram met with instant success because of the “filters” you can apply to pictures to give them an “artsy feel”. Skin imperfections disappear and results look more like professional photos. With Instagram everyone can look like a start and have followers which they treat as fans. Like any social media, the most followers you have the more popular you are. It’s particularly true among the younger crowd. That’s why people use hashtags to gain exposure, likes and followers. Some hashtags are specialized. #follow4follow or #like4like aim to gain interactions and “artificially” increase your follower base…”I’ll follow you if you follow me” would be the direct translation. This race to popularity is addictive and has proven negative effect on sleep, stress and grades.

How to handle Instagram as a parent ?
Unless your kid is under 13 (legal age for social media), we don’t recommend you forbid your kid from going on Instagram because this will generate frustration, potential conflict, and sooner or later your child will find another social network and not tell you about it.
First of all, in order to understand their behaviors and their relation with technology, you need to talk regularly about their digital life, digital footprint, websites they like, social media they use. Social media for teens is a serious business; what happen online can have effects in “real” life.
That’s why you have to take it seriously too. Make rules and set conditions for use. For example set the profile to “private”. Private profiles prevent strangers looking at your pictures and require them to ask for permission to follow your private profile.

To set up a private profile :
1- Login to Instagram
2- Click on   for iOS and  for Android
3- At the bottom the screen, select “Post are private”

When setting your account to private, Google cannot display your pictures on Google image. This makes it harder for you or your child’s pictures to end up creating a “digital footprint” you may not want. Will your 14 year-old daughter be proud of her “duck-face selfie” five years later when she’s looking for a job?
We also recommend you limit Instagram and other social networks use to a few hours a day in order to avoid lack of sleep and distraction at school or during homework time. iChaper is an easy way to remotely block and limit app use on child’s smartphone. Based on your child’s behavior at home or at school you can give them more or less time on apps.  
Last but not least, it’s important to strike the right balance between protection and intrusion. Kids see Instagram as a place of freedom with no parents around. If you follow your child on Instagram and comment or react to their posts, they will quickly migrate towards another platform. Its best to keep building a trusting relationship rather than play a cat and mouse game of “which social network are you now on?” !
Nonetheless, it’s important to teach them about some of the dangers, such as cyber-bullying. Kids can hurt someone by posting harsh comments; they can also be victims of bullying. That’s why it’s important to keep an open dialogue so kids can talk quickly about trouble they encounter when it happens and before it builds into something too dangerous or important.  
It’s hard for parents to keep up with their kids’ digital habits, Instagram does not look like it’s going anywhere fast, but new social networks like Snapchat and Whisper pop-up all the time. We’ll do our best to keep you updated on the latest teen-trends.

Posted by Shaun

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