According to Common Sense Media, this is an ideal app for children age 15+. Parents generally say it’s okay for 13+, and kids, of course, say it’s okay for ages 12+.
Instagram, along with many other social media websites and apps have a minimum age of 13 before you can legally have an account. The reason for the account age limitation is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, that protects children from marketing until that age. It’s a good idea to wait until your child is 13 for both safety and privacy reasons, but if you decide to let your child join before they are that age, it’s important to talk with them about IG likes, how they’ll use the account, cyberbullying, and bring up any concerns you may have.
If you haven’t already, you should also sign up for the service so you can become familiar with it, and follow your child so you can keep a close eye on the kind of content they are posting, as well as the people who are interacting with them. Bear in mind children can easily create additional accounts to avoid you seeing what they don’t want you to see, so a lot of their usage will come down to your trust in them.
What is Instagram?
Instagram is a photo and video sharing application available for smartphones and tablets. A web version is available, but you cannot add new content to the platform that way. You can only view and comment it on it from a web browser, whether on a smartphone or desktop.
Direct messages allow users to send private messages to and from one another, as well as the time you were last seen in the app. This allows people to see you’re online, but not answering their messages. A green status dot shows your friends you’re active in the app. Privacy/account settings allow this feature to be turned off.
Users also have the ability to stream live video, which will disappear within 24 hours. There’s also the ability to create Stories, with selected images, that will also disappear within 24 hours, much like Snapchat.
Instagram’s Privacy Settings
Everything is public by default, so you will have to go into the account settings and make the account private. That means people will not be able to see what your child posts unless your child approves them to follow them. Followers can be removed at anytime.
The username and name on the account should not give away any details about the child’s real name, as these things are public even when the profile is set to private. The profile photo is also public.
Photos and Video Can Contain Location Data
The Instagram platform collects data regarding the location (latitude and longitude) of where the photo was taken, if the device that took the photo supports this. Instagram used to have a map that displayed where all the photos were tagged, but they have since removed this feature because of privacy concerns.
There is a setting in the privacy settings that will prevent Instagram from sharing location data, though users have the option to add it themselves.
Is Your Child Mature Enough?
You technically cannot have access to their account per Instagram’s rules – so unless you know your child’s password (and trust them not to change it on you) you won’t be able to control what they post.
Make sure your child knows how to block people who are inappropriate, and report any inappropriate content they see to Instagram for possible removal. Walk through the app with them so they know how to use the features to help keep them safe.
If your child is not mature enough to follow the rules you’ve set forth, or doesn’t understand the potential repercussions of what they post on social media and how it could affect them, then it may not be time for an account. They need to know that what you post online never really goes away – even if you delete it, there’s always a chance someone else saw it and took a screenshot of it before you deleted it.
Make sure they understand the consequences of sharing certain types of photos. Make sure they understand whatever rules you set forth for them and why – and know what will happen if they are caught violating those rules.
You can use a service like Bark to monitor your child’s social media activity and become alerted if there is any kind of inappropriate conversation going on – bullying, suicidal ideations/discussions, acts of violence, sexual harassment, and so on. Even this service requires your children to provide their passwords to the accounts, so you cannot use it without their consent. However, if you make their social media use contingent upon agreeing to use something like this, you’ll have the ability to monitor their activity while they earn your trust.
Even once your child turns 13 and is legally allowed to have an account under Instagram’s terms and conditions, it’s still up to you as a parent to make sure they are ready to use social media responsibly. If you are not familiar with the platform, it’s best to wait until you’ve learned it before you allow your child to use it.