Our daughter, Ali, wrote a guest post about Internet Safety for Teens; to follow up, here she discusses 5 Instagram Safety Tips for Teens. As a non-Instagram user I kind of don’t “get” it but as the Mom of an Instagram user, I’ve needed to at least know how to navigate through it. I’m about to learn all the ins and outs. Hot off the presses, with Ali by my side, I just signed up for my very own Instagram account.
Guest Post by Ali DeCesare
A lot of the world’s youth has moved away from Facebook to migrate toward Instagram, but don’t be fooled, Instagram can be just as risky to a child as Facebook. Instagram can get…messy. From profanity and inappropriate pictures and comments to cyber bullying and hate mail. I know from first-hand experience how dangerous it can be (see my story at the end), and so I wanted to share some ideas on how to stay safe on Instagram.
Instagram is a free online social networking site that allows you to share daily life and important events through pictures. Pictures can be digitally altered with filters that the Instagram team provides.
Instagram is also an Apple app. Each post/picture is seen by the amount of followers you have. Whether it’s one or one million followers (yes: certain people do have over one million followers. Crazy, isn’t it!) all followers will see what you post.
5 Instagram Safety Tips for Teens
1. Privacy Settings
There are privacy settings on Instagram that allow you to determine who follows you. With privacy settings, sending out a request is the only way to become a follower of someone. This way is a lot safer than having a public profile because only those who you approve to follow you can see your pictures. Privacy settings also keep away unwanted followers because everyone who wants to follow you has to go through your dashboard and be approved by you. Without Privacy Settings on, it isn’t only your followers who can see your picture. Anyone can search your profile and find your pictures and profile if you don’t have Privacy Settings on.
2. Profile Appearance
Some people who are either oblivious or think they are invincible to online harassment or tracking often have their profile picture set to one of their face. This can be dangerous because if your first name and (at extreme times) your last name are on your profile, creepy people can easily do a Google search and find where you live, your age, what school you go to, where you work, your parents, your spouse, your current location. They can do all of this with only your first and last name. This goes for any social networking site, but especially one with the option for pictures like Facebook and Instagram. My recommendation is not to use a picture of yourself for your profile.
3. Location Share
There is a feature on Instagram where you can share the location of where you took the picture. If you choose this setting, you can tag your picture to anything you want, but if you click on that location once the post is up, the app brings you to a map and a small dot exactly where you were when you took the picture, down to a grid. To ensure safety, turn off location settings on the app in the settings on your i-whatevers.
4. Following and Followers
As I mentioned in tip #1, with the Privacy Settings on, people can follow you without having to be approved. (You can block someone once you’ve accepted them).
If you do an excess amount of “Following” it can be bad. You could look like an attention getter and you’re putting yourself on someone else’s radar by following them. More following leads to more followers. This can lead to more people seeing you and anything you put out there. The worst part is that someone watching could be a 40 year old man faking as a 15 year old girl. You never know on the Internet.
5. Ask Your Parents to Help You
If you’re on Instagram, whether you are a twelve year old or a teenager, make sure that you reach out to your parents to help keep you safe. One way is they can check your account. I always give my Mom my iPod to check what I’ve been posting once a week. She checks the photos and comments as well as the amount of followers I have. (After I taught her how!) If she sees something that she doesn’t like, I have to take it down. This helps me to think before I post, it helps me to judge what I should be posting or what I should keep to myself.
Having your parents check your device might be annoying or make you feel like you’re being controlled. I disliked it for a while, but if something is wrong, it’s better to have your parents know about it and have them there to help you.
My Instagram Mess-Up:
This past summer, I changed my Instagram name and started fresh. I wanted to become one of the more popular accounts on Instagram and I quickly accumulated 100 followers in the first week. I was so pumped about the stats that I didn’t think about what I was posting. Before that, I’d only accepted my closest friends as followers but for this account, I’d turned the privacy settings off to get as many followers as possible. I guess I felt more powerful having more followers and showing them my life.
One day I was on Instagram and decided to post a picture of the front of my house as well as the schedule with the name of the small town on it letting everyone know exactly where I was. As soon as I had posted it, I thought about how this could go wrong and I didn’t want my Mom to check that night. Of course, she did see it. After we talked (a long time!) I realized that even though my parents had talked to me about Internet safety many times before, I really didn’t know the full scariness of what could be out there.
I realized my mistake and although deleting it does get the picture off my account, everything you do in cyberspace could still be out there. Every time I post now, I think twice, “Would I want my parents to see this?” I think that’s a question we should all ask ourselves before we post something. Fewer people would get hurt.
My note to parents:
Most of the time, if a teen is getting cyber-bullied, they don’t want their parents to get involved. Make sure you know what is going on in your kid’s life, with all these devices and fake faces, it’s hard to tell what’s actually happening. They may be trying to hide a problem.
Instagram, like any other social networking site, can have it’s flaws and dangers. Make sure that if you are allowing your child on one, that you check up periodically to see what they are up to. Also, if a child is “banned” from a social networking site by you–the parents–they will only want to try to get what they want, most often reloading the app and posting in secret. Develop a trusting relationship with your kids and they will believe you when you say that something can be dangerous. Trust is always important, and it’s most often the reason bad things happen online.
Internet Safety Resources:
Great video made for teens: Internet Safety by Josh Shipp
Internet Safety Quiz
Netsmartz.org offers online safety information for parents, educators, law enforcement, teens, tweens and kids
Online Rules for Preteens (good for other ages, too!)
Cyber safety statistics
Internet Safety 101 is a terrific website for parents with lot’s of tools and information – here they list acronyms parents should know.