Sometimes I take my knowledge of social media for granted. Because the truth is that while everyone under the age of 18 has never known a world without internet or cell phones, most parents have a hard time keeping up. My work requires me to use and be heavily involved with social media, and even I’m still not sure what the true purpose of Snapchat is.
Also be sure you’ve checked that the location services for Instagram have been turned off. Otherwise, your child could end up inadvertently posting their EXACT location when they upload the picture.
To do this on an iPhone, go to your regular phone Settings and then click on “Location Services” – make sure the button next to Instagram in this list is white and not green. While you’re in there, you should probably take a look at what else is being sent their location when they use it – and shut off anything you’d prefer didn’t know their location.
Even with Instagram locked down as much as possible privacy wise, it only takes one second for your best friend this morning who hates you this afternoon to screenshot one of your Instagram posts and put it out in the wild. We’ve made this clear to our kids. As such, we’ve set the following rules regarding their posts (your rules may vary):
- No identifying your location. If you post something from the beach, you call it “the beach” and not the actual name of the beach.
- Always triple check your pictures – especially the background – before posting them (the example I used was that I doubted anyone wanted a picture going live with a box of tampons visible behind them on their nightstand or that spirit banner for their high school on the wall visible).
- No hashtags (need to know what those are?) that may reveal your personal information. I cannot tell you how many tweens and teens I see putting a hashtag that identifies their high school or their gymnastics place, etc. #MYHS #acmegymnastics
- No pictures unless you’re fully clothed – this includes no pictures in bathing suits. We’ve explained how many pervs there are in this world.
- No pictures from an above angle if you’re wearing a v-neck shirt (for the same reasons).
- No purposely provocative pictures. Ever.
- No posting pictures of other people without their permission. I don’t care if it’s an awesome picture or an embarrassing one. Always get approval from anyone in a photo you want to post FIRST.
- No profanity and / or nothing that makes fun of anyone – even if it’s “just a joke”.
- No participation in “beauty contests” or anything else that could make someone else feel bad about themselves.
We’ve also driven it home as hard as possible that anything they post online is NOT private, despite even the harshest of privacy settings and in the wrong situation it could be seen by everyone.
Now that we’d set rules to protect them from the asshats of the internet (and themselves), we also laid down the law on them commenting on the photos of others (your rules may vary):
- Tone is lost on the internet. Be very careful what you say, because it can easily be taken wrong.
- If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.
- No saying anything in a comment on a friend’s photo that might reveal their location or personal information (or their real name – if it’s not displayed, there’s a reason).
- Never join a gang of idiots attacking someone online – even if you think they did something to deserve it.
- Don’t ever say anything online that you wouldn’t repeat to someone’s face – in front of ME.
- If someone ELSE acts like a jackass in the comments on your photo, delete their comments. (To delete a comment, simply click “comment” under any of your photos to bring up a screen that lists all the comments. If you tap any username and slide to the left, you’ll see a red trash can appear. Click it to delete the comment.)
We can set out the rules all we want, but that doesn’t mean our kids will follow them. I had an Instagram account before my daughter did, even though I don’t personally use it much. But if you don’t have one, get one.
FOLLOW YOUR CHILD
She follows me and I follow her. I only spot check her usage, but I make sure that every once in a while I check what photos she’s been posting. How often you check is up to you, but make sure you check (however, I’d refrain from adding “you look adorable hunny!” comments on their photos, LOL).
SPOT CHECK THEIR INSTA ON THEIR OWN PHONE
She also knows that at any point in time I may request to see her phone and look at her Instagram on it without warning. Even though I can see her photos, I can’t see what she’s following in an easy manner via my own account.
CHECK WHAT CONTENT THEY’RE SEEING
So, I’ll open her Instagram and click the icon of a heart in a bubble. This shows me the lastest posts by who’s she’s following by default. This lets me know that she’s not following content I would find objectionable.
CHECK THE ACTIVITY HAPPENING ON PHOTOS YOUR CHILD UPLOADS
If you click the “News” tab on that same screen, it will show you all of the recent activity on their photos – so you can see comments people have left, etc. It’s a good way to check if your child is being bullied online.
CHECK OUT WHAT PHOTOS YOUR CHILD IS “LIKING”
While there is no way to see what comments a user has left on which posts (it’s simply not an option – even when logged into your own account), you CAN see a listing of every photo your child has “liked” from the options screen when logged into their Instagram account.
Click the gear icon on the top right of their profile. You’ll see an option called “Posts You’ve Liked” – click it and you’ll be able to see every photo your child has ever given a thumbs up on Instagram.
VIEW WHAT HASHTAGS THEY’RE SURFING
You can also view what hashtags your child has been surfing through from their account. Click on the icon on the bottom of the screen that looks like a snowflake. That will bring up a search box with some photos underneath. Tap your finger in the search box and another screen will pop up. One tab says users and one says hashtags. Click the hashtags button and you’ll be able to see any searches your child did for a hashtag and then viewed the results for.
Keep in mind though that the search history can be easily cleared at any time on the options panel. Some kids know how to do it, some don’t. If your child isn’t clearing their search history, you may want to not make a big deal of anything you’ve found in their hashtags unless it really IS a big deal, or you can bet they’ll learn how to clear it, LOL.
If someone is bullying your kid on the service, there are ways you can report it to Instagram. There’s “kids will be kids” and then there’s the kind of messages or hate spewed towards a child like the one that spurred my writing this post.
HOW TO REPORT A SPECIFIC ACCOUNT / USER
If a specific person account is made for bullying – ala the “[juniorhighname]hatepage” account above, you can report that user as inappropriate. Using the same method I laid out above to block users your child doesn’t know (click on the person’s name and tap the arrow on the top right of their profile page to get a box to pop up), you can also report a user as inappropriate.
HOW TO REPORT A SPECIFIC PICTURE
To report a specific picture as inappropriate, click on the “…” icon on the bottom right under the picture. A box will pop up that will allow you to report that specific picture as inappropriate (not, this option only shows up on the photos of others and not your own, in case your testing this on your own account).
HOW TO REMOVE A TAG OF YOU FROM A PHOTO
Should you ever wish to remove a tag of you in a photo for any reason, just tap on the offending photo. You will see tags pop up. Click on your name. A screen will appear that allows you to hide the photo from your profile.
Once you’ve checked that off, you can also click “More Options” underneath it. That will pop up options to remove your tag from the photo and also report it as inappropriate if you need to.
HOW TO REPORT INAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS ON A PHOTO
If you see an inappropriate comment on a photo that is NOT yours, you can click on the comments button, tap that person and slide your finger to the left to get an exclamation point to show up that you can click to report the comment.
Unfortunately, you can’t report abuse on the comments left on your own photos, only delete them. But again, you can report the user in general using the above method and then delete the comment.
SPAM AND ABUSE REPORTS ARE PRIVATE
And remember that when you report something for spam, the person you report will not know it was you (in case your child is worried about retaliation).
Look, even if you get a degree on using and monitoring Instagram, the best thing you can do is talk with your kids about their usage. I frequently talk with my daughter about photos she’s posted (in a positive, “that was a great photo!” way). I refresh her memory on a rule or two here and there out of the blue.
When I see stories about “beauty pageants” occurring on Instagram, I’ll tell her about the story, ask if that’s going on in her school, ask if she’s ever seen one and I try to reinforce why those things are negative in a conversational way.
I’ve also made it clear to my kids that if they DO tell me about something bad that is happening to them or someone else on social media, that the result won’t automatically be that THEY get punished for confiding in me by losing access to their social networks. I’d rather be able to teach them how to handle / deal with idiots vs. them feeling like that either have to either keep silent or lose their access.
How I handle my kid’s Instagram usage probably varies from the way many others choose to, but I hope this post has at least allowed you to come away with a working knowledge of the service and how to keep your kids as protected – and monitored – as possible on the service.