By now, you’ve heard of Instagram, the popular photo-sharing app owned by Facebook and incredibly popular among the younger crowd.
It’s the reason your kids might stop eating their meal to take a picture of it, or why you might see others fascinated by a cup of cappuccino.
But because it’s social media, parents should be aware of some of the pitfalls associated with using Instagram.
Here’s everything you need to know:
What is Instagram?
It’s a social media app where users can share pictures. When it launched in 2010, what set Instagram apart was the ability to add filters to images to make them more appealing, a feature since copied by several rivals. Over time, Instagram has introduced features such as video, hashtags to organize photos by topic, and stories — where users add a series of photos or videos summarizing their day that disappear after 24 hours.
How popular is it?
Instagram boasts 800 million users, with an astounding 500 million using the service daily.
It is particularly popular among teens. According to a 2016 poll of teens from research firm Piper Jaffray, Instagram is considered the second most popular social network behind only Snapchat.
Why is Instagram such a huge deal?
Instagram is very simple. Take a pic, add a filter and caption, publish. That’s all you need to do to share on Instagram. Also, like most social media, there’s the obsession with bumping up your follower counts with the coolest images.
There’s a heavy celebrity influence here, too. Lots of famous people from actors to athletes use it, including Selena Gomez and Beyoncé.
And if you are really good at Instagram, you can even make money.
Should I worry about my kids using it?
Like many social networks, users can reach out to each on Instagram through comments made on posts or via private messages. This opens up users to harassment and bullying. Of course, if your profile is public, users could also get messages from people they don’t know.
Also, because Instagram is image driven, there’s the possibility your kids share stuff (or find stuff) not appropriate for public view.
Specific to Instagram, a study was released in May claiming the app was the worst for your mental health, claiming it fuels loneliness and anxiety as well as reinforces negative body images.
How can I protect them?
One benefit to Instagram is the developers offer plenty of options for users to control their experience. In settings, you have the option to set your account to private. This allows users to approve or decline followers when they send a request, similar to Facebook.
Users also have greater control over comments. On public profiles, you can block users from making comments on posts. You can also set filters to prohibit offensive language on your posts.
Another thing to check for: location sharing. If you’re concerned about kids sharing their whereabouts, have a discussion about what that means.
Kids must be 13 or older to use Instagram, according to the app’s guidelines. Instagram posts its own parents guide for users with questions.