What Is Instagram? Everything Parents Need To Know

November 6, 2015  |  

by Jessa Barron

Facebook is still one of the most popular social media platforms around, but as more and more adults are joining it, teens are opting for newer channels to share selfies and photos with friends. One of those channels is the Facebook-owned Instagram, which is a popular photo and video-sharing app available on most smartphones and tablets. With more than 50 percent of American teens using Instagram, it’s an app that parents should not only understand, but also make sure their teens are using safely. To help parents get a better grasp on how Instagram works, we’ve highlighted everything you need to know about the app.

What is Instagram?

Instagram launched a little over five years ago and currently has over 400 million users worldwide, according to the company. It started as a photo-sharing app, but has since grown to include videos and a private messaging feature as well. Here’s how it works: users upload photos or videos from their smartphones and publish it on their profile for anyone who “follows” them to see. If a user doesn’t opt to make their profile private, anyone who has an account with app can see what they’re sharing on the platform by searching for their username or a hashtag they attached to a photo.

Unlike Snapchat, the app is available on more than iOS and Android devices. It can also be used on Windows phones, and there is a limited web version available, which doesn’t allow users to post anything, but they can still log in and see what their followers are posting. This also means that anyone with an Instagram account can see what your child is posting (if their account is public). It should be noted that public accounts can also be found using a search engine — meaning if someone searches for your child’s name and “Instagram,” they can find the account.

Is there any reason to be concerned with my kids using Instagram?

As previously mentioned, public Instagram accounts can essentially be viewed by anyone with an Internet-enabled device; you don’t need an Instagram account to see what others are posting. This might cause some concern for parents, especially those with younger children who aren’t fully aware of how public their Instagram photos and videos are.

Additionally, the apps messaging feature could also be of concern to parents. Much like Twitter’s direct messaging options, when Instagram first unrolled this feature, it only allowed users to send and receive messages from mutual followers — both you and the user had to follow each other in order to send or receive messages. Now, however, anyone can send a direct message to any user — regardless of if they are following them back or not. As such, parents have no control over who is trying to contact their child.

Another aspect that parents should take note of is Instagram’s terms of use, which states that “you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service … including but not limited to sections 3 (“Sharing of Your Information”), 4 (“How We Store Your Information”), and 5 (“Your Choices About Your Information”).” This essentially means Instagram has the legal right to use or share anything you post on the app. By simply downloading the app and creating an account, you will be required to agree to these terms of use, which you can read in full here.

How can I make sure my kids are being safe on Instagram?

Because Instagram does offer users the option to make profiles private, you should make sure that your child has this feature enabled. While there is no way to keep anything online completely private these days, this can be a helpful safeguard to keep your child’s profile away from unwanted eyes. To do this, log into your child’s profile using their smartphone and click on the three vertical dots on the top right corner — this will bring you to the Options page. From there, you click on the toggle button next to Private Account (as shown in the photo below), select OK and you’re all set.


In addition, you should also speak with your children about the importance of keeping their photos and videos just between their friends and people they know in real life. Let them know that they can come talk to you should a stranger try to contact or follow them using any social media platform (not only Instagram). Keeping an open line of communication when it comes to social media is a great way to let your child know you’re there to help them in these situations.

Looking for an extra level of monitoring? A parental control software may be a big help, especially Net Nanny’s software. Its standard parental control license only monitors Facebook, however its add-on, Net Nanny Social, monitors your child’s friends list/followers, pictures and posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+ and LinkedIn. With Net Nanny Social, parents can keep track of activity on all these platforms at all times — even when their child is away at school — as it also monitors these networks on a variety of Internet access points, including 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, home network and hot spot connections. Read our Net Nanny review to learn more about the top-rated software.

Also, follow our parental controls blog to get more tips on how you can protect your children from cyberbullying and other online threats.

Reprinted with permission from Next Advisor.

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