With over 2 billion active monthly users, Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms. It’s particularly popular with younger generations, including teenagers, who use it as the main form of communication and sharing moments in their life.
However, just like the physical world, the digital world has its share of safety concerns. Instagram has quite a lot of security downfalls, from scammers and hackers trying to extract payments to online predators and bullies. We must understand these concerns and provide guidance to ensure our teenagers’ online experiences are safe and positive.
Instagram Safety Tips for Teenagers
Here are some key Instagram safety tips for teenagers:
1. Understanding privacy settings
First and foremost, teaching our teens about Instagram’s privacy settings is essential. A private account ensures posts can only be viewed by approved followers, not by the public or unapproved users. Encouraging your teen to set their account to private can offer a significant first layer of protection.
Moreover, they should be cautious about sharing location tags. While it’s exciting to share the places they’ve visited, location tags could reveal more personal information than intended. Discuss the risks of sharing too much information publicly to help them understand the importance of online privacy.
2. Online predators
Unfortunately, the internet opens up avenues for online predators who may try to exploit publicly available personal information. It’s crucial to educate our teens about this harsh reality. Encourage them to only accept the ‘follow’ requests and direct messages from people they know personally. Also, explain the potential dangers of revealing too much personal information on their public profiles, including their home or school location.
The digital world is not immune to bullying, and Instagram is no exception. Ensure your teenagers are aware of how to handle such situations. Teach them to report inappropriate or abusive comments and behavior they encounter on the platform. Instagram provides features to manage such situations, like the “Restrict” feature, which allows users to control the visibility of comments from specific users.
4. Mental health impact
While Instagram is a source of inspiration and a platform for self-expression, it can also impact users’ mental health. A study by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK found that Instagram could negatively affect young people’s mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, loneliness, and poor body image.
This reality calls for open conversations with our teenagers about the impact of social media on mental health. Remind them that posts on Instagram often showcase only the highlights of people’s lives and are not an accurate representation of everyday reality. Encourage them to limit their time on the app, take regular breaks, and focus on real-world interactions.
5. Establishing boundaries
As in real life, setting digital boundaries is vital. Talk with your teen about what content is appropriate to share and what is not. A helpful rule to follow is not to share anything they wouldn’t want their grandparents or future employers to see. Remember, the internet never forgets, and a simple screenshot can immortalize a post.
6. Dealing with spam and scams
Scams and spammy content exist all over the internet, and Instagram is no exception, particularly due to its popularity. Teach your teenagers to recognize these red flags and avoid clicking on suspicious links, even if they appear to come from a friend. They should also be wary of requests for personal or sensitive information, as scammers often can use this knowledge for worse.
7. Essential online security tools
Using secure cloud storage services can add a layer of safety for teenagers. They can remain safe by storing data, such as photos and videos, in the cloud.
One of the main advantages of using secure cloud storage is that it provides a data backup. This means that even if a teenager’s device is lost, stolen, or compromised by malware or a virus, their data remains accessible from any other device with internet access. This can be particularly important for school work, cherished memories captured in photos or videos, or necessary personal information.
For an added layer of security, consider implementing two-factor authentication. This step ensures that even if someone knows your teenager’s password, they won’t be able to access the account without a second verification step.
8. Open Communication is Key
Perhaps most importantly, ensure your teen feels comfortable talking to you about their online experiences. Regularly discuss online safety and the potential issues they might encounter on Instagram. Let them know they can approach you with any uncomfortable or confusing experiences they face online, and keep calm in front of your teenager even if you see something you don’t like.
Like any social media platform, Instagram can be a fun, creative, and socially engaging platform for teenagers. However, it’s not without its risks. As parents and guardians, it’s our responsibility to arm our children with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate these platforms safely.
The digital world doesn’t have to be scary or dangerous if we’re prepared and educated. With open communication and a solid understanding of online safety measures, our teens can enjoy Instagram while keeping safe.