How to Keep Kids Safe on Instagram
If you’re a parent dealing with a teenage kid, you’ve probably wondered: how are you supposed to keep your kid safe on Instagram? There is no doubt that social media platforms like Instagram pose many risks to adolescents. Even though every child over 13 can have an account on Instagram, it doesn’t mean it’s safe for them to use it. Instagram doesn’t have a kids version or parental control options, and kids over 13 can use all of its features with no restriction, just like adults.
If you’d like to find out about the most destructive threats Instagram can inflict on your child and how to avoid them, read the article below.
Instagram: Worst Social Media Platform for Teens’ Mental Health
Statistics show that over 8.5% of Instagram users are teenagers under 18, and 62% of teens are active on Instagram. That makes it the third most used social media platform by teenagers, only slightly behind YouTube and TikTok. The horrifying truth, however, is how dangerous it can be for your child’s mental health. It can create many mental health problems and intensify already existing ones. Teens who already struggle with mental health say being on Instagram worsens their condition.
The trouble is young adults are both intensely drawn to social media platforms like Instagram and also highly vulnerable to them. Various studies show that younger people are the age group most susceptible to the dangers of Instagram. Among them, teenage girls are most vulnerable to the mental health issues it can impose. Another group heavily influenced by the dangers of Instagram are transgender and gender-diverse teens. That being said, it doesn’t mean that Instagram won’t affect other youngsters negatively as well.
Instagram: Dangers and Threats
Below are some of the most prominent dangers of Instagram and the mental health problems they can cause for teenagers:
Unfortunately, social media allows for two types of stalking: actual and virtual. As if having virtual stalkers who follow your every step on social media isn’t bad enough, Instagram’s location-sharing feature allows your stalkers to take their game a step further. Instagram enables your child to pick a location for their post or story; if their account is public, anyone can learn where they are or the spots they frequent. As you know, there is no lack of child predators and creeps on social media. They might stalk your child online, and then decide to actually stalk them at the locations they share.
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Catfishing was one of the first dangers to appear with the prevalence of the internet. As you don’t necessarily have direct face-to-face contact with people on the internet, you might always come across accounts that are pretending to be somebody else. There may be various reasons for this, the most common being phishing. Catfishers might try to form a close relationship with your child, and inflict serious emotional damage on them. You need to warn your child about identity theft too. Catfishers might take advantage of your child’s picture or name.
One of the most dangerous threats on social media (and in reality, as well), grooming, is a technique used by older people to form an unhealthy emotional bond with youngsters and take advantage of them. Instagram, albeit unintentionally, makes it much easier for groomers to pick their victims and, slowly but surely, start to abuse them, getting your child to act and behave as they (groomers) wish.
Not all bullies do what they do best (or worst, for that matter) on school grounds. Some only act mean toward other kids on social media. Cyberbullies might not have the typical bully look; you may not even be able to tell they’re actually bullies by looking at them, none the less they can be just as destructive. Most trans and gender-diverse kids experience severe cyberbullying, probably more severe than other kids. You need to warn your child about cyberbullies and get them to block and report them immediately before they’re given the chance to cause much harm.
Instagram is deliberately designed to be highly addictive. Its user interface is meant to get you to scroll further and further down and keep you in the app for as long as possible. If your teenage child starts to use it without being monitored, they are very likely to develop an addiction to Instagram and also other addictive behaviors in general.
Social media platforms like Instagram that promote content and operate based on statistics (like the number of views, likes, saves, and interactions) can make your child try to get these numbers up any way they can. For that purpose, they might even try to make a fool of themselves or embarrass those around them online, no matter how destructive it may be. Instagram can also cause and intensify approval seeking in your child alarmingly, and get them to turn into total people-pleasers.
A platform like Instagram, which constantly shows you other people’s alleged happiest moments and most significant achievements, inevitably causes a certain amount of social comparison. This level of comparison is usually much higher for teens and can create high, unrealistic expectations of themselves. It can put way too much pressure on them to become more, better, perfect. When they can’t meet these expectations, other problems will eventually arise, such as:
As if being a teenager isn’t too much trouble in and of itself, being on social media platforms like Instagram can double that trouble. Your child is prone to comparing themselves to other more privileged kids, and even models and celebrities. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts and behavior.
Decrease in self-esteem
All the glam shared on Instagram can cause your child to feel inferior, and visibly reduce their self-esteem, especially if they’re constantly subjected to the seemingly fabulous lifestyle of celebrities.
Body image issues
Even though many influencers are taking a more body-positive approach on Instagram, the main approach remains the same: the thinner, the better. As a result, many teenagers develop body image problems, which can eventually lead to deadly eating disorders. Most of all, teenage girls suffer from this problem in particular.
How Can You Keep Your Kid Safe on Instagram?
If anything a parent to a teenage kid knows is that banning something only makes teenagers strive harder to get their hands on it. So, you can’t really keep your adolescent child from being on Instagram, especially when all of their friends are using it. There are, however, certain things you can do to make it a safer, more secure space for your child.
First and foremost, you need to talk to your child about the dangers of social media and let them know how to keep those dangers to a minimum. The other crucial thing to do is to set parental controls on their Instagram so you can monitor their activities there. However, keep in mind that teenagers require a certain amount of privacy. Therefore, it’s best to allow them a bit of that while still making sure of their safety.
If you’d like to know more detailed practical ways to keep your teenage kid safe on Instagram, check out 4 Steps to Keep Kids Safe on Instagram on Safes website.