What parents need to know about Instagram

Here’s a little test to see how much you know about Instagram. Did you know Instagram has a feature that enables you to restrict screen time? Did you know it uses an automatic anti-bullying filter to stop users from seeing inappropriate posts? Or that you can set filters to stop certain words and emojis appearing in your comments?

Picture of Instagram's guide for parents.
The new guide for parents produced by Instagram.

No, I didn’t know any of this either, even though I am a blogger and use the social media platform every single day. I don’t mind admitting I felt slightly embarrassed admitting to my lack of knowledge, not just because I am a heavy user of Instagram, but because I am a father of two daughters. The oldest of my children is showing an increasing interest in using social media. I have a responsibility to know this stuff.

What parents need to know about Instagram

At the age of 9, Helen, my oldest child, is not allowed to use Instagram. The organisation’s own policies say you must be at least 13, but I have been speaking to both Helen and her younger sister about social media because I know they will use it themselves one day.

Knowing us parents can find Instagram a difficult subject to navigate, the social media giant has produced a guide for parents about how to talk to teens about using the platform. It was launched at an event called #timewellspent at Instagram’s London headquarters and I was fortunate enough to be there.

John Adams of Dadbloguk posing in front of Instagram banner.
I‘m a blogger and I was at Instagram’s London HQ. Of course I was going to get a gratuitous selfie taken in front of this large sign.

A parent’s guide to Instagram

The pocket-sized guide is ideal for the Instagram novice. It starts with an introduction to Instagram and includes a glossary of terms parents may not be familiar with.

If you’re unsure about your feed or your profile or are unfamiliar with the difference between IGTV and stories, then you’ll find the glossary useful. I have had a good look at the glossary and I’m pleased to say the terms were all familiar to me, although they wouldn’t be to many people.

Also in the guide are instructions about setting time limits and instructions for managing interactions. For me, however, one of the most useful sections of the guide is a list of questions you can ask your teenager to get them talking about Instagram.

It’s a shrewd move as teens are not always the most communicative and parents may not have much knowledge of the platform so might be unsure how to start such conversations. The questions were written in collaboration with Anna Homayoun, an education specialist and author of Social Media Wellness

There’s a list of 10 questions. They’re cleverly designed to inspire a conversation and includes gems such as:

  • What do you wish I knew about Instagram and
  • How do likes and comments affect how you feel about a post?

You’ll find the guide online at parents.instagram.com. Even if you are an experienced user of Instagram, I’d suggest you download the guide. I certainly learned a lot about the controls Instagram has put in place to keep users, especially young users, safe and ensure their time on Instagram is well spent.

#timewellspent launch event

The launch event itself featured presentations from Emma Collins and Ali McInerney, Instagram’s UK Public Policy Manager and UK Head of Communications respectively. 

There was also a panel discusssion, chaired by Claudia Winkleman, that looked at what parents can do to ensure their children have a positive online experience. The panel featured Justine Roberts of Mumsnet, Liberty Neave and her mother Vickie Neave who are both prominent users of Instagram’s and also Tessy Ojo, Chief executive of The Diana Awards who do a lot of work with youngsters to tackle online bullying and promote digital resilience. 

Panel discussion taking place at Instagram's #timewellspent event.
L-R: Claudia Winkleman, Justine Roberts of Mumsnet, Libery Neave and her mother Vicky Neave, both prominent users of Instagram and Tessy Ojo chief executive of  the Diana Award. 

For me, two very clear points came out of the discussion. Firstly, children are influenced by adults. If kids see adults behaving badly online they will do the same (and I, for one, have seen atrocious behaviour online and I’m sad to say, some of it within the blogging community).

The second point was that you should keep having discussions with your children about how to use social media and you should start those conversations while they are young. Having one talk and hoping for the best is unlikely to achieve much. Technology changes, new platforms come online and as children get older, the things they do online change so you must keep having those chats.

The other suggestion made at the event was that you start teenagers off with a private account. This way teenagers can learn how to use Instagram and will have much greater control over who sees their posts and who they interact with.

What’s your experience?

Is this an issue you have already had to deal with? If so, how did you do it? If not, how do you plan to do so? Use of social media is such a critical topic I think us mums and dads should swap ideas and experiences so we can learn from each other. Please do write about your experiences in a comment below or on social media where I can be found at@dadbloguk (…including on Instagram).

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