Instagram is the most popular social media app around, particularly among teenagers. As such, it’s vital for parents to know the risks their child might face.
To start with, Instagram is built to be highly addictive — and children can connect with anyone on the platform. This raises several potential dangers, such as cyberbullying, low self-esteem, body image issues, stalking, phishing, and more.
Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t currently offer any stringent parental controls. But it does have a range of privacy features that every parent should know how to set up. These include the ability to:
- Have a private account that prevents strangers from seeing posts or sending messages
- Limit unwanted interactions with other users
- Block sensitive content that may be unsuitable for children
With over a billion monthly active users, Instagram is currently the most popular social media app. As of October 2021, 8% of Instagram users are between 13 and 17 years old. This makes it vital to consider: is Instagram safe for kids?
Moreover, what can parents do to monitor their kids on this social media app and ensure they stay safe? This article will explore the potential dangers of Instagram for children and the parental controls it offers.
Is Instagram Safe for Kids?
Like other social media platforms such as YouTube and Reddit, Instagram is built to be addictive. It aims to attract as many people as possible to use the app for as long as possible. However, extended screen time isn’t the only problem with this platform.
On Instagram, users can share and view images and videos; follow and interact with other people; and send private messages (known as “direct messages” or “DMs”) to anyone on the app. This means children can connect with anyone on the platform without fully knowing who that person is.
Fake accounts abound on the platform, as do child predators. Moreover, Instagram is owned by Facebook, now known as Meta, which is notorious for its murky privacy practices and lack of content regulation.
Considering these aspects, below are some of the main dangers of Instagram that parents should be aware of when allowing their kids to use the platform.
Cyberbullying on Instagram
If you run a simple Google search on “cyberbullying on Instagram,” you’ll find endless news stories and research articles about the issue.
According to the 2017 Annual Bullying Survey, 42% of respondents experienced cyberbullying on Instagram. This was higher than any other platform, with Facebook coming in second at 37%.
Additionally, a 2019 survey by the Cyberbullying Research Center revealed that 36.5% of respondents experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lives. This can be from children’s friends and schoolmates, as well as random strangers.
It’s clear then that cyberbullying is a major threat for kids on all social media platforms — and, unfortunately, it can have severe long-term effects, such as severe emotional distress, depression, violence, and more.
Emotional effects on kids
Instagram has been extensively linked to anxiety, negative body image, and other adverse effects in users of all ages.
However, it’s especially harmful to the mental health of kids, particularly teenage girls. This is because the platform tends to promote constant comparison with others, a need for perfection, and other such behaviors that can emotionally scar children. Teens can easily feel “left out” and “less than” if they cannot flaunt the same lifestyles or looks that they see online.
Moreover, Instagram is flooded with celebrities and influencers who can spread misleading information on everything from health to politics. They can also encourage kids to buy products and services that are fake, harmful, exorbitantly expensive, or simply unnecessary.
Instagram privacy issues
Just like other websites and apps, Instagram collects information about users. It can be a privacy nightmare when kids and teens post personal information about themselves.
Imagine a stranger being privy to who your child’s friends are, where they go to school, what their daily routine looks like, and where they like to go on weekends. It’s pretty easy to piece together this information from Instagram profiles and posts. Children can then be stalked in real life and roped into dangerous situations.
Plus, strangers can get ahold of your child’s contact information and begin bullying, spamming, or catfishing them through different communication channels.
How to Keep Kids Safe on Instagram
All of the risks mentioned above make it essential to set up the privacy controls that Instagram offers and educate children about online safety from a young age. Unfortunately, Instagram does not specifically offer any parental controls. But there are several steps parents can take to make Instagram safer for kids and teens. Below are our top tips.
1. Talk to your kids
Before anything else, talk openly to your children about the potential dangers of social media and how they can stay safe when using it. Simply banning kids from using the platforms is not a solution because they’re likely to secretly use it anyway without your knowledge, which can make matters worse.
Instead, allow them the freedom to use Instagram — but monitor their activities in a healthy and respectful way. You can talk to them about privacy and help them change some of the settings listed below. Most importantly, make sure your children feel safe about coming to you if they face any trouble on Instagram.
2. Use parental control apps
Parental control apps can help you monitor your kids’ online activity and set limits about what they can do online and for how long.
However, we recommend that you use these third-party apps with caution to ensure you’re also respecting your children’s privacy. For instance, parental control apps are more suitable for young kids below 13 years of age, as they need more supervision.
Teenagers, on the other hand, should be granted privileges that don’t make them feel constantly monitored. It’s a good idea to be open with your kids about the parental control app you’re using and why. Let them know what information you’ll be seeing, and don’t unnecessarily pry into their online activity and chats.
One of the best parental control apps we recommend is Bark. It does a great job of only flagging potential concerns so that your child can enjoy some privacy too and learn how to use the internet responsibly. Click the button below to visit the Bark website for more details about the app.
3. Turn off location sharing
Tagging the location in posts makes it pretty easy for stalkers and other predators to track down kids in real life. Moreover, they may even monitor your child’s posting activity and guess where they often hang out. So, it’s highly recommended that they turn off the location in their Instagram posts.
Unfortunately, Instagram does not offer any way to completely turn off location sharing. Therefore, it’s best to instruct your child never to add locations to their Instagram posts and explain the potential dangers to them.
At the same time, you can go back and remove the location information of previous posts. However, when we checked, this was only possible on Instagram’s iOS app and not on the Android version. Here’s how to do it on iOS:
- Go to your child’s profile and tap the three dots above a post that features a location tag.
- Tap “Edit.”
- Tap the location name.
- Tap “Remove location.”
4. Limit time on the app
As we already mentioned, Instagram is highly addictive, and spending hours on it can take a toll on children’s emotional well-being. To combat this, the app lets you set a daily limit for using it and offers reminders when the limit is reached. Here are the instructions to set it up.
- From your child’s profile page, tap the three-lined icon at the top and select “Settings.”
- Select “Account” and then select “Your Activity.”
- Tap on “Time.” This shows”the average time spent on Instagram.
- You can set a limit by tapping “Set Daily Reminder.“
- Select the time limit and tap “Set Reminder.”
Now, whenever the selected time limit is reached, Instagram will remind your child to stop using it. Of course, this is not a foolproof method because it does not actually prevent children from using the app once the limit has been reached. For this, you can try external parental control apps, such as Bark.
5. Set up Instagram’s privacy settings
Instagram offers a range of privacy settings that you can tweak to make it safer for kids and teens. Below, we’ll look at each of them in turn.
Please note that since Instagram is primarily a mobile platform, the instructions we’ve given are for the Instagram app on Android and iOS. They may not all be available on the web or desktop version.
Follow the steps below to access Instagram’s privacy settings:
- Open your child’s Instagram app and go to the Profile tab.
- Click the icon that looks like three horizontal lines at the top right.
- Tap “Settings” and then tap “Privacy.”
From here, you can access each of the settings described in the next section.
How to Set Up Your Instagram Privacy Settings
Despite the public nature of Instagram and other social media apps, there are several steps you can take to enhance privacy on Instagram. Following these for your kids’ Instagram accounts will prevent strangers from contacting them and hide all or most offensive content. Below, we’ve covered all the measures you should take to set up your children’s Instagram privacy settings.
Set to private account
Instagram users can have either public or private accounts. Public accounts can be viewed by anyone, while private accounts are closed and require the owner to approve “follow requests” before anyone can view the posts or send messages. Photos and videos added to a public account are all considered public posts.
It’s best for kids to keep their accounts private if they share anything personal about themselves on the platform. Instagram lets you choose the type of account when first setting it up, but you can also check it any time as follows:
On the Instagram privacy settings page, make sure “Private Account” is toggled ON.
Temporarily limit unwanted interactions
If your child is facing harassment on Instagram, you can temporarily limit all unwanted comments and messages.
- On the Instagram privacy settings page, tap “Limits” and then tap “Continue.”
- Select what group of people you want to limit and the amount of time you’d like to limit them for, between 1 and 4 weeks.
Hide offensive comments
Instagram can automatically protect your child from comments and message requests that contain offensive language. You can also add custom words that you want to filter out.
- On the privacy settings page, tap “Hidden Words.” Then, toggle on “Hide comments.”
- You can also turn on “Advanced comment filtering” and “Hide message requests.”
- Under “Custom words and phrases,” tap “Manage list.“
- Type the words and phrases you want to hide and tap “Add.”
If your child is receiving inappropriate comments on their posts, you can block specific users from commenting.
- Under privacy settings, tap “Comments” and then tap “Block comments from.”
- Tap on the number of people and type the username of the person you want to block.
- Tap the “Block” button when the name suggestion appears.
Hide posts and tags
Instagram lets you hide the number of likes and views on the posts you see in your feed. It’s a good idea to enable this feature in children’s accounts as it can help combat unhealthy comparison that arises from constantly seeing likes and views. In the same section, you can also control who can “tag” your child in posts.
- Tap “Posts” on the privacy settings page.
- Toggle on “Hide Like and View Counts.”
- Under “Allow Tags From,” select either “People You Follow” or “No One.”
- Tap “Manually Approve Tags” and toggle it on so that your child cannot be tagged in irrelevant posts without consent.
Mentions are similar to tags, and it’s best to keep them turned off so that others cannot mention your child’s username in Instagram stories, comments, photos, and videos.
- Tap “Mentions” on the privacy settings page.
- Select either “People You Follow” or “No One.“
Turn off Activity Status
Activity Status lets people you follow or message know when you are online or last active on Instagram. It’s a good idea to keep this turned off so that nobody can know when your child is actively using the app.
- On the profile settings page, tap “Activity Status.”
- Make sure “Show Activity Status” is toggled off.
In this setting, you can prevent strangers from messaging your child and also prevent your child from being added to unknown group chats.
- On the profile settings page, tap “Messages.”
- Tap each description of potential connections and select whether to allow message requests from them or not.
- Under “Group Chats,” tap “Who Can Add You to Groups” and select “Only People You Follow on Instagram.”
That wraps up the account privacy settings you should change to make Instagram safer for kids. But there’s also a lot more you can do, as explained in the next steps.
Remove unknown followers
It’s wise to make sure that no strangers are following your kids on Instagram. For this, you can check the followers’ list at any time using the steps below.
- Open your child’s Instagram app and go to the Profile tab.
- Tap on the account’s number of followers.
- Look through the list and tap the “Remove” button next to any followers you don’t approve of. You can tap on a follower’s name to view their full profile before removing them.
TIP: It’s a good idea to do this with your teen and ask them who each person is so that it becomes a collaborative process and doesn’t invade their privacy.
Unfollow unsuitable accounts
Like removing unwanted followers, you can also check who your child is following to prevent them from viewing unsuitable content on Instagram.
- Open your child’s Instagram app and go to the Profile tab.
- Tap on the “following” number at the top.
- Look through the list and click on a profile to view it.
- To stop following someone, tap “Following” and it will immediately stop following them.
- You can also tap the three dots icon for the option to mute someone rather than unfollow. This means they will remain in the following list, but their posts will not appear in your child’s feed.
Block or report users
If an Instagram account is bothering your child, the first action to take is to block and report it. This will prevent further interaction and alert Instagram about the issue you’ve faced.
- To block or report someone on Instagram, go to their profile and tap the three dots icon at the top right.
- Tap “Block” and select an option to either block the current account or block the current account and all future accounts created by the user.
- In the same menu, you can tap “Report” and select an option to either Report the user or Report a specific post, message, or comment.
Report offensive posts
Apart from reporting accounts, you can also report individual posts from the Instagram feed.
- Tap the three dots at the top right of the post and select “Report.”
- Select a reason from the list and follow the on-screen instructions.
Instagram earns revenue through ads and features highly targeted advertising. This may feature adult themes and topics that may be inappropriate for kids. You can limit this ad content as follows.
- Go to your child’s Instagram profile and tap the three-lined icon at the top.
- Select “Settings” and then select “Ads.”
- Tap “Ad Topics” and tick the topics you don’t want your child to see in Instagram ads. There are currently only four topics you can limit. Afterward, tap “Save.”
Block sensitive content
Instagram features a vast variety of content that may include posts about sensitive topics that may upset children. This could include posts featuring violence, politics, crime, hate speech, etc. Instagram offers the option to limit such content, as explained below.
- Open your child’s Instagram app and go to the Profile tab.
- Tap the three lines icon at the top right.
- Select “Settings” and then select “Account.”
- Tap “Sensitive Content Control.”
- Select “Limit Even More” to minimize possibly upsetting or offensive content.
How to Deactivate or Delete an Instagram Account
As a last resort, you can temporarily deactivate your child’s Instagram account if they are facing issues with it. You can also permanently delete an account. Of course, this should always be a collaborative decision taken with your child.
Keep in mind that since Instagram is owned by Facebook (now called Meta), it’s unclear what user data the company retains on its servers after an account is deleted. Meta is not very transparent about this information.
To temporarily disable or permanently delete your child’s Instagram account, you will need to use a browser. The process currently doesn’t work on the mobile app.
Temporarily disable an Instagram account
- Go to Instagram’s website on a desktop or mobile browser, and log in to your child’s account.
- Click on your profile picture at the top and select “Settings.”
- In the “Edit Profile” section, scroll down and click “Temporarily disable my account.”
- Now, you can select a reason for disabling the account from the options given and enter the account password.
- To confirm your choice, click the button labeled “Temporarily Disable Account.“
Permanently delete an Instagram account
- Go to Instagram’s Delete Account page from a mobile browser or computer and log in to your child’s account.
- Select an option from the dropdown menu next to Why are you deleting your account? and enter the account password.
- Click Delete [username].
How Does Instagram Handle Safety Concerns?
In March 2021, Instagram announced new steps to protect young users.
Most notably, it’s working on more advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to understand the real age of users. This is because although Instagram requires users to be at least 13 years old to create an account, it’s difficult to verify the birth date a user enters when signing up.
Furthermore, it’s taking the following safety measures:
- New users under 16 years old (or 18 in some counties) will automatically have private accounts. If a young person already has a public account, Instagram will notify them about the benefits of a private account and remind them to check their privacy settings.
- Strangers displaying “potentially suspicious behavior” won’t be able to connect with kids and teens on Instagram.
- Users under 18 years old will only see ads based on “age, gender, and location,” and not on interests or activities to potentially limit inappropriate content.
- Adults cannot send direct messages to anyone under 18 years old unless the recipient follows them.
- It will be harder for adults to search for kids’ and teenagers’ profiles and content.
Final Thoughts: Instagram Parental Controls Need a Boost
Given the popularity of Instagram among young netizens, we think it could benefit from more refined parental controls, such as supervised accounts for children or maybe an exclusive app for kids and teens with stricter content regulation.
With adequate guidance and support, we can help a young Instagram user enjoy the benefits of Instagram and other apps for a fun, educational, and inspiring experience.
The key lies in empowering children with digital literacy from a young age and teaching them the fundamentals of staying safe online. What kind of parental control settings and safety features would you like on Instagram and other social media? Let us know in the comments below.
You can also keep reading on kids’ social media safety:
- Is Facebook Messenger Kids Safe?
- Is TikTok Safe for Kids?
- Is Youtube Kids Safe?
- Is Discord Safe for Kids?
- Is PopJam Safe for Kids?
- Is Reddit Safe for Kids?
- How Safe Are Social Virtual Reality Apps for Kids?
- Likee: Is This Risky TikTok Clone Safe for Kids?
If you’re looking for more information about children’s safety on Instagram, read our frequently asked questions section below.
In March 2021, Instagram announced plans to launch a kid-friendly version of the app just like YouTube Kids. But this was postponed after massive outrage from parents who are concerned about the safety of the social media app. Currently, there is no kid-friendly version of Instagram.
Instagram is highly addictive and lacks content regulation. Anybody can create an account, post anything, and connect with anyone. This poses dangers such as Instagram scams, cyberbullying, emotional effects, and privacy issues.
Instagram does not have specific parental controls, but it has a range of privacy features that parents can use to make Instagram safer for kids and teens. These include the option to keep an account private, limit unwanted interactions with strangers, control sensitive content, block offensive comments and posts, and more.
You can monitor your child’s Instagram by maintaining open communication with them and asking if you can see their account from time to time. You can set up privacy settings to prevent strangers from talking to your kids online. Additionally, you can consider using parental control apps that can help you monitor your children’s online activity. Read more about how to keep kids safe online.