Saturday, September 15, 2018

Keeping teens safe on Instagram: Tips and Tricks for Parents

Instagram is the most popular, and I would even say active platform these days. I know so many of my pre-teen or teen nephews, nieces and kids of friends on the platform and slaying it much better than us oldies. Whether it is instagram stories, or posts - they love posting and expressing themselves on IG!

This only means parents need to know what the kids are doing, or whom they are interacting with - without being too obvious about it. Teens are a delicate age when kids want and need their own privacy. I believe the diaries and slambooks of our times, the chits exchanged or the sms and even the Orkut testimonials - are all now social media DMs, Stories, Stickers and so on in today's day and age.

Instagram understands this and in the past year, has reassessed priorities, reassigned engineers and researchers, and aligned teams around the goal of fostering the safest, kindest, most supportive global community. As a part of these efforts, they launched A Parent’s Guide today, a new resource for parents with teens who use Instagram to aid them in creating safer online spaces for children.

While the Parents Guide is an additional resource to aid safer online spaces, below are a few tips that can help parents contribute more effectively to keeping their teens safe when they come online:

  • Get your Insta-game on. As parents, many of us don’t understand what Instagram is or what it does – admit it and get online! There’s no easier way for you to understand why your teen is on the platform till you get onto it, and understand its pros and cons. Once this is done – spend time understanding the platform and the variety of tools it offers so you can in turn educate your teen to make sure he/she makes good choices online – thus leading to an overall positive experience. An informed parent will create an informed teen – and that is key. (This would be much easier for someone like me, who is a social media manager by profession, but I too don't get the language the kids use these days - with all the shortcuts and words like dayum, on fleek, my mains and so on... )

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  • Manage your family’s time online together. Setting a time limit for accessing social media can prove to be helpful. An added element is, replicating this with every member of the family and not just your teens. Setting a family limit for time spent online will help in making the field level and showing your teens that you too will get to spend the same amount of time that they do online will help them better understand the value and importance of your decision. On Instagram with the new Activity dashboard – your teen and you can review the amount of time each of you spend on the community – in a day or even through the past week along with an analysis of average time spent. To control the amount of time your family and you spend online you can set a daily reminder, a timer you can set to give you an alert when you’ve exceeded what you think is an appropriate amount of time on the app; and a mute push notifications setting to limit notifications. (This is a brilliant addition to the dashboard. And it's so important to set limits for yourself and other elders in the house too. If we're busy taking candids or selfies all day, how can we ask the kids to do any different!)

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  • Unlearn and learn how to do Instagram right with your teen. Learning how to use the platform and its various features is a great way to start a conversation with your teen about Instagram. This also gives you the chance to talk about making their profile a private profile – thus ensuring that they have full control over the content they post and their experience on the platform is safe! Along the way, not only will you find a non-intrusive way to be a part of your teens Instagram presence but also up your Insta-game! Setting your account to private is simple – go to the “Settings” gear from your profile page, and toggle “Private Account” to the “on” position.
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  • Create a strict ‘say no to bullies’ policy at home. Whether its offline or online, bullyingin any form can hinder your teens wellbeing and if consistent, even have drastic repercussions.To ensure, your teen is not targeted to any form of mental abuse online ensure that you have an open channel of communication with him/her so he/she feels that the first step to address the issue is to have a conversation with you. Then, make sure that the offensive comment filter is turned on his/her Instagram profile. This filter will automatically hide comments containing attacks on a person's appearance or character, as well as threats to a person's well-being or health. If the issue remains persistent or you spot an account, photo, video or comments that is intended to bully or harass someone, you can report it from within the app by visiting “...” on a post and clicking on “Report.” (Absolutely important! You need to have such a comfort level with your teen, that they should be able to come and tell you if someone is bullying them at school or otherwise - instead of being scared of telling you anything).

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  • Comment right. Along ensuring that your own teen has a safe experience, it’s equally important to make your teen understand the importance of ensuing others have a similar experience too. Have an open dialogue with your teen about commenting right and identifying comments that might be offensive/derogatory. Instagram’s offensive comments filter automatically hides offensive or inappropriate comments, so people never have to see them. Additionally, one can also modify/customize the filter to reflect specific keywords and emoji’s that one might find offensive. Beyond this, to make sure your teens have a positive kind experience when they come online on Instagram they can also swipe to delete comments, report inappropriate comments, and block accounts that might be hindering their experience on the community. (I remember this scene from the movie called 'This is 40' where the mother checks out a hurtful comment made by a friend of her daughter's on her social media profile and goes and gives him a sounding. Obviously we are not looking at that, but teaching our kids to be right and moral is equally important to keeping them safe.)

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Lastly, for any last minute advice, help or the right conversation started to kick off a difficult talk with your teen you can always refer to Instagram’s A Parent’s Guide at parents.instagram.com or check out the Help Center for more useful resources. 



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