Instagram has become a widespread form of social media worldwide, with all demographics being a part of it, 30% of which are high school students or even younger.
Instagram has an age limit according to which you need to be at least 13 years old to be on Instagram, although several kids tend to lie about their age or use an adult’s account to access this social media app.
While Instagram and other forms of social media can have a range of benefits, there are also several dangers that they can lead to, particularly for kids and teenagers whose brains are still developing.
Through this article, we will take you through some of these potential dangers that you must be aware of, along with ways in which you can reduce these dangers for your kids. You can also check about other popular apps among teens.
Potential Dangers Of Instagram
The following points can sum up the potential dangers that Instagram can lead to.
If your kids are on Instagram, one such danger that they are exposed to is the risk of hacking. Hackers may break into their accounts and gain access to sensitive information that they can then misuse.
They may either post insensitive things from your kid’s account, find personal details about your kids, use those details for harassment and blackmail, or even indulge in criminal behavior.
The impact of such hacking could range from spamming to more harmful usage. It is, therefore, essential to know if your kid’s account is hacked by keeping track of the posting behavior of the report.
Hacking can be straightforward if the password or privacy settings of the account are too weak. This can then also lead to uncomfortable situations for you and your kids while having to deal with the aftermath on your own.
2. Mature Content
The content available on Instagram is often mature and unsuitable for kids. This could include sexual or pornographic images and posts, bad language, posts related to alcohol and drugs, blood and gore, topics of death and self-harm, and a lot more.
This can give your kids a skewed idea of the world while also exposing them to such content much earlier than necessary. Since they are still in their growing stages, they can learn to absorb such mature content as a part of their worldview.
This can also expose them to being manipulated by such content and learning to participate in it from an early age.
It is possible that your kids might not come across this kind of content at all, especially if their interactions and usage are limited to people they know. However, it is difficult to monitor this since Instagram can easily allow your kids to access other public accounts or display certain images on their ‘Explore’ page.
3. Fake Accounts
There are several fake accounts on Instagram that involve people parading as someone else or stealing someone’s identity to engage in dangerous and even criminal activities on the app.
If your kids unknowingly come into contact with any of these accounts, it can lead to issues such as manipulation and giving away important information such as their name, your location, and address, or more.
These fake accounts might also post unsolicited pictures or find ways to use your kid’s information and spread it publicly. They could also pose as your own kid using a different account and use that to manipulate other people into sharing their personal information.
Further, since it is now extremely easy to edit pictures, they may warp and misrepresent your kids in harmful ways.
4. Direct Messages
Direct messages on Instagram allow you to have private conversations with people on the app. While it is possible to restrict these conversations to people that you know, there is still a risk of strangers contacting your kids.
The chances of this are much higher if your kid has a public account, as this enables strangers to send private messages to them. It is also possible for them to act as their friend and manipulate them into sharing information.
If your kid’s account is private, they will be comparatively safer since their followers might only be restricted to people they know. However, this can still allow strangers to send them to follow or message requests that your unsuspecting kid might accept.
This kind of occurrence can lead to public or private harassment, leakage of information or pictures, legal implications, and misplaced trust in the wrong person.
Cyberbullying is a serious issue when it comes to social media. On Instagram, this gets heightened with public accounts where anyone who discovers your kid’s post can comment on it.
These comments can take on an insidious form along with multiple other ways of cyberbullying, such as posting someone’s pictures, spur harassment, create Stories targeting someone, and so on.
This kind of cyberbullying is usually brought about by the fact that social media like Instagram can virtually serve as an anonymous space. Several people choose to hide their identity on Instagram and this can sometimes be used as a way to bully someone online in a faceless way.
These bullies can either be adults or other kids and teenagers. This kind of bullying can have severe consequences on your kids if they are in the middle of it.
6. Mental Health Issues
Instagram is said to be the worst social media app in terms of the mental health of young people. This is because the app sees most people posting only about the good and exciting parts of their lives.
This has a tendency to play up people’s lives as easier and more appealing than they actually might be. For kids and teenagers, in particular, this can create a need to perform their lives on Instagram as well, leading to frustration when they keep comparing themselves with others.
Instagram can also create a skewed body image, especially for teenagers who are going through puberty and whose bodies do not look like the ones they see online. Being unable to understand the effects of editing can create issues with how your kids view themselves.
Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can also come up, as a result, leading to problems in their own lives as well.
Instagram is addictive. In fact, our brain releases dopamine, a reward-based chemical, whenever we have rewarding interactions on social media. This chemical is also responsible for the temporary pleasure that other addictions like drugs, smoking, alcohol, and gambling, among others, can generate.
When it comes to Instagram, the constant need to post good pictures, the consequent ‘likes’ that can gather, keeping track of what others are posting, and getting virtual validation can create this kind of addictive cycle.
Additionally, with the multiple filters that Instagram offers, it can become too easy to transform your images and receive praise for them. Another common result of this is the need that your kids might have to keep up with their peers, creating a fear of missing out (commonly referred to as FOMO).
8. Sleeping Problems
Frequent usage of social media has also been linked to poor sleeping patterns. Due to compulsive tendencies to keep checking Instagram and staying updated with everything that people are posting, this can disturb the sleeping pattern of your kids by making them anxiously refer to their phones even late at night.
Since Instagram usage also leads to several mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and addiction, your kids might have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night.
This kind of problem is more prominent in young students because their prefrontal cortex is still in the process of fully developing. This can end up creating false associations in their mind about their image on social media and how they are being perceived by their friends.
Poor sleeping habits can then lead to them being tired while also worsening their mental and physical condition.
9. Viral Trends
There are several trends on Instagram that go viral across all forms of social media, with many kids and teenagers feeling the need to participate in these trends since all of their friends might be doing it too.
A lot of these trends can also be in the form of challenges that require people to undertake several kinds of tasks. While some of these might be harmless, some may even be dangerous and extreme.
Even if they are relatively harmless, kids might feel the need to go out of their way to be a part of such trends. These could also include game advertisements on Instagram that may end up causing harm to your kids.
Another component of this is the speed at which posts or trends go viral. In an extreme case, something your kid posts on Instagram can go viral (if the account is public), without your kid having any control over it, leading to a lot of unwanted attention.
This can also result in a thrill-seeking behavior with a need to replicate a few minutes of internet fame.
Instagram now also comes with several sponsored advertisements based on one’s browsing history to encourage you to buy a product. Instagram can thus pick up on your child’s interests and try to sell those to them that your kid might then insist on.
Further, there are also several commercial stores on Instagram that sell specialized products. In some of these, if your kid comes across something harmful, they might feel the need to buy it.
People can also manipulate your kids into buying drugs online or exchanging sensitive information and pictures in return for a favor or a product.
This can put your kids at risk and can invade their privacy significantly with the possibility of their information being misused. This can unknowingly create problems for your kid and may even end up becoming a legal concern if things go too far. These were among a few dangers of Instagram that you should know.
How to Deal with These Issues And Dangers Of Instagram?
While these issues are definitely major concerns for you as a parent, there are several ways to deal with them or prevent them. Let’s take a look at some of these ways.
1. Switch to Private Accounts
Whenever you create an account on Instagram, it becomes a public account by default, allowing anyone to follow or message you on the app without needing prior approval. This can then invite multiple people to find you and say inappropriate things on your profile or through direct messages.
If your kid has an Instagram account, the best course of action would be to ensure that it is private. This can then be a good way to monitor and control the kind of people who follow and interact with your kids.
To do this, you simply need to access the settings on your kid’s account through the three lines at the top right of their profile. Then, you can click on ‘Privacy’ and on the toggle button that says ‘Private account’.
2. Monitor Usage
If you want to keep track of what your kids are doing on Instagram, who they are talking to, the kind of content they are accessing and consuming, and how people are interacting with them, then you can monitor their usage by following them through your own account.
If your kids are too young but insist on using Instagram, you can allow them to use your own account so that this can give you greater control over what they are doing on the app.
There are also several external apps that you can download if you want to gain access to your kid’s account without them finding out about it.
3. Report and Block
A simple and straightforward way to prevent some issues from worsening is to report and block people who you think might be harassing your kids.
If you notice that someone has sent inappropriate messages to your kids or left a rude comment on their post, you can report and/or block them by going to their profile, clicking on the three dots at the top right of their profile, and selecting the option you want to go with.
You will need to answer a few more questions if you choose to report them, after which Instagram will review your request and make a decision to approve or reject your request.
Once you successfully report or block them, they will no longer be able to interact with your kid’s account.
4. Change Privacy Settings
You can also change some privacy settings on Instagram to tighten the security and privacy on your kid’s account even more. These settings include regulating comments, deleting followers from your kid’s follower list, unfollowing someone, controlling who can see your kid’s posts and stories, who can tag them, and more.
You can only do this through your kid’s own account (much like most of the other steps mentioned here). Once you manage to do this, however, it will streamline your kid’s account a lot more, preventing them from coming into too much contact with problematic posts and people.
Whenever your kids get a new request on their account, you can ask them to confirm with you if it is safe to accept the request.
5. Check Followers
You can easily check the list of people following your kids (as long as you are following your kid’s account as well) by going to their profile and clicking on the follower count. You can do this for those that your kid is following in turn as well.
If you have access to your kid’s account or phone, you can simply do this through their own account as well.
In case you come across suspicious accounts, you can either delete and block them on your own or ask your kid about them so that they can delete them on their own.
If your kid has a private account, this will enable them to approve requests so that they don’t end up accepting requests from strangers.
6. Establish Trust
An important way to prevent your kids from getting too caught up in the dangers of Instagram is to establish trust with them so that they can feel comfortable enough understanding what you have to say about Instagram and its impacts.
Since teenagers go through a lot of cognitive and physical changes at their age, they might also feel the need to rebel and act out more and more due to their frustrations. This can create a separation that makes them more responsive to their peers than to their parents.
To prevent this, you can create an atmosphere of trust and honesty from the beginning to make it a safe space for them.
7. Establish Rules
Establishing rules and boundaries about their usage of Instagram and social media, in general, can be a good way to control how much they use the app. This can also include the people that they interact with on the app.
For example, giving them a certain fixed time to use Instagram can restrict too much access to harmful content while also maintaining their physical and mental health.
You can also establish boundaries when it comes to the kind of requests they get on the app, such as having to confirm with you first before accepting them. While this might not always be necessary, you can do this for strangers’ requests.
It is important to do this without completely taking away their time from Instagram or antagonizing them.
8. Create a Secure Password
An important part of Instagram to ensure security and prevent hacking is to create a strong and secure password that does not give away too much of your or your kid’s personal information such as their name or birthday.
A good way to do this is by making use of the suggested passwords that search engines may offer. These passwords usually meet all security conditions and make it harder for hackers to figure out.
You should also set back-up emails so that potential suspicious activities on your kid’s account can notify you so that you can take the appropriate action.
9. Untag from Unwanted Posts
There are several bots or accounts that tag strangers in comments or their posts to gain more activity on their accounts. In some cases, these might be harmless posts but can also be dangerous or inappropriate for kids if they end up viewing them.
This can also happen if strangers following your kids tag them as a way of manipulating or harassing them.
A simple solution to this is to untag your kid (from their account) from such posts and comments. You can do this by clicking on the three dots next to the post and untagging yourself. For comments, you can long-press on it and report it.
You also have the option of manually approving tags on Instagram before they appear on the platform.
10. Monitor Direct Messages
You can keep an eye on the direct messages that your kids are receiving by accessing their accounts. This can give you a better idea about the conversations that your kids are having so that you can take necessary action in case you find something suspicious.
It is not entirely necessary to go through the contents of the chat itself if you are sure that the recipient is someone trustworthy. You can also look at the ‘Message requests’ that your kids may have received from unknown people.
These could give you a better idea about the safety level of your kid’s Instagram account.
10. Monitor Behavior
It is not always possible to look at your kid’s Instagram account if you do not have access to it. Moreover, the impacts of social media can be invisible as well, instead of being apparent through hints on their account.
Since Instagram can lead to pressure to conform and behave in a certain way, your kids might be exhibiting unhealthy behavior that may have associations with Instagram.
For example, if they keep anxiously checking the app frequently throughout the day or going out of their way to post something, that might indicate an issue. Sleeping problems, depressive tendencies, self-harm, insecure behavior, fights, academic fluctuations, eating disorders, and more could also serve as indications.
11. Have Healthy Conversations
Having healthy conversations with your pre-adolescent or adolescent kids can not only build trust but can also make them feel safe around you instead of viewing you as a threat or opponent to their worldview.
This can also be a good way for you to talk openly about adolescent issues in a healthy way. This can also enable them to differentiate between wanted and unwanted as well as safe and unsafe attention so that they can then apply that to their interactions on Instagram as well.
Creating a model of interaction can help them identify the dangers on Instagram better.
12. Ask Them to Seek Your Help
Before setting up your kid’s Instagram account or allowing them to create one, you can ask them to talk to you openly and seek your help in case something goes wrong on their account.
This way, they can come to you with small instances of discomfort or more harmful online situations that they may be having trouble with, such as cyberbullying.
Once you know about these problems, you can then help them figure out a solution and block or report the necessary people.
13. Set Realistic Expectations
It is important for you to set realistic expectations for your kids so that they know what they are getting into and what to expect. Since a large part of their existence will include social media and the internet, letting them know about the dangers beforehand can keep them alert while using Instagram.
You can also explain issues relating to body image and harassment so that they have more realistic ideas about what is normal and what is not. This can also apply to the kinds of things that people post on Instagram and how they may not necessarily be indicative of the complete reality of the people posting them.
14. Set Age Limit
While Instagram has its own age limit of 13 when it comes to creating a new account, adolescents can work past that by setting an incorrect birth year so that they can gain access to the account.
You can also set a personal age limit for your kids and ensure that they do not create an account before they reach that age. In case they want or need to use the app, you can either ask them to share an account with you or monitor their account occasionally.
Through this article, we have taken you through all the potential dangers that come with your kids having an Instagram account. As a parent, if you are concerned about these dangers, it is important to be well aware of them so that you know what to expect.
In order to deal with and prevent these issues, we also listed down several steps and measures that you can now apply to keep your kids safe.
Not all dangers of Instagram might be obvious and could even be as simple as your kid spending too much time on it. Creating some kind of schedule can help you out with that.
Maryam has been teaching IT as a school teacher for over a decade, and her main subject of choice is Internet safety, especially helping parents keep their families safe and secure online. When Maryam is not teaching or writing she is a big fan of the outdoors, the complete opposite of staring at a computer screen for hours.