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The Ultimate Parents’ Guide to Instagram

by Norton-Team

Second only to Facebook, Instagram is one of the most popular social media sites on the internet. It’s particularly popular with young people who flood the site with photos of themselves, their friends, and their lunches. 

There may come a point very soon in time where your tween or teenager might inform you that they’re making an Instagram—or they may already have the app installed on their phones. While you might not be too enamoured with the idea of your child posting photos of themselves on a public site, the worst thing to come out of it for most kids will be the embarrassing pictures their parents can use on their 21st birthday cake.

Having an Instagram account is as essential as having a phone for most teens and tweens so don’t be surprised when they sign up. In preparation for the onslaught of selfies, we’ve pulled together a guide to all things Instagram so you’ll be better equipped to sit them down and lay out ground rules.

How to set up an Instagram account.

Instagram users are supposed to be 13 to sign up, though many younger kids have accounts anyway. In the best case scenario, you’d like your child to ask permission before signing up, but many kids will download the app without telling Mum or Dad.

Teenagers are digital natives so they’re often savvy enough to jump right in. Put feelers out by Googling their name and ‘Instagram’ or outright asking them. If they are younger and like the idea of an account and you think they are responsible enough, you can help them set their account up.

Setting an Instagram account up is built to be as straightforward as possible and all they’ll need is a device and an email address.
Once you download the app, they’ll need an email to sign up.

They’ll need to give a name and/or username.

If they really want to choose a username like JustinBieber4Eva, don’t dissuade them. Their passions and interests are perfectly legitimate.

Lastly, they’ll need a password. Explain password security and the importance of not sharing their password with anyone. Even the most tech savvy child can lack common sense when it comes to security.

For young teens, you may want access to their password as a condition of opening the account. As they get older, operating on a trust basis means they’ll be more likely to come to you to talk about any issues they might have.

Now, they’re officially on Instagram and it’s time to add a profile picture. Take a moment to let them know what you don’t want to see, whether that’s suggestive poses or rude gestures. Expect an exasperated, “Mum!” but be clear with them from the start.
The last step is to import contacts from their phone or Facebook, if they have an account.

So what is Instagram for?

Instagram is a photo and video sharing platform that can be linked into other social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter. You can either take a photo in Instagram or upload a photo that was taken on your phone’s camera.

It’s all about the filters, which give a standard photo an instant retro appeal or turns a dull day at the seaside into something from a holiday brochure. They can also use the tilt-shift option to alter the focus or the Lux effect to enrich colours.

Instagram’s charm is its simplicity and the way that it makes your photos look instantly better. Instagram also supports short videos, which can be between three and 15 seconds long. Users can post one video or stitch a number of clips together into one edit. Needless to say, you can also add filters.

Mostly, Instagram is about social sharing. Posting pictures online would be boring if you couldn’t get feedback, meet people or tag your friends. You can also mention someone in a post and they’ll be notified in their feed. This social interaction is the part that your teen will love.

Many users don’t even post their own photos, and instead follow other users and hashtags (essentially an indexing and sorting system for photos), and like, share, and interact with them instead.

Instagram’s basic features

Likes: Likes are self-explanatory and if you use other social networks, you’ll be familiar with the concept. Anyone can ‘Like’ a photo or video that has been posted publicly. If a photo is promptly deleted from your child’s account it could be because they didn’t get enough Likes.

Likes are Instagram’s version of the “If a tree falls in the woods…” conundrum. If your teen posts a half-face selfie and no one likes it, how can they be sure that the photo even exists?

Instagram Direct: Instagram Direct allows them to engage in private conversations with other users. The worrying aspect of this is that they can share images, videos and messages with strangers.

They’ll probably just chat to their friends but it’s important to stress that anything they put online is not actually private and stress the importance of engaging in conversations or exchanges with strangers. Photos and videos can be dangerous things in the wrong hands.

They need to know that there is never a guarantee that private content won’t be copied or shared—especially if they’re talking with someone they met on the site.

Hashtags: The hashtag feature makes your content searchable and attracts other users. Don’t be surprised if your teen fills each post with endless hashtags. #nevertoomanyhashtags #donteven #selfie #tagsforlikes #runningoutofwordstouse #followme
The downside is that they can attract dubious elements or spammers so discourage younger teens from using open invitations or provocative words in hashtags.

Many teens follow their friends and people they know, while others will follow celebrities. For quieter users, they won’t be too pushed about gaining followers, but for others, amassing a follower base may be the aim.

Some teens have thousands of followers and may use hashtags like #followforfollow. In most cases, this is a harmless practice though it can draw the attention of users who might say mean or abusive things.  

How private is Instagram?

Everyone can see the photos on your child’s account by default. For younger teens, you may want to set their account to private, which means that no one can see their feed unless they accept a person’s follower request.

To set an Instagram account to private:

  1. Open your account on your mobile or device. 

  2. Click the Settings wheel and Options as outlined below will open up.

  3. Swipe right on the ‘Private account’ button.

Older teens will not be happy with this option, not least because it will kill their chances of racking up good follower numbers.
Another area to be careful about is the “Add to your Photo Map” setting on the final confirmation page. This feature pins any photos they take to a photo map that’s viewable from their profile.

Turning this feature off will prevent people from seeing your child’s regular hangouts. It really is remarkable how much information people can unwittingly share on social media, as this video demonstrates.

For young teens, it’s best to use a vague profile and avoid giving too much personal information in their profile. If they post a picture of your house and the name of your small town, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where you live.

Tips and tricks to keep them safe:

  • Your child will be aware of the dangers if you sit them down and discuss the risks associated with social media. There’s no need to make them terrified of the internet but chat to them about staying safe, stranger danger, cyberbullying and the potential outcome of oversharing.
  • It’s no harm to keep checking who your child follows. It’s most likely to be a celebrity or close friend but be wary of accounts that post adult content or look suspicious.
  • Follow your teen on Instagram, even if you have to open a new account. You can see what they’re doing or intervene if something looks like it could be a problem. Just remember to respect their boundaries. Most teens will not thank you for liking a post, never mind commenting.
  • Make sure your teen knows that they can come to you if encounter abuse or unsettling content. Threatening to shut down their Instagram account if they have any issues will only deter them from coming to you with a genuine problem. Be open and supportive.


The thought of your child posting pictures or video on the internet will be scary at first but you may find that it’s not so scary after all. Just make sure that they’re well-informed and able to approach you for help or advice.

Instagram can be a fun and creative outlet so let them enjoy it and use it as a way to develop trust with your teenager. Social media is fun, and you might find that you’ll grow a follower-base of your own.

Want to keep your kids safe while they’re on Instagram?

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