Instagram is a social network that, according to its makers, is all about visual storytelling. Photos and videos, in other words. Like Twitter, everything you post is public and accessible to other Instagram users.
Also like Twitter, Instagram uses hashtags which lets other users find photos by looking at the hashtags people have added to their photos.
Most people use the app to share stylised photos of themselves, friends, places and objects, and mostly it’s harmless fun. Celebrities and even big brands have Instagram accounts.
Instagram is designed for adults though, not kids, so the short answer to the question “Is Instagram safe for kids?” is no.
However, there’s a better reason why you shouldn’t allow your kids to use the service: porn. Although it may not be immediately obvious, plenty of people post pornographic images on Instagram and there’s a chance your child might see inappropriate images when they’re searching.
Although such images are against Instagram’s policies, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. It isn’t just porn, either. You’ll find photos of just about anything and everything on Instagram: guns, drugs, violence and a whole lot more.
You can’t prevent your child from searching on Instagram and there are no filters in place to stop young eyes from seeing things they probably shouldn’t. No parental control software will help either, as all it can really do is prevent access to the app: it can’t add filters within the app.
There are other risks for kids using Instagram too, those inherent with any social network where everything anyone posts is public. Your child may post photos they later regret: it isn’t easy to delete images from the internet.
There’s also the risk of bullying, but this – as with posting inappropriate photos – isn’t unique to Instagram.
It’s possible to have a private Instagram account where only approved followers can see your posts. However, one of the attractions of Instagram is building a large following (largely comprised of strangers). Setting your account to private removes this element.
As with most other social networks, the minimum age for having an Instagram account is 13. But our advice is to talk to your child and suggest alternative apps to use instead of Instagram – safer ways to communicate with their friends and family.
If you do choose to allow you kids to use a phone or tablet, explain to them the risks and why you put in place any restrictions that you have, and why they can’t use certain apps. Laying ground rules and supervising their use (either in person or with parental control software) is a good way to minimise the risks. You can read our suggestions on some ground rules to use in our guide to keeping kids safe online.