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Use Instagram safely

3 minutes reading time
11-17 years
Social Media
Tool description
Foto: Thomas Trutschel/photothek

The social network Instagram is very popular with children and young people, but is repeatedly criticized for not providing sufficient protection. Instagram has introduced innovations to be safer for children and teenagers. That’s new:

  • Minors can no longer be contacted so easily by strangers
  • New features are designed to give parents and guardians more control
  • Information portal for people seeking advice
  • Delete functions in the app
  • stricter age restrictions

Why was it time for innovation?

Criticism of Instagram grew louder and louder. The reason: minors were often unprotected on the platform, received inappropriate advertising, were enticed to use it extensively, and could be contacted by strangers without restriction.

The legal situation in Germany has changed with the amendment of the German Youth Protection Act. Providers of social media platforms are now obliged to set up protective measures for minors. For example, there must be default settings so that strangers cannot simply contact minors. In addition, there must be opportunities for accompaniment as well as control by the parents.

What’s new?

Since July 2021, it is more difficult to circumvent the age limit (use from 13 years). Any person who Instagram wants to use must necessarily indicate their age, otherwise the account may be blocked. In addition, it is planned that accounts of minors will automatically be “private”. This means that young people decide for themselves who can see their profile. So far, this is a voluntary option.

Minors can now only be contacted by people or tagged in posts if they also follow these people. If a stranger wants to follow minors, he/she will receive a warning. Posts of “suspicious” persons under the public posts of minors are automatically invisible from now on. It is also easier to delete your own posts, comments and other footprints. In the future, parents and guardians should be able to better monitor their children’s Internet use. A tool has been announced for spring 2022 that will allow parents to see what their child is doing on Instagram and get control over usage times.

Since June 2022, there is a so-called parent supervision for Instagram. Accounts of an adult can be linked to accounts of users under the age of 18. Both sides have to agree and can end the “parent supervision” with a click. Parents can use it to view usage times over the past week, set time limits, and track followers and subscribed accounts of their children. Children can inform the linked parent account when they report content to support in the service. It is not possible to read children’s private messages via the parents’ account and delete their account.

In addition, there will be an information portal to provide targeted support for those seeking advice. This includes a guide for parents with handling tips around Instagram use, a list of suggestions for a conversation about use, and a glossary of important terms.

What is problematic about the new settings?

As before, the age of a person logging into Instagram cannot be determined with certainty. A child can make themselves look older without Instagram being able to verify that the stated age is correct. This problem exists on other social media platforms as well. As long as this is not possible, the security settings will not work for all young users. In the future, artificial intelligence will help to verify the stated age. Read more in a statement from Instagram.

Furthermore, there are no public guidelines as to when adult behavior on the platform is considered “suspicious” and comments are accordingly no longer visible. So the decision here is in the hands of the platform. If you as a parent get a glimpse of your child’s Instagram use, be careful not to violate their privacy – because children and teens have a right to it, too. Control doesn’t feel good to children and teens. It is better to build a relationship of trust. Talk to your child about what he or she is doing on Instagram. Be open and interested! At the same time, you should also make your child aware of possible dangers and show them which settings make using the platform safer. If you want to use the control options that exist on Instagram, don’t do so without consulting your child.

What do parents need to keep in mind?

Parent supervision can be a great way to guide children in their first time with the app. But this should happen in a constant exchange with each other. If the child sets their account to private, parents can no longer see the postings.

Spending too much time on social media platforms is a well-known problem. In some countries, the Instagram app itself will soon indicate when too much time is spent on the platform. “Take a break” – is the name of the notification, but it will not be launched in Europe for the time being. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to the appropriate service life. Furthermore, it is up to the children and young people whom they accept as followers and whom they follow themselves. Here you can support as parents by setting up the account together and regularly discussing who is subscribed. Instagram has upgraded – but responsible use is still important.

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