The Parent’s Guide to Instagram (& How to Protect Your Kids on the Service)


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  1. Excellent post Rae, spot on. We have many of the same rules here in our home. This is an area I’ve been passionate about helping my fellow parent friends that are not as in the know as those of us that work online. But most don’t even know what they don’t know. I’ll be sharing your post. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Yeah – I feel the same way on that. So many friends who don’t even know what half these networks are. 2/3 the issue is needing to learn whatever platforms you’re letting your kids on. The other 1/3, for me anyway, has been simply being clear on the rules, consistent on enforcing them and making sure I talk to my kids about their use.

      • Agree 100%. Especially the “consistent on enforcing them.” That can be the hardest part sometimes.

      • Hi – I have a question. My daughter recently changed from an iphone to a htc one m8 – android. When I open her instagram a user name that I don’t know & pics that are not appropriate come up. I could not find my daughter’s instagram. As I was looking at all the people that were liking photos, the only aquatence, (no friends that I know were commenting on this account) I saw on this account is a boy we DO NOT want her near in anyway. Then I saw that she had liked a photoIso I touched her full name (holy crap) & then her instagram opened up. What the hek is going on?

        Thanks for your help.


  2. Kirsten Oliphant says:

    I love this, Rae! My kids aren’t using it yet and I’m sure that it’s going to be long gone and replaced by something else, but I love the tips.

  3. I know a sure fire way to protect children on the internet that will never ever fail a parent. Don’t let them on here at all. They shouldn’t be on here and have no reason to be on here. It is an ultra dangerous and is no place for children. They should be outside playing instead of mesmerized in front a pc screen playing games and listening to music via headphones while subliminal messages pour into their fragile fertile minds.

    Look at what they’re doing now. They’re walking off with monsters they met on the internet, posting semi nude images of themselves, telling their personal business, bullying other children, think the Slim Man is real so they stab a girl 19 times. My Gosh! Where are they getting this stuff? And why are they not able to discern reality from fantasy anymore?

    I grew up loving horror flicks but, I knew zombies, vampires and werewolves were just scary movies and nothing more. Never felt that Dracula was trying to recruit me to prove my loyalty or none of that crazy bullshit. But then I grew up in a time when bullshit was not tolerated in the least. Parents in thosedays knew how to nip stuff in the bud and were great at it. I am thankful.

    Protect your kids. Get them off the internet and into outside activities.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Todd – I have one question for you (and it’s not being a smartass, since as I said, tone is lost on the Internet). Do you have kids (17 or under)?

      • I have grandchildren, Rae. Been there done that. Recently we had to restrict my 9 year old grandson’s use of the internet because of behavior directly related to internet use. The nightmares and voices telling him he didn’t love his mother was enough for us to shut it down and off for him. The voices and nightmares STOPPED. He is not allowed on any pc in this house or else where unless it is educational and on closed circuit. But then, it can happen there too.

        He came tearing out of his bedroom one night. I thought somebody was trying to break into the house. He’s 9 and stands 5″5′ – a big boy. Said he saw writing on the wall but couldn’t tell us what it said. He was so upset and upset us to see him so tortured. His mom asked if he was playing that game again on the internet after he was told not to. He said yes. Some game he was playing on the internet while at a friend’s house damn near turned his world upside down. This was after he was no longer allowed on the internet. We were really concerned. That’s when I said “Keep him OFF the internet.” and voile, problem solved. No more voices. No more nightmares.

        Not to be a smartass since, like you said, tone is lost on the internet, but what does having a kid under 17 have to do with it? Like you, I work on the web. However, our children no matter who they belong to are being fed subliminal messages. This has been going on for a very long time. Surely you know this. It’s in Walt Disney movies complete with graphic images of penises masquerading as castle towers and kids being told to take their clothes off, the music kids listen to, all of it. I saw the documentary, heard the recordings, and saw the images that the Walt Disney company produced. It’s out there, Rae, aimed straight at our children. Parents need to be keenly aware of this. Any parent who is not aware is not paying attention.

        There’s a song from the 70’s called “Highway to Heaven” sung by the OJays (Eddie Levert). Subliminal messages on there as well. Yep it’s been going on that long. It was chilling when it was pointed out to me, like listening to evil from the annals of the darkness. That’s how they get to our children via music. I get chills just thinking of it. I believe the messages in the music happen during mixing and production. The artists themselves may or may not know it was done.

        Take it from a grandfather who has seen, heard and smelled it all.

        Our kids are in ever present and real danger. To protect them. keep them away from the internet when they are young and impressionable. Their minds a quite fertile. Plant ANYTHING and it will grow. They should either be outside playing, sitting somewhere reading a book or enjoying some much needed quality time with a parent or other adult known to the parent who is interested in that child’s mental, emotional and physical well being.

  4. This is very valuable. Could you kindly write a post about Facebook as well? It would be much appreciated: my understanding is their privacy policy has become terrible.
    Thank you

  5. Jason Mathes says:

    These are some great tips… For both kids and adults.

    There are services you can sign up for to monitor these types of accounts as well. Its a crazy world on the Internet. Unfortunately too many parents don’t take the time too educate or monitor what there kids are doing online.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Thanks Jason – it can just be so damn confusing if you’re not “required” to know and tech savvy like we are. One day a daughter of mine’s friend was over and said something about an emoji… then she explained to me what one was. My daughter laughed and said, “you don’t have to explain stuff like that to my mom. She’s on more social networks than we are.” LOL.

    • Jason can you share some of these services? Thanks.

  6. Kappaluppa says:

    When my kids wanted to start being active on FB & email & the rest I made sure I had full access and was also on the friend list. We would do “surprise checks” to review friend lists and conversation topics, etc. Our rule was if you had not met them face to face you could not be friends online. Sure I didn’t agree with what every kid had to say, but as long as it wasn’t hate directed at anyone or didn’t contain violence or sexual innuendo I let it go.

    I promised them that my purpose was to guard, not to snoop or judge. I lived up to my end of the bargain and they trusted me. Soon their friends began to trust me as well. This is a great gift to a parent – to be allowed in the ‘inner circle’ and be in the know. This also gives me, as an adult, the opportunity to catch warning signs that may come up and step in to help – gently – or to guide conversation with my kid to that kid to be helpful.

    That was over 8 years ago! My kids are young adult women who are aware of how to protect themselves online. I am still on the friend list and on the friend’s friend lists, and I still get asked to be a friend. Establishing that bond and trust early on has given it strength. My kids are making their own choices in friends, clothes, music, movies – all of societal influences. I am still in the inner circle and sometimes I still have to hold my tongue. But you are damned sure that if I see warning signs momma is going to speak up!

    Thanks for putting this together. I sing this same song to all my friends. Some listen, some don’t.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      “I promised them that my purpose was to guard, not to snoop or judge.”

      Absolutely. Same here. Their personal email accounts are on my server, part of the reason is so I can access it should I ever need to. I’ve told them though that I’d never check it unless they gave me a serious reason to (and I mean that and they know I mean it). We also created forwarded email addresses for their apple accounts for the app store ([kidname] that forward to both my email and my husband’s email. Only my husband and I know the password for their apple accounts. So, they have to ask us to download anything. Were they to reset the password, we’d get an email telling us that. But, we tell them all of this. And we tell them it’s more to protect them than to hover over them and they seem to understand that. :)

  7. Thank you this is a great tutorial. I am in IT but have put off getting on Insta even though two of my kids are on. We have some of the rules above but I will be getting on Insta today and discussing the rules you have outlined with then. Something I have been planning to do but just haven’t taken the time to do it. No more procrastination on this topic for me. I do review their accounts from time to time but haven’t really taken the time to go in and look at the settings.

    Thanks again!

  8. This is fantastic, thank you for this … this post needs to go out in school newsletters to parents! Even if you think you know how to use Insta, there are things you might miss (like the manually approving photo tagging) There is so much crap for kids to get into with social media and the “always on” world that they live in. Observing the web as they see it and learning about social media is the only way to stay on top of it.

    A few years ago the middle school one of my boys attended had a sexting ring for goodness sake. It was disgusting and scary. I don’t think the originating source of it was ever indentified; They started off on one of those tween/teen dating myspace-y smile websites and these kids all gave out their cell phone numbers and their friends cell phone numbers to random people through the site …. it was probably some pedo-perv with a fake account that started it.

    I love your open door policy on them letting you know if something is happening, you’re absolutely right communication is necessary.

  9. I find, particularly in the word of celebrity that there is less double checking and questioning what’s posted on the likes of Instagram than via a tweet or FB status update. It’s just so easy to upload an inappropriate photo via Instagram than actually thinking and taking the time to write something out. Protection on images is hard. People just need to be more responsible.

  10. Nice guide Rae. I think it is important for parents to understand what their kids are doing on Instagram and all social media. I know you created this with parents in mind, but I think it also works really well as a guide for anyone who is new to Instragram too!

  11. Well Done. Great information for all parents!!!

  12. Melissa Hellwig says:

    I love your post. However, as a parent of a 15 yo boy, I find it a little simplistic. We have snap chat, Intstagram, Tumblr, Facebook, new ones appear all the time and we have no manual. His phone is his own, so we don’t have unlimited access to it. Our son goes from one platform to the other, it varies from week to week – what kids are “into”. Since he pays for his phone we only look at it/manage it when he’s in the house. We take it from him at night. But he is on the bus, with friends, becoming very independent. There’s no way I have time to monitor what he does. We’re lucky he’s failed a few times. He reported a boy who distributed a class mates nude photos. He was afraid when someone wanted to friend him and knew all his details, phone number, street, etc – but it turned out to be someone from 2 doors up! That made us realize, we have to not only manage and destroy the evil – but work really hard to encourage the good. Some of that can’t be controlled. We set the example, and they will (or won’t) follow. There comes an age where you simply hope you laid sufficient ground work. And that they will continue to confide in you when it goes wrong. This is key. Ultimately they will own their devices one day and they have to learn self-control. I suggest at the ages mentioned (say 10-14) that might be fine, but it shifts markedly when they get older…..

  13. Hello there! Found this article while researching INSTAGRAM safety for me 12 1/2 year old. His middle school teachers have an account and even the School has an official account. I myself am on instagram. My son is BEGGING for an account. Many of his friends are already on. I get how we can make his account private. My issue is on the main page, the Search feed? Many of the photos that pop up on the feed because they are BASED ON PEOPLE I FOLLOW ….or the most troublesome POPULAR IN YOUR COUNTRY—these are often naked or half naked people. Kim Kardashian big bare ass???? If there was any way for me to restrict that feed I would certainly let me son get an account. I have searched the settings and searched online. Am I missing something? Thank you!!

  14. Hi! I know you published this article a year ago but I was curious if you have an idea about this. I’m a very active Instagram user and am planning on having kids soon. I’ve accidentally gone down the terrifying rabbit hole of anorexia and cutting pictures that use seemingly innocuous hashtags. These girls have to be using a secondary Insta account they hide from their parents. Obviously bad parenting is the case in some but I’m sure not all. I myself have two Insta accounts I easily and quickly switch between. And the user name doesn’t automatically pop up when you login so there would be no way to know. Is there any way to control that?

  15. Until these social sites/apps add some sort of filtering, I will not be letting my kids on them. Your article proves my point. 10 pages of how to monitor what your kid is doing? If Instagram just gave the option to remove the search that would fix it. But it’s obvious they don’t give a sh*t. Instagram is Facebook’s end run around parents, making them think it’s safe for kids while they’ve already decided Facebook isn’t. Little to no benefit to these social sites anyway – I’d rather my kid had real life friends.

  16. Matthew Singh says:

    As a parent of 5 kids, I am sorry, but you are leading your children to resent you when they get older. I asked for the passwords to their emails, and that was it. Of course I had my own Facebook and Instagram and I did follow them until they were about 16. All my children were and are honor students maintaining 94 + averages and brought home A’s. This got them their privileges.

    Jayda & Raymond -17

    • At the prompting of a group of girls, my 13 yo son just got an account without approval. I am quickly reading as much as I can to get on top of protecting him. I gave him rules that he’s heard before w computer games etc and told him I’d do periodic checks to protect him. I am going to tell him that I’l stop spot checking at 16 too (thx Mathew).

      Does anyone have a suggestion for how my son should handle follow requests from kids at his school? He goes to a big school where lots of kids don’t know eachother. He is getting tons of requests but many of the kids he has never talked to. He has ben bullied before. He is very naive too. However, he wants more friends and some school kids he never met were liking his photo.

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