How can I keep my child safe on Instagram?

With an increasing number of children using image and video-sharing app Instagram, over the last few years the platform has introduced some new safety features to help protect younger users.  But have they made it safer?

Here’s everything you need to know.

What age-rating is Instagram?

Instagram is rated 13+. It is available to download for free on desktop and mobile.

What can you do on Instagram?

Instagram is predominately an image and video sharing app. Users can create a public or private profile where they choose to share their own content with their followers. Some children might create an account to just follow and interact with other people’s accounts. For example, a celebrity they like.

 

 


Instagram features

Lets you share images and videos on your account that disappear from your account in 24 hours. Stories don’t appear on a regular profile feed, but are displayed at the top of someone’s profile. 

Lets you broadcast a video in real-time to your followers.

This is a feature that lets you categorise stories you want to keep on your profile for longer than 24 hours.

Short-form videos that can be up to 60-second long. Reels can be posted to a public ‘Explore’ page where they might be watched more widely by other users.

What are the risks?

 

  • unwanted contact – If you have a public account users can communicate with one another via private and public chat. Even if your account is set to private other users can still request to send you direct messages
  • exposure to harmful upsetting content – Because of how the platform shows users content it's easy to come across inappropriate or adult posts on the app
  • pressure – Young people might feel pressure to post certain images or videos based on what they're seeing on the app. This could lead them to experience issues with their self-esteem and wellbeing
  • location sharing – The platform allows you to share your location with others on the app.

What safety measures have Instagram introduced to help keep young people safe?

Disabling direct messages

Instagram introduced a new policy that prevents adults from messaging young people who don’t follow them. You should make sure your child signs up with the right age and talk to them about who follows them on their account.

Parental supervision

Supervision on Instagram helps parents and carers manage how their child uses the app. You need to have an Instagram account to access the tools and request permission from your child through the app. The tools help you:

  • see how long they are spending on the app and set time limits
  • see what accounts they are following.

Young people can also choose to notify parents and carers when they report something on the app.

Always talk to your child before you enable any parental control features to make sure they understand why

Seven features to help keep your child safe on Instagram

Instagram gives users the option to set their account to private so their posts can only be seen by their followers.

This setting can be found by going to ‘Privacy’ in their account settings and selecting ‘Private’.

Once an account is set to private people will need to send them a follow request to see their profile.

This feature helps to stop certain profiles from appearing on your child’s feed. It's different from blocking because you can still see each other’s profiles.

To ‘Mute’ another user you need to visit their profile and select the three dots in the right-hand corner. You can choose whether you want to mute their stories or feed posts.

Enabling this feature will help to stop content that your child might find upsetting or worrying, but that doesn’t go against Instagram’s Community Guidelines. For example, some types of violence. 

The Sensitive Content Control has three options. The three options are: 'More', 'Standard' and 'Less'. To view your Sensitive Content Control, go to your profile, tap the ‘Settings’ menu in the upper right corner, tap ‘Account’, then tap Sensitive Content Control.

This feature filters out comments with common offensive words, phrases or emojis and stops them from appearing on your posts. This setting is switched on by default but can be found in ‘Settings’ and then ‘Hidden words’.

You can also create personalised word lists to stop other words, emojis and phrases. For example, if there is something your child is scared of, or you don’t want them to see you can add this to the list.

Manage who can comment on your child’s posts by exploring comment control settings. This feature gives you the option to switch off comments completely or select whether only followers can comment.

This sends users reminders to take a break away from the app. You can set reminders to be sent every 10, 20 or 30 minutes. 

You can find this feature by selecting the three dots in the right-hand corner of your profile.

How to talk to your child about Instagram

It’s important to talk to your child about what they are doing online. Ask them to give you a demonstration of Instagram and explore safety settings together. Here are some questions you could ask them to help get the conversation started:

  • What types of accounts do you follow?
  • Who is your favourite influencer?
  • Can you show me how Reels works?
  • What's your favourite feature?

Worried about a child?

If you're worried about something a child or young person may have experienced online, you can contact the NSPCC helpline for free support and advice. Call us on 0808 800 5000 or contact us online.

Children can contact Childline any time to get support themselves.

Get support