Social networks, apps and games
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Instagram

Instagram is a picture and video sharing app. Users can post content on their profile grid or to their stories, which last 24 hours. You can follow your friends, family, celebrities and companies on Instagram. Instagram also has a live streaming feature.

13+

Official age rating

13+

Net Aware age recommendation

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Our safety ratings

Overall safety rating:

Our overall rating for Instagram

Average

We don’t think this app is suitable for anyone under the age of 13. With a public account you can easily communicate with other users and your child could be at risk of talking to someone they don’t know.

It’s also easy to come across images or videos that might not be appropriate for their age group or that they find worrying or upsetting.

Under 18s can only receive direct messages from adult accounts they follow. For example, if an adult who your child doesn’t follow tried to send them a direct message, the adult would be told this option isn’t available to them and the message would not be sent.

Make sure to talk to your child about who they’re following on the app and remind them to come to you if an adult ever tries to talk to them – even if it’s an adult they know.

 

Safety features

Instagram has a selection of tips and advice for parents, including information on what the platform is, privacy and safety, and reporting.

You can also add filter settings to hide offensive messages sent to you via DM or comments on your posts.

From July 2021, all accounts created by under 16s are set to private by default. Make sure your child signs up with the correct date of birth and talk to them about the importance of keeping the information they share private from people they don’t know. If your child already has an account, we recommend talking to them about making it private.   

Instagram also has a number of safety settings in place to stop suspicious adult accounts from interacting with young people. Adults who have recently been blocked or reported by a young person will not be able to view or comment on other young people’s accounts. They also have a feature that prevents adults from messaging under 18s who don’t follow them.  

There are also tools that allow you to filter out direct message requests from people you don’t know that contain offensive words.  

Privacy & location

Instagram accounts can be set to private so only people who follow you can see your posts. You have to approve all follow requests.

Instagram also has a function that lets you restrict who can comment on your posts or turn off comments completely.

The app’s default setting for location sharing is off but you should always double check this in settings.

Reporting & blocking

To block another account or report images, videos or comments that are upsetting, you just need to click on the three dots in the top right hand corner.

Whenever you block someone you’re also given the option to pre-emptively block new accounts that person may create using the same email address.

Content

Instagram has built in features that automatically remove offensive words and comments. There is also an option to add your own list of words that you don’t want to appear.

Many children will use Instagram to follow their favourite influencers, celebrities or other accounts they find interesting. This means it’s hard to control the sorts of content they’re seeing which means they might still come across something they find upsetting or that you don’t want to them to see.

The app’s ‘Sensitive Content Control feature’ lets you limit upsetting or offensive content from your feed. The toggle has three settings to choose from:  

Allow – This means you may see more images and videos that contain upsetting or offensive content.   

Limit (Default) – This means you may see some images and videos that contain upsetting or offensive content.   

Limit more – This means you may see fewer images videos that contain upsetting or offensive content.  

To access this feature, go to ‘Settings’. We would recommend selecting the ‘Limit more’ option on your child’s account. However, it’s important to remember that this will only limit the types of content your child sees, and they could still come across posts that upset or worry them.

Top tips for staying safe on Instagram

Sitting down with your child and exploring their favourite app or game is a great way for you to learn more about what they like to do online.

You can ask them why they like to use an app or play certain games, as well as who they’re talking to and what sorts of things they’re sharing.

You can also read our Net Aware reviews for tips on how to keep kids safe on popular apps, sites and games.

Remind them that they shouldn’t share private things, such as:

• personal information, like names, phone numbers, links to other social media accounts or their school
• other people's personal information
• links to join private group chats
• photos of themselves
• photos of their body, such as sexual photos or videos.

Remind them that if someone starts asking them other questions or suggests they speak using another messaging platform they should come and tell you.

Instagram has several different ways you can create and share content with your followers:

Stories

Instagram stories let you share images and video clips to your profile in a slideshow format. They automatically disappear after 24 hours.

People can only comment or react to a story privately through direct message.

If you have a public account stories can be watched by anyone who goes onto your profile.

Reels
Instagram Reels lets you record and add effects or music to short 15 second video clips to share with your close friends and followers, a bit like TikTok.

You can access the feature directly through the Instagram app by swiping left on the homepage and selecting ‘Reels’. Once you’ve added a video to Instagram it will appear on your profile under ‘Reels’.

You can also explore and watch other people’s Reels through Instagram’s ‘Explore’ page.

The app also has a livestreaming function where you can ‘go live’ and speak directly to your followers.

 

 

It’s easy to change your profile to private on Instagram. This means only people you’ve approved will be able to see what you post on your grid and stories.

Instagram has guidance on how to change privacy settings.

You can explore these with your child and decide which ones are appropriate for you and your family.

Your child might see something upsetting or negative on Instagram. If this happens, they might want to report, block or restrict content or another user. Explore these features together to make sure you're both confident about when and how to use them. 

Reporting

Instagram has specific guidance on how to report inappropriate content, including posts and profiles. 

Blocking

You can block other users on Instagram or stop people from commenting on your photos and videos. 

Restricting

You can restrict other people on Instagram. This means they won't be able to see when you're online or if you've read their messages. If you restrict someone, their comments on your posts will also only be visible to them, unless you tap 'see comment'. You can approve comments if you'd like other people to see them, or you can delete or ignore them. 

And remember to let your child know that they can always talk to you about worrying things they see online.

If an account is private, then videos or images shared on Instagram can only be seen by followers. Your child’s followers will most likely be made up of friends and people they know from other offline activities. But sometimes kids might let friends of friends or other people they don’t know follow them.

Set some rules with your child about who can follow them on the app and show them how to ignore follow requests from people they don’t know. You could also show them how to remove followers if they already have accepted requests.

To reduce the risk of your child coming across language that might upset them, we would recommend enabling Instagram’s ‘Hide offensive comments’ tool. When switched on, this automatically filters out any DM requests or comments containing offensive words, phrases and emojis set out in a pre-defined list.

To enable this feature:
1. Go to ‘Settings’ and then ‘Privacy’.
2. Select ‘Comments’.
3. Enable ‘Hide offensive comments’ so the switch appears blue.

As different words or terms can be hurtful to different people, you can also create a custom list of words, phrases and emojis that your child might find upsetting by selecting ‘Manual filter’. We recommend supporting your child with using these custom lists.

O2 Guru top tip

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On Instagram privacy settings

In settings, show your child how to make their account private and switch off location sharing.

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Talking to your child

Having open, regular conversations with your child will help you to really understand and explore the online world together. Our tips and advice can help you start these conversations.

Talk about staying safe online

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