This is a sponsored post
Since Lisa Frame posted The Very Public Side of Private Instagram Accounts on this blog, we’ve received comments expressing reactions ranging from surprise to those saying that this is just another example of the lack of cross platform security that has always existed as data moves fluidly across social networks and sharing tools. The post wasn’t meant to be a scare tactic to make parents feel overwhelmed about social networking tools that seem impossible to monitor. Like the many other posts that I write for this site, Lisa’s post was meant to be educational and create an important conversation with our kids who are eager to have the same tools we’re using to connect with their friends as we do with ours.
But as adults, we have a lifetime of experience and healthy skepticism. We’ve been around enough to understand the pros and cons, risks and rewards of being online and having social media tools at our disposal. We know that private doesn’t always mean private but do our kids know this? If not, how do we teach them?
Everyone brings a different philosophy to parenting with our own belief systems and approaches to raising our children. This set of guidelines is designed to create an open ended conversation with Instagram about your kids but ultimately you know your child best. The age of your child and their experience with Instagram can drive your family conversation but please know there is no right or wrong way to talk about online privacy issues and social sharing.
Start by creating a dialogue to talk through different Instagram scenarios
Whether your child has an Instagram account or wants one, it’s never too late to talk to them about why they have one or why they want one. “Because my friend has one” isn’t a good enough reason. It’s easy to feel pressured into allowing your kids to have an account without having a conversation that demonstrates mutual understanding the risks and rewards associated with using Instagram but if they have a good reason to be on it, talk them through any of the 7 different scenarios below. These are designed to get them thinking about their presence on the social media platform, how their friends use it, and how their account can show they’re a responsible digital citizen.
- Who will you follow? Talk to them about how to verify who is who on Instagram and why it’s important to only follow those they know. If they have favorite brands whose accounts they follow or would like to follow, take a look at those accounts together and talk about why they follow, or want to follow, them. Instagram accounts from companies like GoPro and National Geographic feature gorgeous family-friendly images that can serve as models.
- What photos are and aren’t ok to share? How do you want to be seen on Instagram? Instagram can be the ultimate expression of self for today’s digital kids but it’s important for kids to be mindful about what they’re wearing and what appears in the background to ensure that they’re being appropriate without giving up too much information that allows them (or their location) to be easily identified.
- What happens if you post a photo with a friend that they’re not ok with? How might you talk to your friend about taking down a photo you don’t want everyone to see? Everyone loves a good selfie with friends but this question helps kids realize the importance of respect in the digital space.
- Do you think your feelings can be hurt through Instagram? This open ended question will help gauge where your child is in their understanding of the platform. Chances are that your fairly new Insta user may think that Instagram is just for sharing photos but older teens may have a better understanding of the secret language of emojis and insights into like currency. Time.com’s The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram provides an inside look at how girls are using the service for much more than photo sharing while The Secret Language of Emojis on Instagram provides a peek at how combined emojis can be a language of their own.
- What would you do if some of your friends are being mean through their comments? We know how fickle teens can be. One minute you’re best friends and the next minute there’s all kinds of friend drama. Back in the day most of this friend drama occurred through face to face interactions but now thanks to social media tools, it can be 24/7 and hard to turn off.
- What happens if you get a request from a follower you don’t know and you click on their account to find a photo of their privates? I recently clicked through an account of someone who liked my photo only to find a 15 second video of his erection. Gross, I know! I asked Emily what she would do and she immediately said she’d report it. There’s no gray area about inappropriate content on Instagram and our kids should feel empowered to report inappropriate materials they see.
- What do you think it means to have a private account? We know that private doesn’t always mean private and things shared online are there forever but how do we get our kids to understand these very important concepts when it’s hard for them to think about how what they post might affect them in the long run? Use the toothpaste analogy. It’s easy for kids of all ages to understand that what they share online and through social networks is like toothpaste. Once it’s out there, it’s out there for good.
Take a look at their friends’ accounts
Sometimes the best way to learn is through friends and chances are that there’s a whole lot of learning that can happen by examining the Instagram content of others. Pull up a friend’s Instagram account and go on a scavenger hunt for:
- Favorite photos- Ask your child what they love about that particular photo to spark a discussion about what makes a great photo
- Identifying information in any photo– Street signs, house numbers, the name of your school on t-shirts, etc. can be an unintentional way to share where you live, go to school, and favorite places to hang out without realizing it
- Selfies- From facial expressions to outfits, all are worth examining through a selfie to get your kid thinking about how they want to express themselves online. Ask them if that photo is one their friend would be ok showing their grandparents. If so, it’s probably ok to share. If not, it should be taken down.
- Captions- A picture may be worth 1000 words but what do the captions say? The text accompanying an Insta is also important to consider. Encourage your child to think before they type!
Serve as a model for what you want their Instagram accounts to look like
Do you have an Instagram account? If so, your account can show your child the kinds of content you expect them to share and ways to properly interact with friends. By serving as a role model, you’re teaching your child social media best practices. Hopefully their friends will notice and start to follow their example as a good digital citizen.
If you don’t have an Instagram account, who do you know that has one and uses it well? Reference theirs in your conversation and open it up to take a look. If your looking for one to serve as a model, you can always refer to my Instagram account!
Follow your child’s Instagram account
Just as you probably have rules for the digital devices in your home, there should be rules for the apps and social networks they put on them. Following your child on Instagram isn’t meant to be a helicopter parent tactic and just another thing you have to do. Its just smart parenting.
This post was inspired and sponsored by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal URLs that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world and I appreciate that they recognize that there are no right or wrong answers as we look to educate our kids through conversations about being responsible digital citizens.