Teens have a lot of fun on IG, but they can also experience plenty of negativity. A new guide aims to inform parents on the tools and security measures that can help.

By Katie Bingham-Smith
Photo by Getty Images

If you have teens in your house, chances are they practically live their lives almost entirely on apps, and Instagram is at the top of their list. And whether they post daily, weekly, or just use it to talk to friends—or strangers—as parents, we need to be in the know about how we can monitor them.

And it really is necessary. A recent Pew Research survey that shows a whopping 72% of teens say they use Instagram—second only to YouTube—with 15% of them saying they use it more than other social media.

Social media as a whole—including Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and other apps—can be both beneficial and negative, according to teens’ responses to the survey. Things like connecting with others and finding news were the top positives, while bullying/rumor-spreading and harming relationships were the top two negatives aspects.

Instagram is taking strides to turn that around with the launch of their latest safety initiative, A Parent’s Guide, an entire guidebook dedicated to helping parents to better understand Instagram and to help protect their teens. Download the PDF here.

“I work at Instagram, and I'm also a parent. That's the lens I bring into the office each day, just like many other parents who work here,” Instagram Chief Operating Officer Marne Levine stated in a blog post. “We know the social media landscape will continue to change, and we're committed to being here every step of the way to make sure parents and their teens have the tools they need to make the choices that are right for them."

How Instagram is helping

While Instagram has always been committed to making sure it's a "supportive and safe" place to be—with the help of their comment controls, the ability to report unwanted interactions, and most recently, a suite of features to help you manage time—they've taken it a step further with A Parent's Guide. It highlights:

  • How to manage privacy, interactions, and time on Instagram
  • A discussion guide for parents and guardians which will include the Instagram “basics”
  • A discussion guide to help inform a productive and educational with talk with your teens about Instagram—even if you don't know much about the app.
Courtesy of Instagram

The company teamed up with some reputable organizations such as National PTA, Scholastic, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), GLSEN, PFLAG, ConnectSafely, Girl Scouts of the USA, the Boys & Girls Clubs of AmericaPACER's National Bullying Prevention Center, and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to help distribute the guide and get it in front of as many people as possible.

What teens say

Photo by Getty Images

The teens I spoke with said there’s another way to bully and stay anonymous. “You can make a fake Instagram account called a finsta and use it to bully, tag, and say mean things about people, and no one will know where it’s coming from,” according to several teens.

While the teens I talked to laughed and tried not to seem bothered by this, it was pretty clear it did. Whenever someone says something bad about you, even if it’s coming from an account no one cares about, they all agreed it’s hurtful and does affect their self-esteem. “It’s not easy to go to your parents for help and have them interfere, it just gives the bullies more material,” one teen said.

Next steps for you and your teen

Sit with your teen and come up with a list of words they'd like blocked (or you'd like blocked) from their page. You can also report someone for bad behavior, and help your teen monitor their time on the app.

Have an ongoing conversation with your teen. If we want to have an active role in their everyday life, remember it includes their online life.

And in order to do that, we must understand the apps they are using and their different features. A Parent’s Guide is simple, straightforward and will empower you and your teens to have the safest Instagram experience possible while allowing them to continue sharing and celebrating their life through pictures and messages.