In today’s digital world of targeted advertising and social media addiction, it’s only natural that you find yourself asking when it’s appropriate for your child to join the fray and make an Instagram account. While you admit that trying to shelter them from this world is naïve and probably not in their long term best interest; it’s still frightening to think about all the dangers they could potentially face.
It’s more than likely that your child has already grown up surrounded by technology and the culture of social media use. This makes them a ‘digital native’, meaning that they are able to pick up and use digital technology and software instinctually with little instruction.
However, there’s always the concern that your child may become addicted to the use of social media, negatively affecting their self-esteem, productivity and overall happiness. While it’s extremely difficult to keep your child off of Instagram, making sure that they use it safely without jeopardising their freedom doesn’t have to be.
Let’s take a look at a few things you can do as a parent to safely introduce your child to using Instagram and other platforms like it.
Talk to them
The best way to safely introduce your child to Instagram is to approach them honestly about what your concerns are and what you expect from them. In many ways, this talk is much like the talk you have when introducing concepts around sex and relationships.
You need to make sure your child understands what stuff is out there and what normal social media interaction looks like. Make sure they know what they should do if they come across something inappropriate or if they become the victim of online bullying.
It’s also very important (obviously) to make sure they know never to give out personal information to another person online, even if they are asked nicely. Children are the easiest group to exploit and you need to do everything you can to make sure your child isn’t victimised online.
You also need to communicate to your child what’s ok for them the post and what’s not ok for them to post. While children may have an instinctual understanding of how to use technology, they don’t yet have the social context to understand what’s appropriate for them to post online.
One big problem is when children unwittingly upload inappropriate content that can be exploited by predators. Children who have posted something taboo are seen as easier targets by predators.
The whole point of all of this talking is to create a positive culture around social media use so that from the very first time they use Instagram they’ll be doing so safely.
Create an agreement in writing
Another great method for introducing your child to Instagram is to create a set of easy-to-follow rules about proper usage. You should brainstorm these rules with your child so that they are a part of the rule-making process and not simply a passive observer.
You should create the rules based around the guidelines for use you established in your original talk with them. By doing this, your child will be more likely to follow the rules that they have helped author.
Supervise their use of the app
Some of the might use real instagram followers, when they first start using Instagram it’s smart to monitor their usage of it an exercise direct control when you see them going astray. You will probably have to spend some time blocking problematic accounts that your child has unwittingly followed.
After a while, your child will understand what accounts are simply bots and what accounts are generally inappropriate for them to follow. Don’t come down too hard on them if they make a mistake, simply remind them and move on.
Frame it as a creative outlet
A good way to make sure that your child has a safe and wholesome experience with Instagram is to frame it as a creative outlet for them. For example, if your child loves gymnastics then you can use Instagram as an outlet for them to share videos of their routines.
This helps them to see Instagram as a place to share something more than just a ‘selfie’. It also gives them a great way to connect with others who share their interests and makes them feel more connected with others in general.