Instagram rocks. I love it, and so do the youth I work with and study. The latest Pew survey says 18 percent of teens use the photo sharing service, which has about 150 million users. As I travel around the country speaking about social media and bullying, I hear about the many ways photo sharing can become an opportunity to disrespect people, start fights and make people feel excluded and small.
It's time for some guidelines on how to be a good human on Instagram. I came up with these with input from a bunch of kids, teens, parents and educators. I encourage you to talk about them with your kids and share them with teachers. Print this out and put it on the fridge. Following these Ten Commandments can help youth -- heck, all of us -- avoid drama online and be upstanding digital citizens.
1. Thou shalt be the same decent person online that thou art offline. If you wouldn't walk up to someone and say, "Your hair looks cray," don't type it, either.
2. Thou shalt never judge someone's appearance negatively in a comment, even as a joke.
3. Thou shalt not post photos of people that they don't know about, don't want you to post, or might find embarrassing. If you are asked to remove a photo, do it immediately. It doesn't matter if you think it's funny.
4. Thou shalt remember that JK can be just as hurtful online as it is offline -- "OMG your vacation looks so boring haha" -- and people are way less likely to think you were kidding when they can't hear your tone of voice. 5. Thou shalt realize that when you post something online, everyone sees it and it doesn't go away. It's like walking into a crowded cafeteria with a bullhorn and poster-size photo. Don't want to do that? Kay.
6. Thou shalt remember that everyone worries about getting likes. You matter more than the number of likes you get. Promise.
7. Thou shalt not crop others out of photographs to exclude them, unless they are your Mom and you want to post a cool photo of yourself.
8. Thou shalt never create anonymous handles or jack anyone else's account. Untag yourself from rude photos or comment threads.
9. If thou art in middle school or younger, keep your settings private and only accept follows from people you know.
10. Thou shalt not post photos that share body parts normally covered by bathing suits. However, thou shalt rock your selfies early and often, accept compliments without putting yourself down, and enjoy celebrating the fabulousness that is you.
Did I leave something out? Send me your feedback here.