My business is about spotting and reporting on trends. Through the years I've found they can come from some unlikely sources. But never was I more surprised than when I discovered my (then) 8-year-old son would turn out to be a TT (Technology Trendsetter, that is).
Now, Instagram was hardly news, but the fact that it was beginning to spread among tweens was new news. I reluctantly let him sign up. Within a week five friends, then 20, and suddenly they weren't just following him but ME. My followers practically doubled overnight. As did his.
Today, I received a query from a friend asking what to do. She didn't like that her daughter was on it; and she wanted some advice. Before I could sit down to answer I received an email from my school discussing the issue. While they didn't want to prohibit it, they did want to point out some of the issues.
Hence, a generational issue. The kids are all about how many "likes" they have on each photo and how many followers they have. It is instant approval (or disapproval). I can "judge" it, but the reality is, it's now part of our culture. My goal is to help my kids be as safe and resilient through the ups and downs of it as possible.
Here are a few tips:
First off, Instagram doesn't offer an age range before 1999. So if your kids on he's lying about his age. Strike one for me.
Second, ANYONE can see your kids photos and profile -- unless they make it private. That way only people they approve can see it. PHEW, one for us.
Next: Make sure the Geolocating feature is off. Geolocating tags the photo to say almost exactly where your kid is. AWESOME. It's off. Wait, now on!! With the simple switch of a button it can mistakenly be changed. Let your child know the issue behind this.
Fourth: Don't use your real name or photo. Unless he is a watermelon, we are good here.
There is a great article my school passed that offers good tips: "Instagram -- Is It Okay for Kids? What Parents Need to Know."
Now, Im sure many of you will just shut off your kids accounts. Fact is there is inappropriate content your kid could be exposed to. And more power to you. It may well be the best thing to do. However, I recall a lecture I attended by a tech expert who let his child in Facebook at age 11. After we all mentally chastised him, he went on to explain that at 11, his son let him sit with him as he posted, allowing the dad to explain what was right (and questionable). He wasn't so sure how that would go in a few years. Another mom whose daughter joined at 13, created a fake profile for herself (with her daughter). That way she could be "friends" with her daughter without everyone knowing it was her mom.
Like they say, small kids -- small problems. Big kids -- big problems.
In some ways I would rather he make those mistakes on Instagram now.
What do you think? You can follow at DecentDaughters.
But please, just not him!