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The Security of Youth on Instagram, Are They Safe?

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On Instagram, do most kids (middle school, high school) have pretty public accounts and let anyone follow them? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Ava Mohsenin, student at McGill University, on Quora:

I have found that most peers and kids younger than I am do keep their Instagram private. This level of privacy is often maintained with other social media platforms relatively quickly because of the automatic privacy of having to "friend" someone to see what they post on Facebook and having to find Snapchat accounts via connecting your phone to Facebook or searching their username. Therefore, everyone that follows and sees what an individual posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat is most often someone that they know. I confirmed this with my sister (18, just graduated high school), who said, "I don't want random people following me, and I want to know who is looking at my stuff."

If I take just Instagram as a use case, it's easiest to turn your settings to private, so you have to request to look at someone's profile. There are a couple reasons why this is desirable for middle/high school kids:

  1. That way, in case a family member or close family friend that could talk to your parents wants to look at your photos, you get to decline their access or modify what you're posting so that it's PG (if otherwise not), and you don't get in trouble for what you post/do/dress like/etc.
  2. There has been an increase of fake Instagram accounts, or random people, who request to follow me in the last couple weeks. They probably find my account by looking at comments on more renown, public Instagram accounts (like NatGeo, FCBarcelona's account, famous climbers I follow, meme accounts, The Onion, etc.) if I tag someone in a comment or someone tags me. If I didn't have my private account settings turned on, then they would follow me and/or spam me via Instagram Direct Message.
  3. Many peers in middle/high school might care about their reputation on Instagram (how many followers you have compared to how many people follow you, how many likes you get on photos, etc.) As ridiculous as it might be, having a private account means that someone you know from class that doesn't follow you can't just look at all your photos as they could with a public account. They have to follow you, and the individual gets notified, so you know who initiated contact or who is looking at your content (even if you've never had a conversation with them). e.g., I don't ask to follow any underclassmen (kids in my sister's grade, or others from my high school), mainly because I don't care about their photos, but if they ask to follow me I would be more likely to follow them back.
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