Yesterday we had a little scenario where my Instagram account was riffled by a new follower.  I had always had my Instagram private until I unlocked it to the public for professional reasons.  I seriously didn’t think much of it until yesterday when a suspicious person trolled through my account and liked every single picture of my kids, starting from when my account was created, and put really scary comments next to multiple images.  A serious chill went down my spine when I found the notifications in the account- and the first thought was “how could I have let this happen?”  I consider myself pretty tech-savvy- I work daily in Instagram and other social sites- and I had NO idea that my location settings were open and what I really should even be doing to protect myself and my family.  If I didn’t know what to do- how does the majority of the parents in the country that are so busy already- know the up and up cyber-security?  I personally didn’t consider it so serious- until my wake-up call.  There are so many children on Instagram today- it’s the cool app to be on- but it’s also very risky as predators and trolls have easy access to find these kids- many of which don’t know, understand, or can comprehend the danger that they can ensue. After doing research today- please find below the top 7 ways to protect your kids on Instagram.

  1. Don’t Share Locations- Children, and all Instagram users, should be super diligent when posting anything that contains any personal information. This includes pictures of your home, school, work, or places that you obviously visit regularly.
  2. Block and Unfollow Suspicious Users- Don’t be afraid to use the block feature- if a suspicious user likes or comments on one of your child’s photos or messages your child, kids should be instructed to not hesitate to block them.  Instagram is really good about taking care of the situation quickly.
  3. Use The Privacy Setting-  Make sure your account and your child’s is private.  Instagram allows users to enable a Privacy Setting which gives you the ability to determine who follows you. When the Privacy Setting is activated, if someone wants to follow you they have to make a “request.” You will then become notified of their request and can decide whether or not you would like to approve it.
  4. Limit Your Hashtag Use– When an Instagram user posts a photo with a hashtag, their photo is automatically linked to every other Instagram post that used the same hashtag.  Hashtags are also searchable. By typing them into the “Discover Section” on Instagram, users can view any public post captioned with the hashtag.  Many times innocent hashtags are codes for sexually explicit material including pornography. Emoji’s used in hashtags and often serve as icons for different sexual behaviors.
  5. Don’t Respond to Unsolicited Messages– While this might seem obvious, many kids are not aware just how dangerous it can be to message with someone they have never met. Instagram users can message your child even if they are not following them and have their Privacy Setting turned on. While they do have the option to “ignore” messages from people they do not know, the content of the message is still visible. It’s best to instruct kids to not open messages from people they do not know and to block these users.
  6. Avoid The Discover Section- The “Discover Section” or “Search Section” of Instagram is filled with sexualized images and NC17 material. Other than distraction, this area of Instagram serves no purpose for kids and offers countless opportunities for your kids to be exposed to porn.
  7. Only Have Followers You Actually Know– Pretty self-explanatory- parents have also found their child’s innocent photos reposted with sexual links and hashtags. For this reason, it is important that kids not allow people they do not know to view their account and follow them.

Hopefully these nuggets of information can help ourselves and our kids when it comes to internet safety.  It’s a quick fast-paced world out there- lets stop for a bit to make sure our kids are safe.