Where there's a will, there's a social network: Instagram is the new Facebook for tweens and teens

Where there's a will, there's a social network: Instagram is the new Facebook for tweens and teens

You may have decided that your tween or teen isn't ready for Facebook.  The world of social networking may be a bit more than they can handle right now. But have you allowed Instagram, the free photo sharing app that can be cute or artistic?  Instagram and photos are different, right?

Actually, maybe not.

It seems that Instagram is the new Facebook.

Instagram users have the ability to comment on photos and post status updates. With those capabilities, Instagram is really not all the different from Facebook, and many kids are using it in the same way they would Facebook or another social network. Instagram requires that users be 13 years old to have an account, the same age requirement for a Facebook account.

Instagram is the top photography site among teens ages 12 to 17, with 1 million teens visiting the site during July. (For adults, the top photo site was Flickr.) There are more than 80 million Instagram users.  Facebook purchased Instagram last month, and said that Instragram isn't going anywhere.

Like any social network, there are risks.  Those run the gamut, from hurt feelings when seeing images of a party to which they weren't invited to pornography. (Yes, there are sexually explicit imagespictures on Instagram, as well as other disturbing images, including those related to drug use.)  There is the risk of your child oversharing information and the possibility that it could be a forum for cyberbullying. It is also an opportunistic for fraud, with users claiming to be modeling agencies contacting young Instragram users, but they turn out not to be from the agency they claimed.

Yoursphere, a website dedicating to family social networking and internet safety information, has a good overview of Instagramfor parents.

A fellow ChicagoNow blogger, the Dean of Parents, shares the experience she has had with her tween using Instagram on her smartphone and the family rules they have implemented here, including my favorite that Instagram can only be used on weekends and that the parents can block users.  The weekend rule seems like an approach that does not ban it, but does limit usage in an appropriate way. Most importantly, in my opinion, is that parents have access to children's accounts on any website that is even remotely like social networking. I like the advice of "be where your kids are" online. If your child is on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, you need to be there, too, with your own account.

My tween has not asked for a Facebook or Instagram account, and she doesn't have a phone yet, so I'm just waiting for the day. I've read many parents that say that you can't ban social networking all together, as the tweens and teens will find a way around it.  Do you agree?

I may not ban it, but I'm certainly not going to offer her accounts, especially because I have no interest in violating age requirements implemented by the companies. I'm planning to hold out until she's 13. But I'm not naive. (And I know that I've made other such comments regarding other parenting decisions and then realized how very, very wrong I was.) I recognize that the time is just around the corner when she wants these accounts, and I'll know that Instagram isn't just about her interest in photography. Guess I'd better go get an Instagram account now. Not only do I want to be where she is, I know that I'm going to need a head start to make sure I've got it figured out.

Is your tween on Facebook? Instagram? What rules do you have in place?


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