Know How to Talk with your Teen About Instagram: A Parent’s Guide

October 20, 2019

We know that as a parent it may be hard to understand the changing digital landscape and what your kids are doing online. That's why we've created this resource. We're here to fill you in on what Instagram is all about, give you some conversation starters for you and your teen and show you some of the tools that are in place to keep your teen safe.

A Letter From the Parents of Instagram

If you're reading this, you're probably a parent. We know from research that many parents have concerns about their teen's safety online, and as parents who also work at Instagram, we want to address those concerns. It's with our teens in mind that we go into work every day. Parenting is both an amazing responsibility and a brilliant opportunity. For all of the incredible opportunities parenting brings, there are some challenging ones too – we're raising the first generation of digital natives, for whom the online world is just as important as the offline one.

We know that as a parent it may be hard to understand what your teen is doing online and why they're spending so much time on their phones. While it might seem like posting photos and videos is second nature for teens, many of them actually put a lot of thought into what they share online. It's hard to know how to have an open conversation with our teens and keep them safe while we're learning to navigate the landscape ourselves. We share these concerns, as does everyone who works at Instagram.

That's why we've created this guide. We know it might feel daunting to have these conversations with your teens. We want to make sure that you feel equipped with the tools you need to start the dialogue and hope this guide will make things a little easier.

We feel a great responsibility to make sure that Instagram is a supportive community for teens to connect and share, and we want to make sure that you as a parent feel informed and empowered to help guide them. We believe that the first step is understanding why they use Instagram, and what tools are available to ensure that their experience is positive, intentional and safe.

What Is Instagram?

Instagram is a social media app used to share photos, videos and messages. Whether it's through Stories, Feed, Live, IGTV or Direct, our mission is to bring people closer to the people and things they love. In order to do this, we believe it's essential that Instagram is a safe, supportive place for people to express themselves. The minimum age to have an Instagram account is 13. Teens use Instagram to celebrate big milestones, share everyday moments, keep in touch with friends and family, build communities of support and meet others who share their passions and interests. To learn more about the ways that teens use the Instagram app, see the glossary at the end of this guide.

Manage Privacy

There are a number of tools that you can share with your teen to give them more control over their digital identity and footprint. One of the first things you want to talk about with your teen is whether their account is going to be public or private. Making sure they understand that they have control over who sees and interacts with the things they post online will empower them to feel like they can be themselves on Instagram.

ACCOUNT PRIVACY

The first choice you can make with your teen is whether their account is public or private. If your teen's account is private, they approve the people who follow them, and can remove followers at any time. Private accounts mean your teen's content can't be seen by anyone they haven't approved. If your teen is public, anyone can see the content they post on Stories, Feed or Live, and can follow them without needing approval. If your teen already has a public account, they can switch to private at any time; they can also go from private to public. They can remove followers, choose who can comment and more. Your teen can also turn off "Show activity status" so that friends can't see when they're online.

Account Privacy screen

Your teen can choose a public or private account by selecting "Account Privacy" in settings.

BLOCK UNWANTED INTERACTIONS

Your teen can block accounts they don't want to interact with. This will block people from seeing and commenting on their posts, stories and live broadcasts. When you block an account, that person is not notified. You can unblock an account at any time.

Block Unwanted Comments feature

Your teen can block an account by tapping "..." on their profile, then tapping "Block".

Manage Interactions

There is no place for bullying of any kind on Instagram and it's against our policies to create an account, post photos or make comments for the purpose of bullying or harassing someone else. Let your teen know that if they spot an account, photo, video, comment, message or story that is intended to bully or harass someone, they can report it from within the app by tapping “...” in the top right-hand corner of the post or profile, swiping left on the comment – or tapping and holding the message – and tapping “Report”. Reporting is totally anonymous; we don't share your teen's information with the person who has been reported.

MANAGE COMMENTS

Your teen is in control of who can comment on their photos and videos. In the “Comment controls” section of the app settings, they can choose to: allow comments from everyone, people they follow and those people's followers, just the people they follow, or their followers. Teens can also remove comments entirely from their posts.

Block Unwanted Comments feature

In your settings, select "Comment Controls". Your teen can tap "Allow Comments From" to control who can comment on their posts.

BLOCK COMMENTS

Teens can block accounts that they don't want to interact with. Comments will no longer appear from a blocked account. Teens can turn off comments from all posts or individual posts.

Block Unwanted Comments feature

Your teen can block comments by selecting “Block Comments” within the Comments Controls section.

FILTER COMMENTS

We have controls that help you manage the content you see and determine when comments are offensive or intended to bully or harass. We've built filters that automatically remove offensive words and phrases and bullying comments. Your teen can also create their own list of words or emojis that they don't want to appear in the comments section when they post, by going to “Filters” in the Comment controls section.

Block Unwanted Comments feature

Your teen can tap “Manual Filter” and a field will appear where they can enter any words, phrases or emojis that they never want to see on their posts.

Manage Time

When it comes to spending time on Instagram, there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to how much is too much or just right. There are a number of tools to help you and your family understand and take control of the time your teen is spending on the app. You can work together to decide what the right balance is for your family.

VIEW YOUR ACTIVITY

Your activity dashboard shows your teen how much time they've spent on Instagram for the past day and week, as well as their average time on the app. Your teen can tap and hold the blue bars to see how much time they've spent on Instagram on a certain day.

View your activity screen

SET A DAILY REMINDER

Your teen can use the daily reminder to set a limit on how much time they want to spend on Instagram. Speak to your teen about how they feel while using the app. Is there a point when they don't get as much out of it? Setting the daily reminder together can be a good way to talk about how your teen is using Instagram throughout the day.

MUTE PUSH NOTIFICATIONS

Your teen can use the "Mute push notifications" feature to silence Instagram notifications for a period of time. When the preset time is up, notifications will return to their normal settings without having to reset them.

Mute push notifications screen

To mute their notifications, your teen can tap “Notification Settings.”

YOU'VE COMPLETELY CAUGHT UP

Teens can feel pressure to see and interact with all of their friends' posts. When they scroll through every post on their feed since they last logged on, they'll see a message that says "You've completely caught up". This way, they'll know that they're up to date on everything their friends and communities are up to.

You're all caught up screen

“You’re All Caught Up” is enabled automatically.

Ten Questions to Help You Start the Conversation

We partnered with social media and education expert Ana Homayoun, M.A., P.P.S., author of Social Media Wellness, to create a set of ten questions you can use to guide a conversation with your teen about Instagram. Our intention is that you use these questions to learn more about how your teen is using Instagram, and to ensure that they're using the app in a positive way.

  1. What do you like about Instagram?
  2. What do you wish I knew about Instagram?
  3. What are the top five Instagram accounts that you enjoy following?
  4. What are some of the things you think about before you post something on Instagram?
  5. If you have multiple Instagram accounts, what do you share in each account?
  6. How do likes and comments affect how you feel about a post? What are the top five Instagram accounts that you enjoy following?
  7. Do you know your followers? (If your teen has a private account, ask them how they decide who follows them). What do you do when someone you don't know tries to contact you via direct message?
  8. How do you feel about the amount of time you spend online?
  9. Have you ever felt uncomfortable with something you saw or an experience you had online?
  10. What would you do if you saw someone being bullied on Instagram? (Do you know about the reporting tools and the offensive comment filter on Instagram?)

Glossary of Instagram Terms

BLOCK

Block is a tool that your teen can use if someone is bothering them on Instagram. When your teen blocks someone, the other person isn't notified, but they'll no longer be able to interact with your teen in any way.

COMMENT

A comment is a reaction to the content that someone posts on Instagram. Comments appear below posts on your teen's feed. Comments can use words or emojis.

COMMUNITY GUIDELINES

We want to foster a positive, diverse community. Everyone who uses Instagram must adhere to our Community Guidelines, which are designed to create a safe and open environment for everyone. This includes things such as no nudity or hate speech. Not following these guidelines may result in deleted content, disabled accounts or other restrictions.

DIRECT

Instagram Direct is where teens can message each other individually or in groups. They can also share photos and videos with just the people they're messaging.

EXPLORE

Explore is where teens will see photos and videos from accounts and tags they might be interested in. Explore is different for everyone – the content changes depending on the accounts and hashtags your teen follows.

FEED

Feed is where teens can see posts from the accounts they follow. Teens generally see feed posts as being more celebratory or special. Feed posts can be photos or videos

IGTV

IGTV is a place for vertical video up to one hour. Your teen can find videos from their favourite creators, and can make their own longer content. IGTV is a standalone app as well as within Instagram.

LIVE AND VIDEO CHAT

Your teen can go live to share with their followers in real time. When live, they can invite friends to join them, co-host a live session or leave comments and send hearts. They can also video chat in Direct with up to four people.

POST

A post refers to the media your teen is putting on their feed or on Stories. This can be video or photos.

PROFILE

Your teen's Instagram profile is where their friends and followers will find their posts, and can access their stories. It also includes a short bio. If your teen's profile is private, only their main profile picture and bio is visible.

REPORT

Reporting is a way for your teen to let Instagram know that a post, account or comment is inappropriate. Your teen can report any post or comment that they believe breaches our Community Guidelines.

STORIES

Stories disappear from the app after 24 hours, unless your teen has enabled archiving, which makes their expired stories available only to them. Your teen can share them in their Stories Highlights. Anyone who can view your teen's stories can screenshot them.

Collaborators

We worked with leading organizations and companies to create our Parent's Guide. See the full list below.

Boys & Girls Clubs

ConnectSafely

Cyber Peace Foundation

Diana Award

Girl Scouts

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network)

InSafe (Better Internet for Kids)

Internet Matters

It's Ok To Talk

Katariba

KIDS' DOOR

Kids and Future Foundation

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association)

Netsafe

PACER (National Bullying Prevention Center)

ParentKind

ParentZone

PFLAG

Prevnet

PTA

Scholastic

Shure University

Sodateage Net

Southwest Grid For Learning

Stop Ijime! Navi

The Mix

Yale Center For Emotional Intelligence

3keys

For more tools and resources, visit parents.instagram.com.