Top 2 App as promised and more to follow. Snap Chat was Number 1. Instagram is like a public, mobile photo album. You can post your own pics, copy pics from the internet, share your friend’s pics and use filters to create interesting, artistic designs. You can ‘Follow’ others and your pics can be liked and commented on by your ‘Followers’. This is new terminology – not ‘Friends’ as in Face Book but ‘Followers’ as in Twitter and Instagram. Just the term itself lends a legitimacy to having people you don’t know, watching what you do! The App was launched in 2010, and was #1 in the App store 24 hours later.
Why do teens love it? Teens are an often infuriating mix of wanting to be different and craving to the be the same! They love to know what others think of what they like but they also like to push the boundaries. Instagram allows for both. They can put themselves out there by posting all sorts of pics and at the same time test for acceptance by seeing how many ‘Followers’ and ‘Likes’ they get. There is a sense of individuality and independence about Instagram. You choose the pics to share and hashtag (#)them so others interested in a topic can view them. For example if you take a cool pic of your cat you can load it on #cats. Currently there are 12 million pics of cats posted from around the world and you can add to this! There is the cool, artistic factor of using the filters to jazz up a pic, and turning your pic into a work of art. Then there is the ego boost teens get when their pics are ‘liked’ or ‘commented on’. They post lots of selfies, pics of their friends, and of images they feel encapsulate their public persona. Instagram is an App, so again it is easy to sign up to: just an email address will get you started and it is floats under parents’ radar. It’s interactive and socially connective – perfect for teens. It’s spontaneous – you can take a pic wherever you are an upload it in a few second for the world to see! Lastly, so far at least, there are no advertisements. This makes it feel less corporate and more edgy!
Why should parents be concerned?
I’d be worried about the type of pics that teens might post. Think too much skin. Has your teen set their account to Private meaning that only those ‘Following’ them can see their pics? Have they accepted Followers who they don’t know? There is quite a competitive edge to Instagram. I have seen teens post comments such as ‘Follow me, I am trying to get 1000 by Saturday’. Now these are not 1000 friends! There is also no way of knowing who a ‘Follower’ might be. I have seen Teen accounts being followed by hundreds of ‘gorgeous looking muscular 15 year olds’ and I had to wonder if they were really who they purported to be. The ‘Likes’ and Comment facility open themselves to nasty comments or the withholding of ‘Likes’ both could be used to cyberbully.
What can parents do?
Talk to your teens about being courteous and respectful on Instagram. Have they asked their friend if they can post that pic of them? Ask them to tell you and show you how it works, engage them in a conversation about what they think about it and why. Remind them of keeping their digital reputation tidy and clean. Has anyone they know done anything on it that they think is inappropriate. Talk about their privacy settings – they should ensure that only people they know can ’Follow’ them and that they are only ‘Following’ those they know. They should feel that they can report cyber bullying if they see it happen or step in and put a stop to it. Never assume a teen as thought of all the consequences – they usually haven’t.