A Parent’s Guide to Instagram: How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online

This fall, Instagram updated its Parent’s Guide, which provides over 100 pages detailing its various features, in addition to helpful resources and a glossary for parents and teens. Since releasing its first Parent’s Guide in 2018, Instagram has celebrated many milestones related to teen online safety and well-being, demonstrating its commitment to prioritizing safety and protection for young people. From its anti-bullying features to time-management tools, the social networking platform has continued to work towards ensuring a positive experience for its young users. 

Made in collaboration with leading organizations and trusted experts, A Parent’s Guide to Instagram provides an introduction by Larry Magid, CEO of ConnectSafely.org, who stresses the importance of helping teens thrive online. 

“Instagram and other social media apps are where they express themselves, hang out with friends, explore ideas, grow and learn. Like all human interaction, there will be times of joy, kindness and compassion. There will also be moments of drama and anxiety — not necessarily because of the technology, but because that’s the nature of relationships, online and off. As parents and guardians, it’s our job to support our teens, which may sometimes include helping them cope or recover from negative experiences. That’s part of their learning process and part of our nurturing.”

—Larry Magid

Further into the guide is where you’ll find the particulars of how to manage privacy, interactions, time, and security. Below are some key points from each of those sections.

Tips from Instagram’s Parent’s Guide

Managing Privacy

  • Accounts can be set to private (content can only be seen by approved followers).
  • Abusive users can be reported and blocked. 
  • Adults who have been exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior are restricted from seeing teen accounts in Suggested Users and from discovering teen content in Reels or Explore.

Managing Interactions

  • Comment Controls help your teen avoid unwanted interactions.
  • Reporting and blocking tools allow you to manage who can comment on posts.
  • Comments by adults who have been exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior are automatically hidden on public posts by teens.

Managing Time

  • The Activity Dashboard includes features such as daily reminders and mute push notifications. 
  • The Family Center allows you to see how much time your teen is spending on Instagram, and set limits.

Managing Security

  • DMs between teens and adults they don’t follow are automatically restricted. 
  • Safety notices are sent to teens with already-existing adult connections, encouraging them to be cautious in conversations with adults who have exhibited potentially suspicious behavior.

Also found in the Parent’s Guide are useful tips and conversation starters that’ll help get the ball rolling toward engaging in an open dialogue about social media with your child.

Conversation Starters*

  • What are your favorite accounts to follow on Instagram? What do you like about them?
  • How do you decide what to post?
  • Have you ever felt uncomfortable with something you saw or an experience you had on social media? What did you do?
  • How much time do you usually like to spend on Instagram? How do you know when it’s time for a break? What are some of the ways you like to relax when being on social media gets stressful?
  • Sometimes when I’ve been scrolling on social media for a while, I notice that it starts to feel stressful instead of meaningful. Does that ever happen to you?
  • I’ve been hearing stories about kids posting mean things about each other on social media. How do you and your friends handle it when something like that happens?
  • I saw people were [mad, hurt, upset] when [X celebrity] posted about [X topic]. What did you think about their post?

*Compiled by the clinicians at the Child Mind Institute.

It’s important to have an Instagram-focused chat with your teen and to educate yourself as much as possible about the app. Stay aware of the risks associated with using it and learn how to best support your teen’s experience to ensure it’s a positive one.

While you may not have much free time in your busy schedule (who does?), try to set aside an hour or so to look over Instagram’s updated guide. Today, teenagers have never known a world without social media. That is the reality. As is the fact that social networking apps come with many risks. The more we equip ourselves with information, the better we’ll be at protecting our children online.