Is Instagram Safe for 13-Year Olds?

“Mom, can I have an Instagram?”

“But sweetie, you’re only 13 years old. Maybe we should wait.”

“But mom, all my friends have one and 13 IS THE AGE LIMIT. It’s okay. If I’m not on Insta, I’m a nobody.”

“Let me look into it honey.”

Okay mom, what do you do next? Your daughter is right – most of her friends are on Instagram and 13 is the age limit.

Last year we wrote the following: Is Instagram Safe for 10, 11 or 12 Year Olds? Our conclusion was that it isn’t. What about for 13-year olds?

If you are the mom in this case, you will probably ask a couple of friends, or maybe ask a sibling who has kids of a similar age what they think. You might take to Google and read about how there insta-locationare risks, but that you can do things to make sure your daughter stays safe.

Saying “no” at this point is pretty much impossible. You help her set up her account (Note: make sure she uses her real email address; if she doesn’t and forgets the password, she’ll never be able to get the account back or delete it). Make sure the account is set to private and turn off location settings (see right: Settings -> Instagram -> Location -> Never). You caution her against accepting friend requests from people she doesn’t know. You set up your own Instagram account (sigh) and friend her so you can see what she is posting.

Are you in the clear?

There is one situation that we don’t hear many people talk about, but it came up this week as we were doing some research for a middle school principal who had anonymous cyberbullying problem.

On Instagram, users can send Direct Messages to other users with whom they have no follower/following relationship. According to Instagram:

“Yes, you can send a message to anyone when you use Instagram Direct. If you send a message to someone who doesn’t follow you, it’ll appear as a request in their inbox. If someone allows your message request, your future messages will go directly to their inbox.”

What does this mean for you? Well, in the worst-case scenario, let’s say that a creep goes trolling through Instagram looking for unsuspecting young targets. The private account below belongs to a girl who looks to be 11 – 14 or thereabouts.

Even though the account is private, the troll can see her profile picture, her Instagram handle and her real name if she lists it (she does in this case). If he decides to send her a direct message, it will go to her Instagram inbox giving your daughter to option to “Accept” or “Decline”. She won’t know what is in the message unless she opens it. She has no shot at knowing who the real sender is.

There are lots of ways that a 13-year old can encounter inappropriate content or unsafe situations on Instagram. Unless your 13-year old is mature enough to hit “Decline” – every time  – when that mystery message hits her inbox, she might still be too young to be using Instagram.



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