Ok. So I’ve allowed my daughter to have Instagram. She’s 10.
A few of her friends have it, including her best friend who is now at a different school, and considering the Instagram account can be private – that is, only people you’ve accepted to follow you can see your photo’s – I gave in and said she could have one too.
What is Instagram?
Instagram is a photo sharing App. It’s hugely popular, especially among young people. You can take a photo, do some basic editing like enhance the colouring then upload it to your account. You have ‘followers’, who can see your photo’s (if your account is private…. if it isn’t, ANYONE can see your photo’s if they want to) and you can ‘follow’ others so you can see theirs. You can ‘like’ or comment on photo’s (this is social media after all) and your followers can do the same with yours. Most people will follow their friends and maybe some people of interest to them, like celebrities etc.
Can a child use Instagram?
Well, Instagram is for ages 13 and above. 13 is the recommended age for most social media platforms, but that doesn’t stop younger kids using them.
Should I have said yes?
I made my decision in haste to be honest. I figured that if her friends parents have allowed it, and it’s completely private, where’s the harm? I didn’t really think it through properly and now, a few weeks in, I’m questioning whether it was the right thing to do.
Initially, all was good, she just uploaded photo’s off my Camera Roll on to her Instagram account. Or she took pics as she went along and posted them. This was fine. She had a few friends that she followed and who followed her back. This was fine too. But then, other ‘friends’ were requesting to follow her. Friends of friends…. Some were girls who were in the year above at her primary school, meaning now that my girl was in Year 6, these girls were now in high school…..Year 7.
My daughter was very good, she knew she had to ask my permission if she could yes to anyone that requested to follow her. This was one of our rules. But the problem was, because some friends were at high school, they act slightly older. The photo’s they uploaded were slightly different to hers, not in a bad way really, just different.
Selfies. Lots and lots of selfies.
Now, my girl wasn’t sure about selfies at this point. She hadn’t really done any before unless she was messing around with me or with the ipad at home. But even her best friend pointed out that she should at least put the odd selfie onto her Instagram!
So she asked me to help her take one. I think she felt a bit silly at first. It wasn’t really her. She’s not very ‘showy offy’, which is what selfies are all about aren’t they? They’re very self indulgent. However, she was keen to master it. Holding the phone whilst she took a pic was the trickiest part for her. But she got there in the end!
The result is the above photo. Her very first, proper ‘posing’ selfie. And she looks super cute in it.
She has since become a bit of a seasoned pro. Here are a couple of others she’s taken…
But I’m not sure how I feel about this. Has this selfie taking made her too aware of herself at this age? Probably. The two images above of her on her own don’t even look like her! She’s doing that typical teenage pose and even though it amuses me a little, I don’t like it. It’s too grown up.
Luckily, she’s not THAT into Instagram. She only goes on it now and again and pretty much forgets about it when she’s playing and being a normal 10 year old.
I don’t really regret allowing her to have it…. she’ll see it anyway when she’s at her friends houses, but I WILL monitor it and I WILL have total control.
So how do I monitor my daughter’s Instagram?
First of all I Restrict Usage – At the moment, my daughter is only allowed to use Instagram on my phone, which means I have to physically log her in. I don’t allow her to sit and browse for too long, which could potentially allow her to stumble across something inappropriate.
I monitor all Follow Requests – She has to ask me if she can allow someone to follow her. Only people she/we know well are allowed. If she’s not sure, then we say no.
Check Uploaded Photo’s – Because my daughter uses my phone, it’s easy to keep tabs. She’s usually with me when she’s taking photo’s or uploading a photo. She has had Instagram on the iPad when she’s had friends over but I do keep checking in to see what they’re doing.
Keep Talking – I think showing an interest is very important and keeping them aware of the do’s and don’ts of social media in general is imperative. It just keeps things fresh in her mind as she gets older so it’s (hopefully) ingrained. My daughter likes to show me some of her friends photo’s too. I look anyway because knowing what her friends are posting is a necessity. If anyone is posting anything inappropriate, they’ll be deleted. This hasn’t happened yet though!
Should YOU say yes?
If your child is begging you to allow them to have Instagram and you’re just not sure, then I would think very carefully before you say yes.
Obviously I’ve said yes and that’s because I believe Instagram is OK as long as you’re monitoring it. As long as their account is set to private and you’re very choosy in who’s allowed to follow, then it’s a relatively safe option.
I mean, how many kids watch You Tube? We’ve all sat there whilst our kids are watching a cute video one minute, only for them to suddenly stumble on some dodgy cartoon that’s aimed at a much older child or adult the next!
And if they’re at an age where their friends have it, they will look at it with them anyway. It’s not as if saying no will protect them from it completely.
We can’t stop our children from growing up and they ARE going to be exposed to the world of social media whether we like it or not.
I won’t be allowing any other forms of social media though. Not for a long time… and probably not until the recommend age. I think kids spent far too much time in front of a screen as it is and social media is just too much of a distraction from normal life.
One is more than enough for now.