Instagram, with 300 million monthly users, is one of the most popular social networks on the internet. While it’s a great place for sharing photographs with family and friends, there are dangers parents need to be aware of.

Instagram started in 2010 - the name a combination of ‘instant camera’ and ‘telegram’. Users upload photos and videos, add filters to change the appearance of a photo and share them with their followers.

It’s available as a mobile app for Android, iOS and Window Phone devices and is also accessible via a web browser.

How does Instagram work?

To use Instagram you need to sign up for an account and pick a user name.  The minimum user age is 13 years old.

Once you’ve joined, you can start to follow people - this can be friends who use Instagram, celebrities or companies. Pictures from people you follow will appear in your feed, and others will start to follow you so that your pictures appear in their feed.

Instagram users can like and comment on each other’s photographs.

Adding a hashtag to a photo such as #butterfly, for instance, means your photograph will appear in search results if anyone looks for the term ‘butterfly’.

Instagram dangers

Cyberbullying: By default posts are set to public (see below) so there’s nothing to stop people making comments a child may find upsetting. Find out more about Cyberbullying.

Stranger danger: Instagram is a place to meet people. But not everyone is who they claim to be, so it’s possible your child may strike up a conversation with a stranger and could be at risk of online grooming. Find out more about Online Grooming.

Inappropriate content: With millions of users from all around the world using Instagram there’s a chance your child may see photographs of things you don’t want them to see.  Nudity and sexual activity is banned, but post-mastectomy and pictures of breast feeding are not. Instagram’s Community Guidelines outline what is allowed.  Find out more about Inappropriate Content.

Tips to ensure your child is using Instagram safely

If your child is using Instagram it’s really important to sit down with them and encourage them to think about what they post and to be aware of any dangers.

Tip 1: Use a Private profile

Instagram Private profile

If you are worried about your child using Instagram set their profile to private. This means only people your child knows and approves can follow them, and they can reject requests from people they don’t like.

Tap the Person and Settings and tap the slider next to Private Account.

Tip 2: Disable location tagging

Instagram - disable location tagging

When you post a photograph on Instagram there’s an option ‘Add to Photo Map’. This feature allows users to see where a photograph was taken, but as it can also reveal the child’s location and where they live to strangers, make sure it’s not selected.

Tip 3: Unfollow, Blocking and Reporting

Instagram unfollowing and blocking

To stop viewing photographs from a follower tap their profile and click Following and tap Unfollow from the pop-up box.

Block users by tapping the menu icon (it looks like three dots) and selecting Block or Report as Inappropriate

Tip 4: Limit personal information

Instagram limit personal information

Your Instagram biography sits at the top of your profile and is visible to anyone who searches – even if your profile is private. Encourage your child to think about the information they are sharing and change it if necessary.  For instance you might not want their real name or where they live.

To do this, tap the person icon and click Edit Your Profile at the top and click each of the four options: Name, Username, Website and Bio to make changes.

Further advice about online safety

If you are concerned about your child using the internet and want to understand more about potential dangers and what to look for check out internetmatters.org. The website is packed with free advice for parents to help ensure their children stay safe online

Find out more at www.internetmatters.org.