Instagram Direct was launched in December 2013, with the aim of creating a more “direct” form of communication on the Instagram app. Currently, approximately 85 million of Instagram’s 300 million users use Instagram direct every month.
Instagram Direct poses a HUGE risk to your child’s safety online as any user is able to message them on Instagram Direct. Would you be comfortable with strangers approaching your child on the street and attempting to engage in conversation? Whilst the threat posed to children using this service is very real, sadly, it is also often unheeded by parents.
Australia is experiencing a notable increase in grooming and sex offences involving children online. Police are currently investigating a number of cases, including that of an 11 year old girl with an iPad Instagram account who posted naked photos of herself for a man grooming her on the app.
Whilst privacy features are in place, there are many concerns about the safety of Instagram direct as it is difficult for parents to monitor for the following reasons:
- If you follow your child on Instagram from your own personal account, you will not be able to access their Instagram Direct feed as it is only accessible by the user
- If you log in to your child’s account using the Instagram webpage, you will not be able to access their Instagram direct feed as it is only compatible with the app
- Parental control software tools that track Instagram activity cannot access Instagram Direct
HOW DO I ACCESS MY CHILD’S INSTAGRAM DIRECT FEED?
To access your child’s Instagram Direct feed make sure you are on the home page by clicking the home icon on the bottom left. Once you are on the home page, click the icon shown at the top right on the image below.
WHAT CAN BE SHARED ON INSTAGRAM DIRECT?
Instagram Direct allows users to send messages in the following formats
- Photos or videos from the camera roll or taken on the in app camera
- Public (link to first post) posts that appear in your feed
- Profiles of other users
- General text or emojis
- Location pages
WHO CAN MESSAGE MY CHILD?
ANY USER CAN DIRECT MESSAGE YOUR CHILD ON INSTAGRAM.
If someone who your child does not follow direct messages them, the message will appear as a request in their inbox. Your child will then have the option to either DECLINE or ALLOW the message.
- If your child ALLOWS the message, all future messages from this user will go directly to their inbox
- If your child DECLINES the message, they wont receive messages from that sender again, there is also the option to BLOCK the user and REPORT their account
WHO CAN SEE CONTENT SHARED ON INSTAGRAM DIRECT?
The content of an Instagram Direct conversation is only visible to direct recipients. Instagram Direct has a group message function, where up to 15 users can participate in the same message thread. Your child must follow and be followed by the creator of the group message before they can be added to the conversation. If your child has a private Instagram account, the only people who will be able to see their messages within the group message is their approved followers.
Content shared on an Instagram Direct conversation cannot be downloaded or saved, however, it is important to note that all Android and Apple devices are capable of taking a screenshot to capture content in the conversation.
CAN MESSAGES BE UNSENT OR HIDDEN?
One of the biggest safety flaws on Instagram Direct, and the biggest concern to parents, is that messages on Instagram Direct can be UNSENT. Users have the ability to UNSEND messages that they have already sent to other users. Not only does this feature make it impossible to monitor exactly who your child is communicating with on Instagram, it also raises serious concerns regarding cyberbullying. The unsend feature allows cyberbully’s to delete offensive messages, making it harder to trace inappropriate behaviour unless screenshots have been taken.
HOW DO I REPORT INAPPROPRAITE CONTENT SENT TO MY CHILD VIA INSTAGRAM DIRECT?
You can report inappropriate messages on Instagram Direct by tapping and holding the message, the options to COPY or REPORT, will appear.
When you select report you will be asked to select a reason why you want to report the message.
If you want to report or block a user, press the picture icon that appears to the left of their message. Once you are on their page, click the line of three dots in the top right corner. You will then be presented with the option to Block User or Report the page to Instagram.
Once you have blocked a user they will not be able to message your child from that account again. It is important to note that many people who use Instagram to groom children do have multiple accounts, so it is important to REGULARLY MONITOR your child’s Instagram Direct feed.