The minimum age required to sign up for an Instagram account is 13 years old, however, there have been cases where children as young as 11 years old have been groomed on Instagram. Despite the minimum age requirement for an Instagram account being 13, this does not mean it is necessarily the recommended or appropriate age for children to make an account. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is a piece of American legislation that prevents companies from collecting information from children under 13. Social media companies set their minimum age requirement at 13 in order to comply with the legislation, not because it is safe or appropriate for children to use their social media service at the age of 13.
Any user with an Instagram account has the ability to follow, or request to follow, your child on Instagram. Instagram profiles display how many people the user is following, and how many people are following them. There is an enormous pressure on children to gain large amounts of followers. According to Cyber Safety expert, and former police officer, Susan McLean, over 90% of children who use Instagram do not have their account set to private because they want to be seen as popular and having lots of followers.
Instagram provides children with direct access to inappropriate content. Each Instagram user has access to an ‘activity’ page, which displays content that has been liked or commented on by people who they follow. Users also have access to a ‘popular’ page, which displays content that has been interacted with by their followers or people who they are following, as well as assorted content from other users who have NO DIRECT LINK to your child. This means that children are often exposed to inappropriate content when they are not even specifically looking for it. In 2013 ONE IN FIVE children aged between 8-13 years old reported having seen something on the Internet that bothered them.
4. PEER PRESSURE:
Many psychologists and cyber experts have expressed concerns about the pressure that is placed on children when they use social media services. Clinical psychologist Louise Adams says children’s online activity is closely linked with their levels of self-esteem and sense of self worth.
Research has found that 35% of children under the age of 18 are worried about being tagged in unattractive photos on social media. 27% feel stressed about how they look in images online. 22% feel down when their photos do not receive a lot of likes. Another study found that 11% of Australian children aged 8-13 Photoshop their pictures before posting them online.
5. DIRECT MESSAGING:
Any user with an Instagram account has the ability to direct message your child on Instagram. Although your child can block and report users who send them inappropriate content on Instagram, it is important to note most predators on Instagram use MULTIPLE ACOCUNTS to access a greater number of children. You can read more here about Instagram Direct Messager.
6. SOCIAL EXCLUSION AND BULLYING:
Unfortunately, Instagram provides yet another platform for children to bully and harass one another. In 2014, 81% of children aged between 8-16 years reported that they had witness cyberbullying of others online. 39% of children reported that they themselves had been cyberbullied, whilst 15% admitted to bullying others online. Instagram also provides a platform for children to make others feel excluded and left out. Children can feel isolated and excluded when they see photos of other friends hanging out without them on Instagram.