Instagram, commonly referred to “the social network of tweens” is one of the newest social trends. An application for iPhone and iTouch that allows users to upload, edit, enhance, and post pictures, it was used by one million teens in July alone. Studies show that more teens and tweens are using this platform to post pictures than Facebook, so it is certainly important to monitor their usage. Furthermore, a reported 45 percent of 12-year-olds use social networking sites whereas 82 percent of 13-year-olds do. One of the most alarming things about the application is the explicit photos that other users upload that any user can see. The Huffington Post reported that if you search the term “latte” 135,000 hits come up but when you search for pictures containing the tag “Instasex” 201,000 results are returned. With 80 million Instagram users uploading five million pictures a day, it is impossible for their staff to monitor every picture to ensure that no explicit pictures containing nudity or other inappropriate content go live. However, they have recently added the useful feature of being able to “flag” photos that are inappropriate.

Another danger your children face is online predators. The best way to avoid this is to set your teen or tween’s account to “private,” so that only users that they accept can view their uploaded photos. To do this, go to the Profile tab, scroll to the bottom of the page and find the “Photos are private” switch and toggle it to say ON. Be advised that when one signs up for this app, by default they will be a public account and must be changed over manually to private.

One of the more damaging social problems that Instagram presents is the issue of cyber bullying. Users can comment on photos, which makes it easy for “frenemies” to post snide or offensive comments. And nothing can start a round of tween drama like seeing photos posted of some party that your child wasn’t invited to. I recently saw a picture a tween posted where people commented about how sweaty and fat she looked Cyberbullying is certainly an Instagram danger to watch out for.

Be sure to monitor your child’s use of this innocent seeming app, because, underneath it all, it might not be so innocent.

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