What Parents Need to Know About Instagram

Facebook is no longer the hangout space for young Kiwis. Tweens, teens and young adults are more likely to consider Facebook a place where their parents congregate (cos we’re tool old to “hang out”). For a lot of youth in New Zealand, Instagram is the place where they and their friends are likely to be spending a lot of their online time – as well as WhatsApp, Messenger, and a whole myriad of other apps you’ve probably never even heard of!

If you’ve only just got your head around how to keep your Facebook page secure, chances are you’re not yet up to speed on the intracacies of Instagram and how teens are using it in ways that we might not be familiar with. While your own Instagram may have cute photos of the kids, holiday snaps, and over-filtered sunsets, teens tend to use it in other ways. They may even have more than one account which they use for different purposes (and personas!).

What parents need to know about Instagram

Digital technology is a huge part of our lives and kids and teens are growing up with the internet and social media as the norm. It gives them opportunities to connect with others, to share, to learn, to collaborate, to explore, and unfortunately, to see the dark side of the big wide world. Keeping our children safe whilst using these platforms is just as much a part of parenting now as teaching them to cross the road safely. Kids may know how to find their way around a smartphone a lot quicker than us, but they are still developing, and need guidance on navigating appropriate and safe behaviour.

You don’t need to be the next Steve Jobs to understand how apps like Instagram work, you just need some basic knowledge so you’re familiar with what may occur.

Netsafe and Instagram recently collaborated to produce A Parent’s Guide to Instagram to give parents the information and tools they need to help their child safely navigate this social media phenomenon and be responsible digital citizens. This will give you the information you need to guide your kids’ use of Instagram.

Netsafe says, “Increasingly we see that Kiwi parents are recognising the importance of online safety and the role that they play in helping young people to have a positive experience online. Netsafe’s research shows that when young people do reach out for help, parents are still a place that many turn to for support. Parents don’t need to be experts in digital technology, but being familiar with how young people use it is a good place to start.”

What is Instagram?

Instagram is a photo, video, and message sharing app with 77 million users and is still growing. Instagrammers use the app to capture and share special moments, photos, videos, Live broadcasts, and “stories”. While it’s primary use is as a photo sharing platform with inbuilt filters, users can also make comments, post emoticons, hashtags and captions and send messages.

The minimum age for an Instagram account is 13.

“We want to make sure Instagram is a supportive community for young people to do and share what they love, and we want to make sure parents feel informed and empowered to help guide them,” said Mia Garlick, Head of Policy for Instagram Australia & New Zealand. “We believe this Guide will open up new conversations in homes around the country, and will help many understand the tools we’ve designed to ensure young people have a positive, inspirational and safe experience on Instagram.”

Privacy in Instagram

Instagram accounts can be public or private. It is important children understand who can see what they are posting for their privacy, control and safety.

A private account means that the user approves who can follow them. Content cannot be seen by anyone that has not been approved. If the account is public, however, anyone can see the content and can follow them without approval. However, there is nothing to stop an approved follower from taking a screenshot of a post or comment and sharing that with other people. This is why it is important that your child understands what is and isn’t appropriate to share online.

It is possible to block other Instagram accounts that they don’t want to interact with and anything on Instagram can be reported as inappropriate by using the three dot menu at the top right corner, or tapping and holding the message and selected “Report”. Reporting is anonymous. The user can also control who comments on their posts using the “Comment Controls” in the app settings. The user can also delete any comments from their posts.

Managing their time on Instagram

As well as privacy concerns, parents often also worry about how much time their teen is spending on social media. There is no right answer for how much time is too much – but there are tools that you can use to understand more about the time spent on Instagram and how to take control of that. The key is working together to decide what the right balance is.

The Activity Dashboard shows you how much time has been spent on Instagram for the past day and week – and may come as a shock to your teen! The daily reminder can be set to limit time spent on the app.

One of the worst things for pulling us back in to social media is push notifications – those little icons that bing away and let us know something is happening! Muting them for a preset amount of time is a good way to disconnect for a while.

Netsafe’s top tips about online safety for parents

    1. Set expectations around behaviour, appropriate content, and time spent on social media
    2. Understand what they do online by talking to them about their online presence and friends
    3. If you don’t understand it, give it a try
    4. Set a good example in your own digital presence and time spent online
    5. Teach them the basics of setting strong passwords, what not to share with anyone online (home address, logins, bank account information, birthdate, school, personal images, etc), and that not everyone online is who they say they are
    6. Set up their social media together
    7. Give them the tools and information they need to stay safe online
    8. Talk about online bullying
    9. Talk about the risks of inappropriate content
    10. Let them know that, if something does happen, they can talk to you, a trusted adult, their school, or Netsafe.

For the full Parent’s Guide to Instagram and more about the tips above, you can download the guide from the Netsafe website.

If you need help or advice, about any online issue you can contact Netsafe on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723), email help@netsafe.org.nz, or online at netsafe.org.nz/report

Netsafe is New Zealand’s independent, non-profit online safety organisation. Taking a technology-positive approach to the challenges digital technology presents, they work to help people in New Zealand take advantage of the opportunities available through technology by providing practical tools, support and advice for managing online challenges.

Are you up to speed on the basics of Instagram and other social media platforms that teens use?

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her world julieWritten by Julie Scanlon

Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire. 

Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”


  1. kymmage 31/03/2019 at 10:53 pm

    Some great advice here. Both kids have Instagram for their YouTube social media presence, amongst other things but they don’t currently have access to it. We talk about what to post together and I have spoken at length with them about appropriate poses, and themes. What not to show including school uniforms, identifying things that might be dangerous and no nudity too!

  2. dawnblyth 31/03/2019 at 10:30 pm

    Access to social media is a huge part of lives today. Learning to navigate this is a real art I think. Monitoring and having a good relationship with our young people is one step towards making sure our young ones are kept safe.

  3. SarahBlair 31/03/2019 at 10:22 pm

    My 15 year old is a bit of an Instagram addict, I had a talk with her about it, she keeps her profile private and I ‘follow her account so that I can see everything that she posts, my 17 year old met some ‘friends’ through Instagram that are apparently girls that are her age that live in America that she talks to on messenger, she had her phone confiscated for that…

  4. felicity beets 31/03/2019 at 5:48 pm

    I don’t really use instagram – more facebook. I do think it is a lot harder for teenagers now as everything they do (embarrassing or not) can be potentially be published for all to see.

  5. Alezandra 29/03/2019 at 9:45 pm

    I have Instagram and use it more for photos but didn’t really fully understand that it’s even more. My 4 year old is too young for this but the tips are useful.

  6. Bevik1971 28/03/2019 at 9:40 am

    Our daughter is 6 so doesn’t have anything to do with Facebook or Instagram – yet! Our tablet died before Christmas and we haven’t bothered replacing it. We let her play a little PS4 or watch some Netflix instead now. NetSafe is a great tool though and I’m sure as she gets older she will be wanting more with getting a phone later on etc.

  7. MuddledUpMolly 26/03/2019 at 11:59 am

    It is great that NetSafe releases guides for parents on how to keep our children safe online. Online encounters can be so varied and it is sad to see so many different websites, apps etc that can draw our kids in for all the wrong reasons.

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