Technology on the Spectrum: Photo Sharing and Social Status

Posted by: in Insights, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thinking Creatively, Thought Leadership on March 12, 2013

After numerous requests – and despite reading this and this – I (along with my wife) agreed to allow my son to get an Instagram account. It seems I’m not alone in my debate on this issue. I’ve heard from many friends and family members with children about the same age and, generally speaking, the feedback is that only about half of the parents of tweens asked allow their child to use Instagram. Others noted that kids under 13 (or even 15) aren’t ready for this and there are numerous stories about the improper and inappropriate content/use by some (read the posts on the links above).

I know what you’re thinking – that I should know better. You’re not necessarily wrong. After weighing the pros and cons, I felt that, with specific rules and close supervision, it would be better to allow him to try Instagram vs. ‘suffer’ the social consequences of not being able to connect with his friends and classmates in this way. Social skills and making/keeping friends is hard enough for a child with Asperger’s, so I felt it would be better to give it a try. Also, there was a time when he was interested in photography (he even won two awards in a local photography show), so maybe this is a way to reignite that interest.

All this being said, I think any parent should think long/hard about letting their tween use Instagram or other social media platforms. A few things we’re doing that you might want to consider:

  • Policy – in this case, a “rules of engagement” contract that my son will sign. Break the rules, lose the device.
  • Administration – The account will be set to private (Instagram’s default setting is that all your photos are public. Go here to learn how to change that to private.) In addition, the name, user ID and avatar will be determined/approved by my wife or me.
  • Community – Only “known” personal friends will be allowed as connections. No brands, celebrities or “trying to get 100 friends” allowed.
  • Monitoring – we will regularly monitor his activity on Instagram. Any violation = lose the device.
  • Trial – this is a trial, not “indefinite use allowed.” If successful, use can continue.

Finally, if you’re a parent facing the same dilemma, you should also be aware of Versagram and the notes app on your child’s iTouch/iPhone. Versagram is an app that allows you to create text messages with graphical backgrounds. It, along with the notes app, are being used by kids to send text messages via Instagram.

What are you doing to keep you (and your kids) safe online?

By: Mark Bennett

Group Director

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2 Responses

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  1. I have an eleven year-old, so I face similar issues. What about this, from the Instagram Terms of Use?

    “By accessing or using the Instagram website, the Instagram service, or
    any applications (including mobile applications) made available by
    Instagram (together, the “Service”), however accessed, you agree to be
    bound by these terms of use (“Terms of Use”). …1. You must be at least 13 years old to use the Service.”

    Creates another dilemma because if one knowingly allows one’s child to lie about his or her age in order to participate, the issue that’s introduced (whether or not you discuss it) is when and why is lying in order to get what you want okay?

    Not easy to navigate. I’d be interested to hear what others think.

  2. Natasha Burgert, MD said


    What you describe is a challenge for so many parents. As a pediatrician, I am seeing the results of kids using social media platforms too early. Eleven year olds (and younger) are just hitting the age of cyberbullying, self-awareness, and personal discovery. They are unable to create healthy boundaries of self, sharing, and time. And, I fully agree that starting accounts by falsifying age sets a very low standard of how to behave online. So many of my parents are struggling with this issue, I wrote an article including *my opinion* on the Under-13 issue:

    I agree that Mark’s boundaries are an excellent starting platform, and a good demonstration of who is ultimately in charge of the device. The biggest challenge for all of us, of course, is the follow-through.

    Good luck.

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