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?