Is Instagram Safe for Kids? A Parent’s Guide to Safety Recommendations

By Andrea Nelson
March 7, 2024
Girl using Instagram on phone

After much begging and pleading, you finally let your teen sign up for Instagram. You probably put a lot of careful consideration into the decision, but you may still have some doubts in the back of your mind: is Instagram safe for kids? Now that they (and you) are (mostly) ready for this big step, it’s important to make sure they know how to use the platform safely.

Here are some recommendations for setting your teen up for success as they embark on their Instagram adventure. 

Appropriate age for Instagram

Instagram’s minimum age requirement is 13. However, there’s no age verification process, so don’t be surprised if your child mentions that their 12-year-old friend has an Insta. 

Most experts recommend delaying giving your kids access to social media. Common Sense Media rates Instagram for ages 15 and older because of the platform’s prevalence of mature content, access to strangers, and data collection. Whether or not your child is ready for Instagram depends on their age and maturity level — even if your child’s friends have more social media access than they do.

Why you should set safety settings on your child’s Instagram account 

These are some of the potential pitfalls your child might face on Instagram:

  • Unwanted contact from strangers: From scammers to predators, there’s no shortage of shady actors looking to target teens on Instagram
  • Privacy concerns: Information your child posts on Instagram can potentially reveal private information about them to strangers, such as their school and birthdate. 
  • Exposure to sensitive content: Part of the beauty of the internet is that you can find anything that piques your interest. Unfortunately, not all of it is suited for younger users. It’s relatively easy for kids to find explicit content, violent videos, and content that promotes eating disorders. 

Recommended Instagram safety settings for teens 

Instagram (often in response to outside pressure) frequently adds new features to make the platform safer for kids. Here are some of the safety settings you can and should utilize for your child. 

Instagram Family Center 

Parents and guardians can use the Instagram Family Center to supervise and support their child between the ages of 13-17 on Instagram. In addition to regulating their screen time, you can also see who they follow. 

Be aware that both parties must agree to the supervision, and either can remove it. It’s worth a conversation with your teen about why monitoring their account is a matter of safety. You may also consider making it a condition of them having an account. 
To set up Family Center on Instagram, follow these steps: 

  1. Tap on your profile picture in the bottom right.
  2. Tap the three horizontal lines more options in the top right, then tap Settings and privacy.
  3. Below For Families, tap Supervision.

Set your child’s account to private

To minimize the chances that your child will be contacted by strangers on Instagram, here’s how to set their account to private:  

  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 above. 
  2. Under Who can see your content, tap Account privacy.
  3. Toggle to Private account.
  4. Tap Switch to private to confirm.

Limit messages and notifications 

Unless you change your child’s settings, strangers can send direct messages to your child. Here’s how to limit messages and notifications to only the friends and family they follow: 

  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 above. 
  2. Below How others can interact with you, tap Messages and story replies.
  3. Tap Message controls.
  4. Here, you’ll see three sections: Potential connections, Other people, and Group settings. For each one, click on the subheading below it and select the second (most restrictive) option.

Limit Story replies

If their account is set to private, only people who follow them can see and reply to their Stories. Your teen can also limit who can reply to their Stories, which helps minimize the number of notifications they may receive. To access it: 

  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 above.
  2. Select Story replies.

Limit who can see your child is online

By default, Instagram displays when someone is actively using their account. Consider limiting who can see when your child is online and when they were last active on Instagram for an added layer of privacy. 
Here’s how: 

  1. Go to Messages and story replies.
  2. Click on Who can see you’re online
  3. Adjust the two options to your comfort level. 

Limit @mentions 

Limit who can interact with your teen on Instagram by restricting who can mention them in Stories and Posts. 

Simply follow these steps: 

  1. Under Settings and Privacy, go to How others can interact with you.
  2. Select Tags and mentions.
  3. There are several different levels of privacy that you can select, depending on how locked-down you want your child’s account to be. 

Limit reposts

Instagram users can share Stories with their followers, which may expose your child’s account to people they don’t know. Fortunately, you can restrict this setting:

  1. Under How others can interact with you, select Sharing.
  2. Here you can set your child’s account so that no one can share their Stories. 

Talking to your teen about blocking and reporting someone on Instagram 

It’s important that your teen knows they don’t have to tolerate mistreatment online. They should feel empowered to take action to protect themselves. If someone is bullying or harassing them, or making them uncomfortable in any way on Instagram, they can block and/or report the user. Show them these steps to block someone and how to report a user

Blocking someone can be a delicate choice if your teen knows them in real life. In some cases, it could make bullying or harassment worse. Trust your child’s judgment if this is the case and encourage them to mute the person instead. 

How a social media monitoring app can help keep your child safe 

No matter how vigilant you are with your teen’s settings, concerning situations may still arise. Friends can turn into bullies and creators have sneaky ways of getting around filters. That’s where a social media monitoring app like BrightCanary can help. Using advanced AI filters, Bright Canary monitors your child’s social media and alerts you if there is anything concerning so that you can address it together.

In short 

Setting up supervision in the Instagram Family Center, adjusting your teen’s privacy settings, and downloading a monitoring app are all great tools to empower your teen to use Instagram safely. 

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