I have had a few furried eyebrows thrown at me recently because my child has a social media account or two. Now, before you throw the “terms and conditions” books at me, I’ll let you in on a few secrets.
As a parent, I have no issue with my child having certain online accounts. She has email, which she uses quite regularly to communicate with her dad and other family members, including me. She spent months scrolling through my Instagram feed and seeing the world through other people’s eyes. I have a private, locked account there and do not accept any followers I do not know. Why? Because I share personal images there, and frankly, if I don’t know you, I don’t want you to seeing pictures I take in my home, thanks.
She took a keen interest in Instagram, above any other social network, including Twitter and Facebook, even though she has explored those with me as I’ve shown her what they’re about.
Perhaps it’s the visual nature of Instagram that appealed to her but, I also believe that having two avid photographers in the family piqued her interest.
But, as per the terms and conditions of Instagram, people under the age of 13 are not allowed to have their own account. I am a big believer in those terms and conditions, but I am also aware that a lot of people ignore them. For the record, I haven’t.
Here are my five rules for the Instagram account my kid uses:
- I set up the account and I own it. When we gave her a tablet as birthday gift, we created a set of guidelines together. My child does not download an app or sign up for something without informing or asking me first. This is not a rule I gave her, it is a guideline we created together. When I set up the Instagram account, I assigned it to my email address and I have complete control over it. This will, of course, change when she is old enough but, for now, the account actually belongs to me, even though she chose the username and it is hers to use.
- The account she uses is set to private. I toggled “photos are private” when setting up, and I am the person who accepts or rejects follower requests. When we spoke about creating guidelines for using Instagram, we agreed that I would be the person to monitor and manage this, whilst she would take care of uploading photos and interacting with people she follows or who follow her. Dividing up the “job” of having an Instagram account gave her responsibilities that she enjoys and enables me to retain control. Similarly, geotagging is turned off and will remain off forever, on both the account she uses and my personal one.
- Before I gave her access to the account, we chatted about the types of content that people should share online and the types that should not be shared. I will admit that this is the one area I made the rules, because what may seem “cool” to her now is most definitely not “cool” online. Similarly, no contact details, address or any other personal information will be shared.
- I showed her how to block people, search for things and make use of the most the functions available on the application. She now feels empowered to use the app on her own, but knows that she can come to me with any questions or to tell me anything about it at all. I also showed her how to report content and explained the importance of doing so if she comes across something that raises an eyebrow.
- We created a set of consequences, together. Plainly put, if I discover activity on her account that is not in accordance with the guidelines she and I created and agreed upon, her account will immediately be deleted. And yes, I do check, regularly. This is a firm agreement we worked towards creating, that she understands and abides by it completely. Why? Because it is not a rule I made, it’s an agreement we have, and I trust her to stick to it, just as she trusts me to guide her through having her account.
Oh, and there is a sixth rule. It is, quite simply, to have fun. Because she has become such an avid user of the platform, she now lists photography as a hobby that she loves. And for that, I can thank Instagram.