Cyberbullying and Instagram
The ease of accessing photos online, manipulating them and then posting them on the Web can create a hostile social environment. Just as easily as someone can make a Facebook friend’s day by posting a beautiful sunset photo from Instagram to his or her wall, a cyberbully can easily wreck a teen’s fragile world, too—it’s easy to save someone’s profile picture to Instagram, along with a description full of hateful hashtags. Posting hurtful images on the Internet for teens with already-low self-esteem to view lays the groundwork for cyberbullying.
Recent cases of hacking, cyberbullying and identity theft have left us all concerned about online safety, but parents of vulnerable teens need to be especially on guard. Computer-savvy kids can hack into your child’s Instagram account and post photos that have had hate words Photoshopped on them, and teens can post pictures of your child to their own accounts, as well. Don’t find out the hard way how devastating this experience can be for a family.
Make Accounts Private and Protected
Instagram is a photo-sharing mobile app that alters an uploaded photo and posts it for followers to see, like or comment on. Users can share the Instagram photo even further by posting it to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and Foursquare. Unless an Instagram account is private, the entire Instagram community can communicate through your photo.
Create a private and protected account for your teen with the following steps from Internet-safety.yoursphere.com:
- Select “Photos are private — on” under the profile tab so that photos aren’t publicly viewable
- Ensure that geotagging is turned off and explain to your son or daughter about the risks and dangers of not sharing the location of a photo
- Block users by visiting their profile page, clicking on the gear icon and selecting “Block user” to prevent that user from being able to access the account; use the gear icon to also report certain users and flag their photos for review
- Set up an account using safe and complex passwords; the identity theft protection company Lifelock tweets, “Start the month off more secure by changing your passwords.”
- Follow the age requirements; Internet safety expert Mary Kay Hoal recommends that parents think seriously about whether or not their teen is mature enough to use Instagram.
If your teen is a victim of cyberbullying, don’t hesitate to take it seriously and even press charges. A 15-year-old boy in Colorado was accused of cyberbullying earlier this year, and according to cbsnews.com, he was subsequently charged with five counts of third-degree harassment. The teen is accused of posting pictures of five classmates and uploading them to Instagram with derogatory captions and sexual comments. The teen tried to remain anonymous, but police were able to track him by identifying his IP address.
Also, talk to your kids. Start a dialogue surrounding your children’s digital lives and encourage them to be vocal about concerns, whether they’re being bullied or witnessing it happening. Online safety expert Marlin Page suggests parents engage their teens in conversations about self-confidence and how to use a support system to combat cyberbullying, hate and ignorance.
Discuss matters concerning self-esteem and insecurity, and teach your child how to respond to a bully. Make sure your child knows there are resources and adults who can properly stop the behavior.