As a parent, saying you have your hands full is an understatement. Throw in the constantly changing world of social media and it would be enough to make anyone's head spin.
Recently, Instagram made some changes. But don't worry -- we are here to help you navigate the popular app so you and your children are kept healthy and safe.
Following the example of SnapChat, Instagram added a feature at the top of your feed that shows disappearing photos or videos that can be shared privately among your followers or publicly. You can also see anyone's videos on the "Explore" option. In the settings tab you can choose to hide stories from certain people, but you have to select them individually and can only hide from your followers.
Instagram also followed SnapChat by adding a direct messages option. Just like stories, direct photo and video messages disappear after a few seconds but you can only send them to individuals; they are not broadcast to followers or the world. Regular text messages sent on Instagram do not disappear.
"The photo and video app is launching location and hashtag-themed Stories, collections of user posts that are labeled with a specific city or hashtag." said Kurt Wagner from Recode. This may sound scary to parents, but don't be alarmed. Posted stories will not publicly show you or your kid's location unless it is purposefully tagged by the user. Talk to your kids about maintaining online privacy.
In other words, Instagram does not own the content you put on their platform, but they can use it for free as long as they don't violate your privacy settings.
Just like Facebook, Instagram now has live stories. Maybe you've already gotten notifications letting you know that someone you follow "has started a live video" and you should "watch it before it ends!" With these videos, those watching can comment and others will see it live or on a saved version later.
Contrary to popular belief, Instagram is not pushing or even complacent about negative, harmful or sexually explicit hashtags. They consistently ban hashtags that are offensive or inappropriate. While you should still be aware of what your kids are seeing and reading on Instagram, the app is doing a lot to maintain a clean, safe online environment.
Under the settings tab, you will find an option for "Comments." The great part about this section is the fact that you can block comments from certain people, hide offensive comments automatically, or enable keyword filters which will "hide comments that contain specific words or phrases from your posts."
Technology is a powerful tool that should be used for good. Don't try to hide your kids from screen time -- you don't want them to think it's evil. Teach and show your children how to use technology positively and then let them act for themselves. Using apps such as Instagram gives kids a chance to exercise responsibility and make the right choice.
In the end it comes down to striking a good balance between screen time and family time. Set some ground rules for your family such as "no phones at dinner" or "turn in technology at bedtime." Keep an open dialogue about technology and how to use it for good. Don't leave your kids to navigate this constantly changing world by themselves.