By Nico Strydom
Instagram is one of the most popular social-media platforms among young people and it is therefore important to make sure that they are protected against its dangers.
According to research by World Wide Worx in collaboration with Ornico there are 10 million Instagram users in South Africa, which makes the platform one of the biggest and most popular ones in the country.
Carey van Vlaanderen, executive head of ESET South Africa, says social media can be a fun way for young people to connect with friends, share contents and pursue several creative interests.
“However, Instagram is not immune against the various dangers, such as cyber bullying, criminal elements and inappropriate contents, of social media. Parents and carers must be aware of the positive as well as the negative effect of social media on teenagers. To many parents, however, the challenge is to understand the various social-media platforms well enough to keep teenagers away from the dangers.”
Instagram profiles can be public or private. “The profiles of people younger than 16 are automatically set on private by Instagram when they join, but it is possible to make it public by hand only. In general a private account is the best option because it requires the owner to approve any following activity and to decide who may see their contents.”
Not everything that happens on Instagram can be seen. “Direct messages can also be sent and it would therefore be wise to have control over who may send your children messages. Instagram prevents adults from sending messages to anybody under the age of 18, unless they follow those adults. There are also other safety properties recently deployed by the platform, namely messages and notifications to encourage vigilance among teenagers during conversations with adults who are still following them.”
Users can also communicate with each other by means of remarks, by tagging each other in a post, or by naming each other in a post. “It would be wise to make sure that strangers cannot tag your children in order to avoid any inappropriate interactions. Instagram’s online support pages offer detailed guidance on the removal of labels, unwanted remarks, and the management of privacy settings.”
Social-media interactions can sometimes be spoiled by malicious remarks and insulting messages, says Van Vlaanderen. “This is often the work of online trolls who are trying to encourage negative comments. This can lead to online bullying, but Instagram has made available settings to protect users against this. It can be found under Instagram’s Hidden Words setting.”
Van Vlaanderen points out that parents can have better control over their teenager’s Instagram activities if they know the platform. “So, consider getting your teenager to take additional steps himself aimed at advancing rational use of the app. An open conversation with your teenager about the dangers and advantages of the app will help to promote sensible and safe use of Instagram.”
ESET South Africa: https://www.eset.com/za/