What is Instagram?

Instagram is still one of the most popular social networks. On the social media platform "Insta," as young people also call it, you can now share much more than just pictures and videos. Users aged 13 and older can give free rein to their creativity by using functions such as Stories and Reels. However, these features also carry some risks. Young people are under pressure to compete with others. The available editing filters add to this pressure. The "beauty filters" can distort faces so much that you no longer recognize yourself. It is important to sensitize children to this at an early stage and to make it clear that not everything they see online corresponds to reality. Our material "Selfies, sexting, self-portrayal", among others, can provide assistance here.

Similar to other social networks, users can create their own profiles after logging in to Instagram. Here you can enter a profile picture and some personal data, such as your place of residence or certain preferences. All uploaded posts are then stored in the profile, which can be viewed by other users depending on the privacy settings. For underage users, the default setting "private account" has been in effect since August 2021. This allows users to decide for themselves who is allowed to see their own content. However, this setting can be changed at any time so that the profile is public. Parents should make absolutely sure that young people keep the "private account" and do not reveal too much about themselves. This can prevent risks such as unwanted contact and cybergrooming . If young people are nevertheless confronted with inappropriate posts or messages, Instagram offers the option to block and/or report posts, accounts or messages. In this way, they will no longer be displayed and may even be completely deleted by Instagram.

Regardless of the pictures and videos of other users, young people should also pay special attention to what they upload to Instagram themselves. To feel safer here, you as parents and the young people themselves can ask the following questions, for example:

  • Does the picture allow conclusions to be drawn about the place of residence or similar?
  • Is the post possibly too revealing?
  • Do people appear on the file who have not been asked for consent beforehand?

If you can answer one or more of the questions with yes, you should refrain from publishing. In this way, many problems can be avoided.

The posts of the people you "follow" are displayed in the so-called Instagram feed. They can be liked, commented on or shared. They can be sorted by the day of publication, the posts of "favorites" or by default by an algorithm. Instagram uses the data it has already collected about a person to decide which posts are more likely to be of interest to that person. Instagram collects this data regardless of the personally set data protection or privacy settings .

Safe use of Instagram

Privacy and data protection

The most important feature on Instagram to protect one's privacy is to switch a public profile to a private one. This is possible via a single click in the app's settings. This allows users to decide for themselves who can see their own content by rejecting or accepting "subscription requests." Rejected people can still make contact via the chat function. However, the messages are also displayed as requests, where you have the option to delete them before reading them.

Since July 2021, the private account has been the default setting for users under 18. In this way, Instagram is trying to take stronger action against unwanted contact requests from mostly adults. However, this setting can always be changed afterwards.

Security and login

After registration, it is advisable to set the two-step authentication. This way you can protect your account from strangers in addition to a secure password. If someone logs into your account using a "foreign" device, you will receive an SMS with a login code that you need to log in.

Manage content

Users have the option of blocking comments from certain people or completely hiding comments under posts. In addition, different filters can be activated to automatically hide offensive comments. Comments that contain words that are most frequently reported to Instagram can also be hidden. If there are certain words that should not appear under your own posts, a manual filter can also be activated.

Report problematic content

Cyberbullying, in the form of offensive and inappropriate comments, occurs within the Instagram community. Anyone who feels harassed by others on Instagram, for example by unwanted messages or posts, has an easy way to remedy this with the "Block" function .
Blocked users can no longer view their own Instagram profile and posts. They can also no longer send direct messages. However, this also applies vice versa, i.e. you are also no longer able to see the Instagram page of the other person and send personal messages.
If you block a person, they will not be informed about this step. However, it is of course possible that the blocked person notices that he or she can no longer be found via the profile search, for example.

In addition to the option of blocking users, there is another way to stop problematic content from being displayed on Instagram: you can report the relevant content anonymously and recommend that Instagram delete it. Almost all content can be reported: complete profiles, individual posts or personal messages.
The field for reporting a photo, video or similar can almost always be found on the post itself.

Manage usage times

In order to better control how much time you spend in the app, Instagram provides some features. On the profile, you have the option of viewing your own activity, limiting your usage times with reminders, and turning off push notifications. These functions are very helpful for children and teenagers themselves, as well as for parents, to keep an eye on their usage behavior.