Richmond, VA. (WRIC) – If you have a teenager, chances are, they’re on Instagram.
The Pew Research Center says 72% of American teens aged 13 to 17 use the social media app.
For many parents, it can be very daunting to give kids access to social media apps like Instagram for the very first time. It’s like letting them loose into a world where they could be exposed to adult content or bullying.
A representative from Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, says that parents could feel more at ease if they are involved in their kids’ social media lives too.
“What we want to spark is that offline conversation between parents and the teens,” said Roya Winner, Communications Manager for Social Impact at Meta.
The tech giant has released new parental supervision tools for Instagram through the Meta Family Center. Parents can set specific times during the day to limit their child’s social media usage. They can also stay up to date on the profiles their teen follows. Also, if a teen is bullied or harassed on the app, the parent can opt-in to be notified.
“That provides an incredible parent/child connection where the parent can check in and say ‘Hey, are you ok? Do you need anything?’ and ‘Let’s talk about what that feels like,'” Winner said. “Sometimes kids can feel alone in what they’re experiencing, and this helps make sure their parents can be part of their growth, their learning.”
But, parents can’t monitor their kids’ activity all the time. So that’s why there’s a new feature that can help do it for them. The feature automatically filters out harmful posts from their children’s feeds.
“It’ll basically add a safeguard layer for their experience that previously you had to sort of opt-in to,” Winner said.
Instagram has introduced ‘nudges’ that will encourage teens to switch to a different topic if they’re repeatedly looking at the same types of content on the app.
Stephen Balkam with the non-profit Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) says all this is a good start, but that “kids and teens will find new and innovative ways of getting around controls,” because, as research shows, they don’t particularly enjoy the restrictions.
“In our research last year, not surprisingly, teen attitudes towards parental controls were not very positive. But for online safety tools, there was a large majority in favor of those because they can see that it’s helping to empower them when they’re online.”
Meta emphasizes these parental tools are meant to help teens, not control them.
“For teens, it’s less about the parent over their shoulder and more about being a resource,” Winner said.
Balkam said the parental controls should be a collaborative effort.
“We found 61% of parents admitted that they asked their kids to help to set up the parental controls. So that’s a really interesting indication in a healthy, conversational way that parents are working with their kids to keep them safe,” Balkam said.
Ultimately, Balkam said parents should keep a positive mindset.
“I think we get too frozen sometimes in fear about what might happen. And our kids, if we come with fear, are going to switch off,” Balkam said. “This is their life. This is how they’re going to get jobs. This is how they’re going to most likely find a partner and so on. So you know, let’s keep our eyes on the prize here the technology is bringing us while putting in as many safety measures as we possibly can.”
In speaking with Balkam and Winner, both made points saying research shows it’s important that parents work alongside young teens collaboratively to help them brave this new world of social media safely, and have a more enjoyable experience.