Ah, Instagram. Pretty pictures of food, kids and
pets. What's not to love about this visual app?
Nothing, if you're like me with lots of fine,
upstanding and mature friends. And by mature, I don't mean old. I
just mean responsible, inoffensive adults.
That answer changes though, when you start talking
about Instagram and kids.
Instagram, like pretty much anything on the
Internet, can be used for better or for worse. In the hands of
teens and tweens (or mean or perverted adults), it can get
Two parents in Texas are suing the kids who set up
an Instagram account to cyberbully their teen daughter, claiming
libel. They're also suing the kids' parents for
Is suing a bit much?
"We're being super aggressive about it, because
this behavior really needs to stop," Tej Paranjpe, the
Houston-based attorney for parents Reymundo Shellie Esquivel,
Yahoo Shine. "It's really an issue of
In a segment on
Today, Shellie Esquivel asked, "How many
children is it going to take to commit suicide, to kill themselves,
to hurt themselves … because of bullies out there? And the parents
don't want to take responsibility."
In addition to cyberbullying, there are other
concerns, including predators and privacy issues.
Sexual predators have used Instagram to contact
kids. They create false identities online. They also use Instagram
in combination with other apps like Kik to make contact and
establish online relationships with kids.
To up the creepiness factor, Instagram is happy to
reveal your location.
When I joined Instagram a few months ago (I know, I
know, I'm behind the times), the app was eager to suggest friends
who live near me. Up popped a ton of my daughter's schoolmates. On
a map, showing right where they live.
When I asked a parent of one of the kids, she
shrugged and mentioned that there was an issue in the junior high
with an anonymous account spreading nasty rumors about kids.
Apparently the identity of the user was revealed when someone used
the location feature to determine the street name and then went
through the school directory. Turns out only one student lived on
that street. And now there's an issue with that individual being
There's enough drama in middle school or junior
high already. Instagram just makes it worse.
Which leads me to a really important point.
Instagram requires users to be 13 years old to have an account.
That's so, as a company, Instagram can comply with the Children's
Online Privacy Protection Act which is a federal law.
Parents need to stop lying for their kids or being
okay with their kids lying about their age to get an
Sending a tween or teen the message that it's okay
to lie online is a really, really dangerous precedent. If it's one
that you're willing to set, at least monitor your child's behavior.
You need to be where they are online. Have an Instagram account,
follow them, check what they're doing, see with whom they are
associating. Ask, "Do you know this person in real life?
Instagram is great for grown ups but it's a whole
different ball game when it comes to kids. Be involved, and keep
Although she’d like to be taller and have more time to dive into good books, Shannan is awfully happy with her life in the western suburbs, where she moved after a decade of living on the north side of the city. She blogs about parenting a tween at Tween Us on ChicagoNow and at Families in the Loop.
See more of Shannan 's stories here.
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