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Instagram the new bullying ground

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It’s one of the most successful photo sharing apps in the mobile world, but now Instagram has become a bully’s playground, writes LIRON SEGEV.

As parents, we are constantly concerned about our kids and we are paranoid about their safety. The fact that they know more about technology than we do makes it that much harder to keep an eye on what’s going on in their digital lives.

Enter the new ‚”problem‚”: Instagram.

Instagram is a popular photo sharing application that runs on both Android and iOS. It is so popular that Facebook has bought it and. according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Instagram has passed the 100-million user mark.

Instagram is loved because of its simplicity. Snap a photo with a cellphone camera, choose a photo effect from the many options (known as Filters), add a caption and share your creation with many social networks right from the app.

But, what most parents don’t know is that Instagram is just like Facebook and while parents are pedantic about kids using Facebook, they are caught off-guard when it comes to this photo-sharing app.

Just like Facebook, Instagram allows you to Like photos, add comments on images and follow your friends to see what they are up to. You also have a ‚”profile‚” for you to enter your personal information like first and last name, birthday, gender and a free text bio. It even allows for e-mail address and phone number to be entered and shared.

Sadly these features have allowed Instagram to become the new frontier for bullying and abuse.

I recently read of a case where girls as young as 12 were posting photos of themselves to enter a ‚”beauty contest‚” and kids were commenting on each girl’s photo with comments like ‚”UGLY‚” and the anonymous ‚”self-appointed-judge‚” would eliminate girls by putting a large red X across their photo.

Kids know that their parents are their ‚”friends‚” on Facebook and therefore they keep Facebook neat and tidy. Kids also know that parents think that Instagram is just to post photos and therefore is a social-parents-free-zone and kids feel they can push the limit without Mom and Dad knowing about it.

5 steps that parents can do to protect kids on Instagram?

1. By default ANYONE can view ANYONE’s photos on Instagram. So the first step is to change the setting to ‚”Photos are private‚”. This means that only your friends can see your images. If someone wants to see your photos they will need to send a request to become friends first.

2. When it comes to Friends your kids should only accept friends that are really their friends and not ‚”randoms‚”. Same rule applies to using BBM and Whatsapp.

3. Cellphone allow for ‚”geotagging‚” to be added to each photo, which are the GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken. This must be turned off as anyone can pull those GPS coordinates off the images and know exactly where your kids are and what their movements are.

4. Make sure you Follow your kids on Instagram. Add yourself to their friends list which means you can see exactly what their friends can see.

5. Teach your kids about the same bullying that occurs on Facebook does occur on Instagram too. Your child must be able to come to you with any images that they are not comfortable with so you can deal with them. Instagram allows you to report inappropriate images and abuse.

Peter Andrada from Online Safety for Kids coined the terms ‚”Wave of regret‚” where in the near future content shared by today’s kids on social media applications will come to life and change their future permanently. When we were kids we all did stupid things, which we wish we could erase from our memory but that is where they are in our memory. Today’s kids do stupid things and are online. These cannot be deleted. Ever.

* Liron Segev is also known as The Techie Guy. You can read his blog at http://www.thetechieguy.com or follow him on Twitter on @Liron_Segev

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