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Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Musicaly are engaging online spaces, and seen as a part of everyday life for many of us. They are also highly unregulated spaces where children can be exposed to adult content, predators, cyberbullying and unrealistic life expectations.

 

Many parents allow their children to create Instagram and Facebook accounts for their 13th birthdays, as this is the age when it is considered safe for teens to use these platforms – right?

 

WRONG.

 

This is the most common misconception parents have about social media.

 

The guideline 13+ was created because it complies with US law regarding the collection of children’s information. It’s the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and it prevents the collection and storage of personal information from a child under 13 years old.

 

The problem is, while this law sounds important and as though it makes things ‘safe’ for children, it doesn’t. It simply prevents companies from collecting your children’s names, email addresses and locations, probably for the purpose of trying to sell something!

 

IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SAFETY.

 

I’ll repeat that if you missed it.

 

The age limit of 13+ HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR CHILD’S SAFETY while using those platforms.

 

In fact, for young teens (13-15 years), these platforms can be anything BUT safe.

 

You see, kids and teens don’t use these platforms the same way that we do. They are more social, more inquisitive, and spend more time online.

 

For Instance, you probably upload pictures of your breakfast, a family day at the beach, or a fun quote onto your account #mumlife

 

But did you know that Instagram (one of the world’s largest image search engines) has porn on it? It has porn uploaded to it EVERY SECOND (quick test – search for #sex). You can read some other reasons why Instagram isn’t for young teens here

 

If there was porn channels on my TV, I would restrict access and monitor my child’s viewing, so why is this possible exposure acceptable online?

Children and young people need the same moral and ethical guidance and clear, appropriate boundaries for online behaviour as they do for offline behaviour (Spears et al., 2008)

 

I’ve chosen not to allow my daughter to use Instagram, however I know that some parents are happy to allow their child to have the app with regular monitoring of their child’s activity.

 

The best app I have found to monitor phone use is Smart Lagoon. It monitors social media, messaging app, and internet activity, and a whole lot more. You can read our review here.

 

The team at Safe Lagoon have given KidSpace Gold Coast families 20% off the app subscription – just enter code KSGC20 at checkout.

 

If your child has had Instagram for a while, and you’re only just learning that it’s not as innocent as it seems, it’s not too late to delete the app, or install monitoring software on your child’s phone.