Instagram for Kids? How to Keep Children Safe Online
June 9, 2021
Parent and toddler having a discussion about dinner

 There are a variety of issues surroundings online safety for children, and it is very important we teach them how to recognise dangerous situations and protect themselves online.

Kids Mode On Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge has launched a ‘Kids Mode’ which aims at keeping children under 12 safer on the internet. With Kids Mode, parents can customize what their children, can and cannot access, provide them with a more enriching and safer web experience, give permission to specific pages or approve children requests to see new sites. Parents can also lock their passwords, so sensitive data information is not shared by children inadvertently.

Kids Mode Features:

    • A safer experience just for kids: children will have a safer browsing experience with pre-selected kid-friendly sites and security settings.
    • News for kids: the browser contains a news page specially designed for kids! Which allows them to learn about the world around them in an age-appropriate way. Designed for kids 9-12
    • Age-appropriate content: there are two settings for younger and older kids parents can set up: 5-8 and 9-12.

Misleading information – It is important to teach children to distinguish between facts and fiction

Due to lockdown, children have found themselves online for much longer periods than before. While the internet has enabled children to continue their education online in these uncertain times, it is crucial to keep them safe.

As educators and online primary school tuition provider, we often remind children to not share personal information online and if something does not feel right to speak to an adult.

We have the responsibility of teaching them the internet can be a great place to extract information and learn from, however, we also acknowledge the fact that some of the information they find can be ‘fake’ and not real. We want to ensure that from a young age they can distinguish between real and fake news, we encourage them to question a piece of news, research profusely before deciding on the reliability of the information they found online.

Fake news can have a very negative impact on mental health, and this is not only for children but also for adults, we often watch informational videos and let children do interactive research during our class starter activities to develop their critical thinking and guide them through the process of recognising real information opposed to non-relevant one.

Sometimes social media reality can also be distortive and represent a fake reality, this creates a picture of lifestyle and beauty that is often non-realistic and children’s well as adults need to be aware that what they see could well possibly be orchestrated.

Parents should also encourage children to be inquisitive and have an understanding of the repercussions related to fake news that can affect children. While these can differ, from unnecessary worries to more serious anxiety problems or more. Considering the current circumstances children can feel worried about Covid-19 and fake news about that, along with usual problems created by social media fake reality and body image.


Tips for parents to help children distinguish between fake and real news and stay safe online

Parents should encourage children to:

  • Be like Sherlock Holmes! Always check their sources, not once but at least twice. To not trust just one piece of an article online, but instead double-check the information given is correct and do additional research both online on the internet, newspapers and books!
  • Not accept strangers friend requests on social media platforms and games! Online friends may not be real friends and children should know they should be considered strangers as anyone can hide behind a fake account or picture.
  • Ask for help when unsure about something online, make sure they know they can come to you or another trusted adult if something does not feel right if an image they found is disturbing or they are receiving unwanted messages. A good idea is also to enable Safe Search Settings and built-in parental controls on laptops and consoles the children have access to. An example of safe browsers for kids: (Pikluk, Kidoz, ZAC, KidzSearch, Kidzui, Maxthon, KidSurf, KidSplorer, Microsoft Edge Kids Mode).
  • Explain your children to be careful and try avoiding sharing content online, have a discussion with them on what they can post or not post. Also, explain to them the importance of checking what they are re-sharing on their social media accounts as certain content can be fake or damaging to others.
  • Keep an open conversation with your children about the internet, spend time with them online and see what websites they visit, ask questions about what they are watching, always explain the positives and negatives of the internet and make sure children know they can come to you should they need support with an online situation.


Cyberbullying has increased – How we can prevent it

Cyberbullying is a serious problem which has seen an increase in recent months. Many believe this is also related to the increasing amount of time we spend online and our reliance on technology during the global lockdown.

Children attend online classes, meet their friends and family on video calls and rely on the net to keep occupied and express their creativity in this time of social distancing measures. It is important they know how to act when facing a ‘Cyber Bully’, below are some tips on how they can stop cyberbullying.


Tips to Help Stop Cyberbullying for children

  • You should know it is not your fault! If someone is persistently being nasty and cruel to you, this is a bully. You should not blame yourself. No one deserves to be treated bad and cruelly.
  • Try not to answer or retaliate. Bullies often want a reaction from you, so they think they are in power. Do not empower them, if you can find a way out of the situation. To remove yourself from an online bully block them and report them and if you cannot do it yourself, ask an adult for help.
  • Take screenshots and save pictures of what’s happening. Cyberbullying uses online devices therefore make sure to capture evidence and show it to someone you trust that can help you. Cyberbullying is taken seriously by the law and bullies face penalties for their behaviour.
  • Tell the bully to stop! If you want you can choose to tell the bully to stop and make it clear that you will not tolerate the bully’s behaviour anymore, ask a trusted adult or friend to support you in this if you want.
  • If the situation is persisting, ask for help! If you need help processing your feelings or resolving the situation speak to a trusted person.
  • Use all the Tech tools available to you: Block and report, if the threats you are receiving are of physical harm call the police and report to your school authorities, the police is there to stop the cyberbullies!
  • Keep your account details private and secure, do not share login information with anyone and ensure your phone has a pin password.

If you are reading this and you know somebody is being bullied, ACT!  Be there for your friend and take a standpoint against the bully. If you are not able to stop the bully be there and support your friend by listening. If you know someone who is being bullied and it is not your friend, still offer support and at minimum do not take the bully’s side.


Cyberbullying advice for parents

Most children do not mention to their parents they are being cyberbullied or bullied, so if your child is open about the issue, listen to your child and try to find a solution together. Changes in sleeping behaviour or your child being reluctant to go to school, or if you see your child nervous around a laptop or phone; may indicate your child is targeted by bullies. However, do not simply assume this is the case, hear your child and see their perspective.

  1. The suggestion is always for the parent to start a conversation with their child and try and find out more details on why for example they are nervous when on their phone. You can also ask them directly if anyone is being mean to them, try and get a full picture of what is happening so you can help your child effectively.
  2. Work together with your child to find a solution, keep them in the loop. If you are having talks with others in regard to the bullying, let your child know. Cyberbullying often involves a ‘loss of dignity’ or control over a social situation, if you involve your child in uncovering a solution, this facilitates the regaining of that. It is about your child’s life so make sure they are involved in finding a solution to the problem.
  3. As a parent, think it carefully and do not rush a response to the bully. Cyberbullies aim to exclude and get the victim marginalised, therefore a rushed public response to the bully or even a secret meeting with school authorities becoming public can make your child even more marginalised. Plan your response carefully and work closely with the authorities to deliver this in the best way.
  4. Make sure to get more than one perspective, your child could be honest about what happened but sometimes ‘one person truth isn’t necessarily everybody’s.’ Often kids get involved in chain reactions and there could be more than one side to the story, so be open-minded for this.
  5. Listen to your child, often listening is what victims need the most, having someone to talk to and support them through this difficult time can make a difference and help them heal.

Focus on restoring your child’s confidence self-respect and resilience, at times this means your child needs to stand up to the bully sometimes not, listen to your child and support them through whatever way they choose to overcome the situation. More information on defeating cyberbullying can be found here.


Instagram for Kids – why experts want to stop it

Facebook has expressed plans to introduce Instagram Kids, developed specifically to cater and target under 13s, this has caused an outcry from many public health experts and child advocacy groups, who are requesting these plans to be halted.

YouTube Kids similarly launched a Kids version a couple of years ago, why is Instagram Kids creating a much higher concern?

Firstly, Facebook (an umbrella company for Instagram) has failed, historically and in many ways to protect younger audiences, this has happened with Messenger Kids, where a bug in the system, allowed children to access adult group chats.

Secondly, the use of social media and ‘screen-time’ in pre -teens and teenagers has been linked to issues around body image, bullying, self-esteem, sleep problems and depression by health experts.

What is the purpose of launching Instagram kids? Do kids really need it to connect with their family and friends or is it just a camouflage to collect their personal information and interests so Facebook can target them with ads and exploit them? Is this a disguised move to gather more information on children demographics and create more revenue for Facebook?

The argument above seems to stand for many, because in so many ways children are not going to benefit from being on the platform. It is thought that most of the content on social media platforms is ‘consumerist’, with around 4% of it being educational. The app is also structured to be ‘addictive’ because of its likes structure, getting a like = dopamine release, which can be concerning especially for children suffering of ‘screen addiction’ or potentially being introduced to it. (the screen time recommended for children is around 2 hours per day).


Why Instagram Kids is not a good idea

  • It can create screen addiction!
  • It puts them at risk: on the platform, they will be posting selfies/pictures, messaging others, how can we guarantee this is safe?
  • It can cause the body image/ mental health related issues. Instagram focuses on self-representation, appearance, and branding; young children may not be able to understand what it is appropriate to share on social media. They may also not recognise between fake and real and will try to imitate or feel the pressure to align and conform, to standards they see on the platform.

Instagram has stated that they will make the platform safe and age-appropriate for children. However, truth is, Instagram Kids will never be 100% safe for children under 13.

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