Is Instagram Safe for your Teen?

Instagram is a free social media app that allows users to share photos and videos. It is extremely popular among adolescents with over 70% of teens using the app regularly. It is the second most popular social media site behind YouTube for teenaged users. As with all social media, there are positives and negatives associated with using Instagram, and our goal is to make parents aware of the possible pitfalls for your teenager. Today we will discuss the potential for your teen to be exposed to pornography on Instagram.

Instagram markets itself as family-friendly and allows users as young as 13 to have an account. It says that it has a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual content. Instagram’s official policy states, “We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that shows sexual intercourse, genitals, or close-ups of fully-nude buttocks.”

Despite this policy, Instagram contains quite a bit of pornography and other sexually charged images and videos that are accessible to any user. Although Instagram bans obviously explicit hashtags and users that it catches, their filters can’t seem to keep up with the many ways its users are sharing content.

Finding inappropriate content on Instagram is not difficult. Hashtags and emojis are used to share explicit clips. Searching for terms like “babes,” “sexy,” or some variation of those words can all be used to find porn easily. #Sexy has more than 57 million posts, some of which are clips from porn videos. Additionally, searching for the name of any porn star quickly uncovers accounts that break Instagram’s nudity ban and aren’t filtered to prevent minors from seeing them.

Does this mean that you should force your teen to give up Instagram? Not necessarily. Unfortunately, porn and other inappropriate material is readily accessible all over the Internet. Eliminating Instagram does not eliminate the problem. There are two things that this information should cause parents to do: 1) contact Instagram and demand better filtering, and 2) talk to your teen about sex and pornography.

We know it’s awkward to discuss sex with your teenager, but it is definitely the most effective way to protect them from harm. Instill your values about sex and healthy relationships. Make sure that you let your teen know that sex is not just a physical act, but also very emotional in nature. In addition to letting them know your values about sex, describe the indicators of a healthy vs. unhealthy relationship. Be sure to articulate that people in healthy relationships respect each other. Discuss the statistics, facts, and impact of pornography. Your teen should know that porn stars are actors and actresses, and the filming is edited to look exciting. Nothing about porn is realistic, and it does not reflect a typical sexual encounter. You should also explain how porn can change the viewer’s attitudes about sex, and that viewing porn can actually desensitize them to a real sexual experience.

By giving your teen healthy information, you will be helping them to make wise decisions about any type of sexual content or pornography they may come across – on Instagram or anywhere else.

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