What is it?
Instagram is a free photo sharing mobile application, currently available for iPhone and iPod Touch only. Account holder's profiles can contain first and last names, username, birthday, gender, a short bio, email address and phone number - though only an email and username is mandatory. Images uploaded from users all over the world are shared by following accounts, via hashtagged words (such as #school) or by browsing the 'Popular' tab. Every user has the option to follow another Instagram user and vice versa, though you can lock your account to keep your information and photos private and only viewable by accepted followers.
How does it work?
Account holders upload photographs, either as they are taken or selected from their device's library. In-app filters allow users to alter the appearance of the photograph. They may then simultaneously upload it to a number of nominated, synced social networks. Compatible social networks include Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Foursquare. The photo is sent to the user's Instagram homepage where their 'Followers' can 'Favourite', tag or comment on them. Instagram recently added a video option similar to sites like Vine and Snapchat, which allows account holders to upload videos of 15 seconds or less. Unless an account is set to private, anyone may follow the account holder and see their images.
Why is Instagram useful?
The site has a simple, user friendly design and is an excellent way to share photographs. The filters encourage creative play, make the photographs look great and can also be synced to a computer to create prints.
What do you need to keep in mind about your children and Instagram?
While Instagram's terms of service specify that the app is not intended for those under 13 years old, there's no real way of enforcing this and anyone can sign up if they provide an email address. The default settings of Instagram allow any account user to view, and be viewed by, other accounts. Setting an account to private will limit who can view a user's pictures to pre-approved followers only. You can also block other users but that doesn't stop your child from accessing inapproprate images through hashtags or Instagram's 'popular' searches. The portrayal of violence, drugs or swear words is not prohibited. Hashtags and accounts promoting eating disorders (thinspiration) and pornography, including child pornography, have been reported. Also, when uploading a picture, the geo-location of the photo can easily be shared with followers. The default Instagram setting for geotagging is OFF, but it's easy to turn it on accidentally.