Insta has just turned 10 - and to celebrate the social media behemoth has released a swag of new features. But how will they affect your child’s digital health and wellbeing? Here’s everything parents need to know.
The main cause of celebration - at least as far as Instagram is concerned - is a new feature called Stories Map, which reveals the location from which you’ve posted every Instagram Story over the past three years (provided you’ve used a location sticker).
Not jumping up and down with joy? Experts aren’t either. They point out that the new feature doesn’t add a lot of functionality - given that locations were already searchable within the app.
It’s a reminder of two things, they say: First, that your child should NOT be posting publicly with location stickers. Second, that Instagram is tracking all of its users - even within your quote-unquote “disappearing” stories.
Remember: Instagram is tracking all of its users - even within your quote-unquote “disappearing” stories.
We asked Family Zone cyber expert Yasmin London of ySafe to give us detailed scoops on the rest of the new features.
Yas is not only a leading digital wellbeing educator, she’s a former cop - so no one takes your child’s cyber safety more seriously, or with a deeper knowledge base.
Here’s her take:
Like it’s popular competitor Snapchat, Instagram’s new Vanish mode allows users to set messages to disappear after they are seen or when a user closes a chat. This feature - while initially appearing fun and novel - unfortunately lends itself to children having an out-of-sight out- of-mind mentality when it comes to the content they share.
Parents need to ensure their children understand the issues around permanency of online content that is posted, and that just because something has disappeared, doesn’t mean it is gone forever.
The new Watch Together feature on Instagram allows groups of people to come together and watch trending videos, movies, clips and tv shows (the relatively fresh Reels feature will be integrated shortly too).
While this is certainly an entertaining and potentially positive way to co-view video in a moderated and supervised environment, the risk here is inappropriate content being shared between kids despite their varying developmental age or stage.
Potentially replicating a typical schoolyard scenario where one child accesses a risque video and shows a friend, Watch Together allows that video to be shared not just with one child, but with multiple others in the group in a nanosecond, without the supervision or knowledge of an adult.
Watch Together allows that video to be shared not just with one child, but with multiple others in the group in a nanosecond, without the supervision or knowledge of an adult.
Message Integration has been promoted as a seamless experience for users of Facebook Messenger and Instagram (keeping in mind that Facebook and Instagram are two divisions of the same company).
While the ease of these platforms now integrating seamlessly seems like a fantastic initiative in the user experience, we need to think critically about the heightened dominance of one organisation controlling so much of the market audience and question the ways in which our information can be shared between apps.
Messaging integration also allows users to control where calls can be received. This update details the ability to integrate calls with message requests. With 1.3 billion users on Messenger, this feature is essentially an open door that poses a risk for young people being contacted by people they don’t know.
Reporting and blocking
Reporting options have been a consistent feature of Instagram and Messenger for a while. This update has the added bonus of allowing users to report full conversations.
That’s a positive step, because it means users will be able to showcase the context in which a conversation has taken place. Coupled with the ability to report suspicious activity, these features add welcome safety benefits to users on these platforms.
New customisation options
The addition of fun, new customization options is another compelling drawcard to a more personalised user experience when it comes to Instagram. Chat colours, custom emoji reactions and animated message effects make engagement even more compelling. But don’t forget that can keep users engaged on the platform for longer than anticipated.
This feature is generally a fun and safe way to connect with friends, but parents still need to be mindful of the appropriateness of the emoji being shared, and also the potential for attention-grabbing effects to encourage compulsive use.
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