INSTAGRAM, YUP IT CAN BE PRETTY TOXIC. And this week, we have heard very damning evidence of just HOW toxic it can be…particularly for teen girls (thank you Frances Haugen).
If your child is not yet on Instagram, this great opportunity to discuss why it may be a good idea to delay it for a little while longer.
If your child is on Instagram already, DON’T freak out, don’t confiscate the phone, or drive over it with a bulldozer, Most importantly see this an opportunity to discuss ways for your child to use Instagram in healthier ways that aren’t damaging to their mental health.
Here are Klikd’s Top Tips for Healthier Instagram Use:
1. Suggest to your child that they avoid the “Explore” page – The explore page is often where the sinister side of the Instagram algorithm works its magic. For example, if you follow health and fitness accounts, this is where the algorithm might allow tips on how to succeed at anorexia. Pretty sick right? Chat to your child about how this works – the more they watch, or even pause over a post, the more likely they are to receive that kind of material. It’s a self-feeding monster. Avoiding this page allows you to see only the accounts you follow in your feed (vs accounts which Instagram wants you to see).
2. Challenge your child to curate their page – if they like baking or fast cars, suggest that they manipulate the algorithm for their own benefit. Make it fun. See how long it takes to get rid of certain feeds.
3. Help your child to know what feelings start coming up for them when they are watching material on Insta that makes them feel uplifted versus ‘less than’ or inferior. These feelings could be irritability, anger, lethargy, down in the dumps, or even picking a fight with you for no reason. Go in without judgement. Just accept and help them to name those feelings. This will help them to know when to take a break from Instagram and give them back a sense of power over the device. Help your child to do a content “spring clean” – Ask your t/ween which accounts they follow make them feel good vs bad about themselves. Suggest unfollowing accounts which make them feel bad about themselves (it may be celebrity accounts or even just friends who share too much.
4. Consider using tools like IOS Screen Time or Google Family Link to limit Insta use. Even if you override the time limit, it can serve as a reminder that it might be time to pause.
5. Use in-app tools to manage the content your child might see.
Two new features in Instagram can help manage the content you see (both in settings under “Privacy,”) if you don’t know where to find these, ask your teen!)
“Limits” allows people to hide comments and direct-message requests from people who don’t follow them, or who recently started following them, in an effort to prevent harassment or bullying]. This is another way for your child to feel that they have power in relation to what comes their way online.
“Hidden Words” filter allows people to specify words, phrases or emojis they find offensive so they don’t have to see those abusive comments or DM requests. So, words like ‘retard’, ‘gay’ b%^&*tch’ and slut can all be controlled by your child.
6. If “unfollowing” certain accounts seems like a bold move for a teen, simply removing a certain account from your feed is a way of not viewing someone’s posts without the blatant act of unfollowing.
7. Upskill your teen: Above all, we want our teens and tweens to develop the skills to know when they’re in too deep, and to speak to someone they trust when they do. The Klikd App has a module on Dark Thoughts, one on “To Share or Not to Share” and one on “Me? An Addict?” These help teens to really think about these issues on a personal level and develop skillsets to know when they are in too deep, and what to do about it.
The KLIKD APP also comes with a detailed set of Parent Conversation Starters on each of these topics and other difficult to discuss topics. Sign up to the Klikd App today.
For more conversation starters on social media and your teen’s mental health, check out our FREE downloadable checklist on “Is Social Media Making My Child Anxious or Depressed”