App Guide


Name: Instagram 

Owned By: Facebook

Category: Photo and Video 

Operating System: IOS, Android 

Available for download: Yes

Desktop version: Yes

Approximate release date: 2010

Age Rating*: Rated 12+ for the following:

  • Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor
  • Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity
  • Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References
  • Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes

Brief Description*: Connect with friends, share what you’re up to, or see what’s new from others all over the world. Explore our community where you can feel free to be yourself and share everything from your daily moments to life’s highlights.

*Information from the App Store

  • Ability to send inappropriate images

    Users can post inappropriate content. However, photos can be reported that are considered inappropriate and be taken down by Instagram.

  • Access to photo gallery (device camera)

    Users can post images, videos, and other content from their photo gallery.

  • Access to camera

    Users can take photos and videos directly from the app.

  • Anonymous posting (posting without a username or other identifiers)

    Each Instagram post, video, story, etc. is posted with a username.

  • Access to contacts

    Users have the option to sync their contacts on Instagram to connect with friends.

  • Business accounts

    Businesses can create business profiles on Instagram. This means that businesses can track the activity on their profile.

  • Connect with strangers (ability to)

    Users can follow strangers on Instagram.

  • Collects user’s information

    Instagram uses data to track you. They may track your contact information, identifiers, and other data. Additionally, they also collect data that could be linked to your identity including financial information, location, health and fitness, purchases, and more.

  • Clear history function

    Users can delete their search history.

  • Cyberbullying opportunities

    Users can share images, videos, or stories that cyberbully someone.

  • Direct Messaging private

    Users can send each other direct private messages. People can send private messages to an individual or a group.

  • Death themes and/or dark content/imagery/references

    Users can search for this type of content by searching for relevant hashtags and accounts.

  • Designed to be purposefully deceptive

    Instagram was not designed to be deceptive. All accounts and posts are connected to identifiers and usernames.

  • Disappear messages/images

    Unlike other social media apps, messages and images don’t disappear when viewed. They only disappear when deleted by users. However, whatever you put on the internet will never completely disappear even if you delete it.

  • Emoji Search (search content with emojis like keywords or hashtags)

    Users can search for content by using emojis. Some contain secret messages or are used for sexting. 

  • Established accounts available for purchase

    Accounts with preloaded followers are available on eBay.

  • Graphic content warning (blurred graphic content before viewing)

    All graphic content contains a sensitive content notification with the description: “This photo contains sensitive content which some people may find offensive or disturbing.”

  • Group chat and video chat

    Users can create group messages on Instagram where they can chat and/or video chat.

  • Hashtag use (uses hashtags as a search/directory)

    Users can create and share hashtags.

  • Hidden photo vault

    Instagram does not have a hidden photo vault. All photos posted are linked to a username.

  • Live stream function

    Instagram users can “go live” on Instagram and their friends can join the video to watch their live stream.

  • Location dependent services

    In order for Instagram to function, users must use their location.

  • Location services enabling

    Users can turn their location services on or off.

  • Login with Facebook

    You cannot login to Instagram with your Facebook credentials, but you can connect your accounts to share the same content on both platforms by tapping a button.

  • Marketing (sponsored content)

    Many companies and influencers will share marketing and sponsored content.

  • Offline functionality

    Android users can access Instagram without WiFi or cellular service. 

  • Password protected (beyond account password)

    Users only need/have one password to access their account.

  • Photo filters and editing

    Users can edit and put filters over their posts and Instagram stories.

  • Post images, videos, stories, etc

    Users can share images, videos, stories, and more on Instagram. They can also send direct messages to other users.

  • Private and public accounts

    People have the option to keep their profile private or public. If an account is made private, people can only connect by requesting access. If an account is made public,  anyone can follow, like, comment, and share posts without requesting access to the account.

  • Purchases in-app for sponsored content

    Instagram users can purchase goods and services directly from the app by clicking on sponsored content or bio links.

  • Reporting functions

    Users can report bullying, inappropriate content, and more on Instagram.

  • Screenshot and screen recording notification

    When users take screenshots or screen record posts, stories, or accounts, the creator will not be notified.

  • Search function within the app

    Users can search content by the account name, audio, tag, or place. 

  • Self promotion content (for popularity or marketing)

    Users can post self-promoting content to increase their following count, post engagement, likes, etc.

  • “Stories” posts

    Users can post stories on Instagram that are accessible for 24 hours.

  • Upgradable

    Users cannot upgrade Instagram for more content or to remove ads.

  • Video sharing

    People can post short videos or share IGTV content, which are videos longer than one minute.

  • Voice chatting

    Users can send voice recordings to friends or users with public accounts via private chat.

  • Drug/Alcohol content (posts, discussion, and imagery)

    There are many posts related to drugs, and they do not get removed. There are also profiles that will link their online stores to the Instagram account to purchase paraphernalia. 

  • Eating disorder (topics, content, posts, discussion, imagery, etc.)

    Some users share resources to help people struggling with eating disorders, and some users share concerning content about eating disorders.

  • Graphic content (images of death, car crashes, etc.)

    Graphic content is not common on Instagram. If someone posts graphic content on Instagram, there will be a sensitive content alert saying “This photo contains sensitive content which some people may find offensive or disturbing.”

  • Mental health content

    Some users share resources to help people struggling with mental health, and some users share concerning content about mental health struggles.

  • Nudity

    Nudity is prohibited, but it can be found. However, it’s often quickly removed or reported.

  • Self-injury content

    This type of content can be found on Instagram, and it often contains a sensitive content alert.

  • Sexualized topics (content, posts, and discussion)

    This type of content can be found on Instagram. Depending on the content, Instagram can remove it and users can report it.

  • Suicide topics

    This type of content can be found on Instagram, and it often contains a sensitive content alert.

  • Vaping topics (content, posts, and imagery)

    Posts can link online stores to purchase vaping products online.

  • Violence

    This type of content can be found on Instagram. Depending on the content, Instagram can remove it and users can report it.

Reviewed By: Ryan

Instagram tries to control inappropriate content, but it is an enormous task. Control over the content seems to ebb and flow— sometimes inappropriate content is easier to access. Instagram has a reporting function and ways for inappropriate content to be identified and removed, but as with anything, people find ways around the controls.

If youth have not been exposed to sexualized content, drugs, and mental health topics, there is a high probability for them to be exposed after they create an Instagram profile. Instagram could easily be a gateway platform for youth to learn about these topics and view people who are pro drug use and anti drug use for example. They will be able to see individuals wanting to support those with mental health struggles and they will learn about individuals who are struggling with self-harm, depression and suicidal thoughts. 

Discuss help-seeking strategies with your youth, such as what to do to if they see someone posting about mental health issues, depression, self-harm, or suicide. Teach them to use the reporting functions built into Instagram and keep an open line of communication with parents. 

There is a high level of sexual content available as well. You should be prepared for your kids to see this content as it’s easy to stumble upon and kids are curious about sex at that age. If you chose to let your child(ren) use Instagram, talk to themabout not posting sexual or provocative content. Teach them that self-esteem is based upon the content of their character, not the appearance of their body. 

Be aware of “Finstas” (Fake Instagram Accounts) as well. Youth will sometimes have a well-curated appropriate account that you know of but will also make a Finsta account that you will not be aware of. More questionable behaviors tend to occur on this Finsta account. They may even have several Finsta accounts. Youth also may have a “spam” account where they post less curated pictures of themselves or their life. 

I do not recommend Instagram from anyone under 17 years old. However, many youth already have access to Instagram. Here are some of my tips for responsible use.

Safety Tips

My #1 recommendation: If you are going to let your child have an Instagram account, you should have an account as well so that you can effectively educate them on how to use it responsibly. You should follow them and they should follow you. 

  • Do not use full names as usernames, and do not put your full name in your bio. 
  • Set the account to private.
  • Only accept followers of people they know in person.
  • Remove any unknown followers that they currently have.
  • Do not post personal information such as driver's licenses, school IDs, state IDs, phone numbers, birth certificates, school schedules, and/or other identifying information.
  • Turn off location services.
  • Do not respond to Direct Messages from people they don’t know.
  • Use the reporting system when they see inappropriate content. 
  • Talk to a parent if they see a concerning post from a friend (mental health, bullying, inappropriate posts, etc).
  • Report bullying both through Instagram's reporting function and a parent.
  • Save screenshots of bullying behaviors.
  • Block bullies.
  • Stick with the age restrictions.
  • Explain that even though an account is private, privacy isn’t guaranteed. Once a post is shared it is totally out of the users’ control.
  • Remind your youth that a digital reputation begins the moment an account is opened. What they post now could affect them later in life.
  • Outline your expectations for using technology and Instagram with a Technology Contract. 

Reviews by Katie K

Instagram is used by teens in a variety of positive ways. People my age use the app to share pictures of family and friends, write about their experiences traveling, and even promote their own businesses. It is a fun, creative outlet for those who know how to use it safely. Common misuses of the app include using it to post hateful comments to other users, for flaunting unsafe or scandalous behaviors, and most notably as an excuse to procrastinate doing homework. 

As a general rule of thumb, I personally would not recommend creating an Instagram to anyone under the age of thirteen. If you are debating on letting your son or daughter download Instagram, I highly suggest you make sure that they are emotionally mature enough to handle the situations that they may encounter while using this app. If someone leaves a rude or hateful comment on their page, if they come across accounts that post inappropriate content, or if an unknown user contacts them through direct messaging, how would they respond?

For parents who are uneasy about letting their children on social media, I would recommend being logged into your child’s account on your own cell phone. That way, they have the freedom to use the app, but you have the ability to monitor their online activity and hopefully influence them to be conscious of what they type and post. Also make sure to set limits for the amount of time your child spends on the app. It is common for people to aimlessly scroll through the app and neglect other obligations.

If I could suggest one thing to kids who are new to Instagram, it would be to remember that the number of likes and comments you get on your posts do not define who you are as a person, the content of your posts and captions can be utilized by anyone who sees it to make judgements about your character. Be mindful of what you post.

About Katie K

Katie first began using social media in fifth grade when she made an Instagram account the same year that the app launched. Since then, she has witnessed the app transform into what it is today and has experienced the good and bad that have come along with it. Katie has always practiced safe social media habits and is now sharing her experiences to help younger users understand the importance of protecting themselves online.