Understanding Instagram -Part I

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“One more relatively recent addition to the technology world that brings people together from all corners of the world is Instagram. This app for devices such as iPads and smart phones has taken the photography and social media world by storm. Users can download this free program, create an account, and use it to take and modify pictures through various filters. These pictures are then by default available for anyone in the world to see, with additional options to upload the pictures to other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.” That is why you need to delve into Understanding Instagram Now!

As Parenting Today’s Kids described it above, many of us discovered Instagram as a clever photo-sharing application that lets you groom up your photos with cool filters. However, it has all the functionality of a social network, which Instagram founder Kevin Systrom says was by design. Educators had long advised parents over and over again that their tween-age kids are just too young for Facebook, being not mature enough to understand what really is “okay” for sharing or posting, and how to respond to cyberbullies and unwanted content. However, with Instagram, parents were caught off-guard; they had so little idea how it would be used.

According to research conducted by Nielsen in 2013, Instagram is the top photography site among teens ages 12 to 17, with 1 million teens visiting the site during July 2012. Nielsen doesn’t categorize Instagram as a social network. While Flickr was top photo site for the overall population, Instagram was the favorite among teens, Nielsen found.

Understanding Instagram: The potential risks

Tweens and teens who seem to be on a constant drive for self expression as they try to manoeuvre their independence tend to quickly get hooked on Instagram. Even though laws regulate that users who sign up for Instagram accounts be 13 years of age or older, there is no verification of age when downloading the app. The exposure that these kids have with Instagram can be overwhelming, and even lead to bullying.

Being another social media site, Instagram opens up potential routes for cyberbullying which adolescents can be subject to. Parents of preteens who feel that Instagram is a safe alternative to Facebook and other social media sites need to be aware of the following risks…

Users can create fake accounts that are directed at bullying – making entire albums of photos that are embarrassing to someone. The fact that accounts on Instagram are by default set to post pictures to a public forum, which means that they are viewable and searchable by anyone, anywhere. Viewers of the photos can leave comments on the pictures. This is where most of the bullying occurs, with hurtful, discriminatory, and harassing comments left for the photographer and/or people in the picture. Screenshots of text messages can be taken and easily shared.  For example, a girl can says mean things about a classmate in a text message, and then take a screenshot of the text.

Furthermore, there is a geo location feature, allowing the pictures on Instagram to be tagged for geographical locations. This means a picture might not only be hit with rude comments, but the person who took and posted your child’s picture can disclose where your child was at the moment, leaving him or her even more vulnerable. Sounds scary, no?

Even though there are laws and rules against it, sometimes harassing and sexually explicit photos do get uploaded through Instagram, and the recent surveys and trends indeed do reflect that Instagram has become the new breeding ground for cyber bullying and sexual predation.

Understanding Instagram: What does Instagram say?

On its terms of service and rules page on the web, Instagram posts a “short” and “long” list of community guidelines.

The short list keeps it simple in the rule of five:

  1. Post your own photos.
  2. Keep your clothes on.
  3. Be respectful.
  4. Don’t spam.
  5. HAVE FUN!

Instagram also shares a longer list of do’s and another of don’ts

Understanding Instagram: What to do:

Do share photos that you’ve taken. [Post your own photos]

Instagram is a great way to share your life through photos, but it is required that you don’t share photos of someone else’s life. Since users own the rights to all photos they have uploaded using the Instagram service, users are asked to respect their copyright ownership. If you want to express your excitement over a beautiful photo, it’s best to double tap on the image to like it.

Do share photos that are safe for people of all ages. [Keep your clothes on]

It’s important to remember that the Instagram community is a diverse one, and that your photos are visible to people as young as 13 years old. While they respect the artistic integrity of photos, they have to keep the product and the photos within in line with their App Store’s rating for nudity and mature content. In other words, please do not post nudity or mature content of any kind.

Do treat others as you would like to be treated. [Be respectful]

People from around the world with different backgrounds come together to share images on Instagram, which is great, but it also means that not everyone will agree with what you think or believe. Instagram ask that all users be polite and respectful in their interactions with other members.

Do have meaningful & genuine interactions. [Don’t spam]

Self-promotion or commercial solicitation of any kind, in any form, is rarely well-received. Users often notice when you have posted the same comment elsewhere or have followed a large number of users to gain followers in return, so please be sincere with your exchanges on Instagram.

Do have fun!

Instagram is the best way to quickly share beautiful photographs of your life with others, and see the world through others’ eyes. It’s photo sharing reinvented, so have fun!

More on Understanding Instagram below…

Understanding Instagram: What not to do:

Similarly, it is easy to deduce the “don’ts” list Instagram has. Moreover, it is important to note that overstepping the boundaries outlined below may result in a disabled account, or discontinued access to Instagram, without warning.

Don’t share photos that aren’t yours.

This includes other people’s photos, and/or things that you have copied or collected from the Internet. Accounts that solely consist of only this type of content may be disabled at any time.

Don’t share photos that show nudity or mature content.

If you wouldn’t show the photo you are thinking about uploading to a child, or your boss, or your parents, you probably shouldn’t share it on Instagram. The same rule applies to your profile photo. Accounts found sharing nudity or mature content will be disabled and your access to Instagram may be discontinued.

Don’t share photos of illegal content.

If Instagram finds you sharing prohibited or illegal content, including photographs of extreme violence or gore, your account may be disabled and they will take appropriate action, which may include reporting you to the authorities.   

Don’t spam.

Instagram is a place where people can share beautiful photos of their lives, and when you engage in self-promotional behavior of any kind on Instagram it makes users who have shared that moment with you feel sad inside. This guideline includes repetitive comments, as well as service manipulation in order to self-promote, and extends to commercial spam comments, such as discount codes or URLs to websites. Instagram asks its users that they keep their interactions on the service both meaningful and genuine.

Don’t be rude.

Instagram is a friendly place where everyone should feel safe and comfortable sharing their lives through photographs. It is not an appropriate place to abuse, attack, harass, or impersonate others. If Instagram receives valid complaints about your conduct, they will send a warning or disable your account. Alternatively, they would recommend users block all meanies & trolls to prevent further issues.

  1. Don’t promote or glorify self-harm.

While Instagram is a place where people can share their lives with others through photographs, any account found encouraging or urging users to embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or to cut, harm themselves, or commit suicide will result in a disabled account without warning. They believe that communication regarding these behaviours in order to create awareness, come together for support and to facilitate recovery is important, but that Instagram is not the place for active promotion or glorification of self-harm.

Not so difficult, right?

“If you believe you will have trouble following these guidelines we’d suggest finding an alternative photo sharing service, as Instagram may not be the best place for you. We value these guidelines, and believe that they will help keep Instagram a safe & fun place for everyone.”

In its basic terms, Instagram states that you may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content via the Service. The photo-sharing service also has a policy against hacked accounts, impersonation, underage children, hate-accounts, violation of intellectual property, abuse and spam, and exposed private information.

It therefore makes another set of suggestions, in case you do face trouble using Instagram:

Understanding Instagram: Instagram is a diverse community, and it is likely that you will come across things that offend you. If you are offended by a photo that may not violate any of the above guidelines, we’d suggest you navigate away from the account, or even use our blocking feature. If you are unsure about the content, you can report it utilizing the built-in reporting functionality in order to bring it to the Instagram Team’s attention. This functionality is explained below.

If you find that one of your images has been uploaded to another user’s profile, try not to panic. It is likely a misunderstanding and not ill-intended. A good first step is to comment on the image & politely ask that they take the content down. If that doesn’t work, you are asked to file a report so that the team may investigate the problem.

You might find yourself wanting to post a screenshot of the offending account to your photo-stream in order to draw attention to the situation or user, but that’s often not the best way to go about resolving the issue of instagram safety.  Singling out the user is not encouraged, as it may be classified as harassment, which violates the community guidelines. In short, in attempt to stop a bully, don’t be a bully yourself. Alternatively, learn more on instagram safety. 

Click here for the second part of our series on Understanding Instagram

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