I first heard about this little social-networking giant when my then-14-year-old suddenly seemed to be taking a serious interest in photography. Since then, I’ve come to see Instagram as more like the next Facebook than just another cellphone app (FB was smart to acquire it!). It’s almost game-like because it blends photography and socializing in a playful way, and only partly because of all the fun filter options that, with a single click, can almost make a snapshot look like art (then click again to undo and try another look). Further adding to its appeal – and this is huge, now, especially for young people – is that it’s on their phones, making digital socializing much more accessible at school and everywhere else. Seems like pure genius to me (I’ve had fun playing with it too).
According to fellow parent Michelle Meyers at CNET, Instagram is also a major workaround for kids under 13 “kept off Facebook by their well-intended parents” – even though they’re supposed to be 13 to use Instagram too. Their Instagram use is even more elusive because mobile (and now available to Android phones as well as iPhone, iPads, etc.). Though most of them probably have nothing to hide (my son and his girlfriend both followed me the minute I set up my account, seemingly delighted I did), parents can encourage them to turn on the privacy setting that lets them pre-approve “follow requests” so that only their friends can follow them and see the photos they post – my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid shows you how to do that and take a couple other privacy precautions at his SafeKids.com. As for the numbers, Michelle at CNET cites Nielsen data showing that Instagram is the No. 1 photo site among 12-to-17-year-olds, with “1 million teens visiting the site during July,” beating out Flickr, the No. 1 photo site overall (“Nielsen doesn’t categorize Instagram as a social network” site). [See also "Why Facebook for under-13s is a good idea" and "Parenting in the digital age: Major insights."]