Social Network Spotlight: Instagram

Owned by Facebook, Instagram is a social photo sharing website and mobile application that allows users to share photos privately to an approved list of users, or publicly to anyone with an account or link. Photos can be “liked” or commented on, but unlike Tumblr or Twitter, posts cannot be “reblogged” or “retweeted.” Instagram recently adopted a private message feature allowing users to send photos, and exchange in chat with specific users.


  • Instagram moderators—compared to other similar services—do a decent job of keeping content appropriate for most ages. Moderators go as far as disabling search for many inappropriate words.
  • Users can easily share important moments and engage with friends privately.

  • Connecting an Instagram account to Facebook allows users to share photos with both social networks.
  • Blocking users and reporting posts are both easy to do and available on all submitted content.

  • It’s very easy to directly connect with musicians, sports teams, celebrities, etc.


  • The default option of an Instagram account is public and available to anyone.
  • Geotagging can be enabled revealing the location where photos were taken, showing locations the user visits, or where the user is currently located.

  • With little experience, a user can navigate through the search field to locate inappropriate content.
  • Although moderators and flagging works well, a user can upload inappropriate photos.
  • The addition of private photo messaging could encourage inappropriate use.
  • Like many similar sites, self-harm and other inappropriately themed photos make it into the feeds.


Tips for educators

  • Make sure the users account is private to keep strangers from viewing photos.
    • Profile > “Edit Your Profile” > Turn on “Posts are Private”
  • The following/followers list can be tracked to make sure all users are personal friends or family members.
  • By clicking the heart button within the app, you are able to view any interaction other users are having with that account.
  • Make sure users are not using the geotagging feature on photos unless a parent or guardian approves.
  • Following strangers’ accounts is not inherently dangerous. Many accounts feature art, photography, or other totally acceptable content, but be aware that some do not.
  • Be aware of the private messaging feature and make sure that it’s used appropriately.
  • Important links:

Wrap up

Instagram is not known as a go-to place for pornography or other inappropriate content. Although this sort of content can be found by a knowledgeable user, it’s not the focus of Instagram. With only a few options, a user’s feed can be totally private requiring manual approval for any follows, which makes it relatively easy for an account to be monitored. There are so few levels and feature sets of Instagram, that monitoring any use is actually quite simple.