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Instagram To Combat 'Horrific' Kids' Abuse With Safety Guide For Parents

Parents can feel confused or disturbed by the social media platforms their kids use, but there's little information about how to help or guide their children.

That's why Instagram teamed up with youth mental health advocates Reach Out to provide parents with a guide to the photo-sharing app. They hope let caregivers in on basic and important tips to teach their kids.

With new online platforms popping up, exploding in popularity and declining on a revolving door basis -- Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Tik Tok -- it can be hard enough for parents to keep up, let alone know how to give their children guidance or help.

“For many parents, social media can be challenging because it’s not something they grew up with, and platforms and safety features are constantly changing," said Ashley de Silva, CEO of ReachOut Australia.

While all these platforms can be positive and fun places for children (provided they meet the minimum age requirement), they can also become hotbeds of bullying, body image issues, or even exploitation in extreme circumstances.

The new Instagram parents guide. Photo: Instagram

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While Instagram, with more than one billion monthly users, is often seen as a home for cheery selfies and sunny holiday snaps, it can be a confronting or unpleasant place for some.

Experts say people may develop body image issues from seeing others' picture-perfect photos; and similar to any other online platform, problems around offensive conduct, bullying, or predatory behaviour can abound.

Photo: Instagram

The parent's guide, launched on Friday in Australia, is meant to give parents basic information to then pass on to their kids -- from tips around keeping your profile private, to advice on who to follow or not to follow, and manage their time online.

Some of the features are quite rudimentary, including switching profiles to 'private' by default, or reporting inappropriate behaviour.

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Others are not quite as well-known, such as being able to mute certain words that could 'trigger' people with mental health concerns, how to block or restrict the ability of some people to leave comments on your profile, or filtering out comments that contain bad language.

“We feel a responsibility to keep everyone in our community safe, especially young people who may turn to their parents for help in using Instagram,” said Mia Garlick, the Australian director of policy for Facebook, Instagram's parent company.

"We’ve worked with ReachOut to create a guide that provides parents with more information in order to better understand Instagram and how to talk to their children about it."

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A study released by Roy Morgan this week found that young people who spend more time on social media have a higher likelihood of developing anxiety. One of the other features Instagram has advised parents about is the ability to set time limits for the app, or mute notifications for a chosen period.

Concerns about bullying and mental health have led to the creation of the guide. Photo: Getty

"The new Guide we’ve developed with Instagram provides parents with simple strategies to support clear and open conversations with young people about using social media in safe ways,” said ReachOut's de Silva said.

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At a pre-launch event at Instagram's Sydney offices on Thursday, a panel of young people aged between 18 and 24 spoke about their experiences using the photo-sharing app. The four youths had mostly positive things to share, but said they wished their parents had been able to give them some advice or guidance when they were first starting out.

Photo: Getty

One young woman shared a story about how social status and membership of 'popular' peer groups at some schools can be based on the number of likes and followers on Instagram, a situation she called "horrific".

"I'd hope I would go home and tell my mum about this, and I wish their parents were able to see that and monitor and understand that a bit more, to investigate," she said.

The government's e-safety page is also a useful resource for parents.

The Australian government's e-safety page also has tips for parents on how to help  children deal with online safety issues. The website provides advice on helping children have safe and enjoyable experiences online and tackles issues like cyberbulling, pornography and online grooming.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

If you need help, or just need someone to talk to, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800