Facebook isn’t one of the cool kidsInstagram the new teenage Facebook

The reports are coming out that teenagers think Facebook isn’t cool anymore. I think it’s the combination of too many changes with the program, too many companies selling stuff and too many of them seeing their parents (and some are even seeing their grandparents!) using the social networking site.

This was not news to me. I heard about this last year when I asked my 13-year-old niece how she likes using Facebook. In her puberty-filled voice she said, “Facebook is weird. We’re not on there anymore. Facebook is for old people like you Aunt Penney.”

Gee, thanks kid.

So where do you hang out online when you go into your room?

Without hesitation, she said “Instagram.” She pulled up the program on my phone to show me her page. After she laughed at the low number of followers I have, she told me all about the filters, the comments and how all her friends at school are on Instagram. I looked at her account and realized she has more Instagram followers in less than a year than I have Twitter followers. I’ve been tweeting since 2009. I do this stuff for a living. Hey, what the heck is going on here?

I started to follow her to see what teenagers are really doing on Instagram. It’s mostly pretty innocent stuff of uploading pictures, making their own quotes, liking photos and posting comments. Some of the comments I read reminded me of the notes we use to pass in class or pushed through the slats in someone’s locker. The same stuff we grown-ups do on Facebook.

Cool Photo-sharing App

If you didn’t know, Instagram is a program that allows users to take a photo with their smartphone, apply a “filter” to enhance the image and then instantly share it with other Instagram users.

As parents, we’ve all been warned to keep our kids off of Facebook and to talk to them about the dangers of posting private information in the social world. So what happened to turn Instagram into the safe haven for tweens and teenagers?

Many say it was the growth of iPod Touches and iPads that has helped spread the use of Instagram with this young demographic who are still too young to own a smartphone. According to Nielsen, Instagram is the top photography site among teens ages 12 – 17, with 1 million teens visiting the site during the month of July 2012.

A Pew Online Report called “Teens 2012: Truth, Trends, and Myths,” about teenage online behavior found that 45 percent of online 12-year-olds use social network sites and that number goes up to 82 percent for 13-year-old users (the official legal age to use most social media sites). They found the most popular activity for teens on social networks is posting photos and videos.

But with Instagram, our guards were down

Talking to our kids about social media can be like having that dreaded sex talk with them. You don’t know where to begin, how much to tell them and what you should say.

Take a look at these tips to get you started:

Privacy setting: By default, anyone can follow you on Instagram and see your pictures and comments. Show your kids how to set their privacy settings so that they need to approve future follow requests.

Just follow these simple instructions:

1. Click the menu button from the right side of the Instagram app

2. Then click on the little gear in the upper right corner to adjust your settings

3. Scroll down to Photos are Private. The default setting is OFF so you’ll need to turn it on. Instagram will ask if you’re sure and you want to click “Yes I’m sure.”

Location: Instagram also has the ability to display a map of where your photos were taken. This can also be turned off in the same settings location.  It’s always a good idea to shut off all GPS functions to make sure your kids don’t share their physical location.

Sharing on other networks: Instagram also allows you to share your images on other social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Teach your kids NOT to share their Instagram photos on other networks, especially Twitter where the default settings allow anyone on the program to see them, whether they’re connected to your Instagram page or not.

Talk with your kids: Take the time to talk with your kids about whether they’re using Instagram and, if so, what they’re doing with it and who they’re connected to. You might want to ask your kids if they’re familiar with the privacy settings and talk with them about what’s appropriate to share and what photos should not be posted.