What to do if your child is harassed on Instagram

By:
Aura
5/31/2024
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Instagram is one of the most popular social networks for young people today. According to the Pew Research Center, 62% of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 use the app to consume content and stay in touch with friends.

There are a lot of positive benefits to teens’ Instagram use, too, including social interactions, creative expression, and more. But as with any social media platform, it can be a place for cyberbullying and harassment.

7 Steps to take if your child is being harassed on Instagram.

If you discover that your child is being bullied on Instagram, it’s understandable that your first reaction may be to report the post, delete your kid’s account, and call up the bully’s parents right away.

Before you do any of that though, take a breath. Check in with your child, make sure they’re safe, and then review the steps below. Following the right order of operations can help to stop the harassment for good.

1. Establish if this is a situation that requires police help.

The Cyberbullying Research Center says that police action may be advisable when the harassment involves:

  • Physical threats
  • Stalking
  • Coercion
  • Blackmail
  • Exchange of sexual images of minors
  • Hate crimes

If you decide to contact the police, follow their advice and steps for how to proceed. If the police need to investigate a predator or scammer, they may ask you not to report the content to Instagram right away or reach out to any other parties.

2. Talk to your child about how they’re feeling.

Once you’ve established if you and your family need to take immediate police action, talk to your child about how they’re feeling. They may not want to open up right away—that’s okay. Let them know that you’re there for them, and ready to listen at any time.

It can also be a good idea to bring in the support of a mental health professional. Sometimes kids and teens will be more comfortable talking to a doctor instead of mom or dad.

And if you suspect your child is inflicting self-harm or may have suicidal thoughts after experiencing harassment, contact medical professionals immediately.

3. Screenshot abusive content.

It’s also important to screenshot any harassment or abusive content. This can include offensive comments, inappropriate posts, direct messages (DMs), and more. It’s important to have records of online bullying, trolling, and abuse in case the content gets removed while you’re working to resolve the issue.

4. Figure out if your child knows the cyberbully offline.

If you suspect your child is being targeted by an adult predator, it’s best to let the police take it from here. But if your child knows their cyberbully offline—and it’s a peer—you may want to consider contacting their school or another community authority figure for help.

The Cyberbullying Research Center recommends against contacting a cyberbully’s parents directly, as this could escalate the situation or create additional aggression toward you and your family.

Teen recording dance on phone

6. Report the harassment to Instagram.

You can report harassment or bullying to Instagram, too. The social media platform may decide to remove the post, comment, or even the harasser’s entire account—this is why it’s important to take screenshots before you report.

7. Take steps to secure your child’s Instagram account.

There are several anti-bullying tools available within the Instagram app and the Meta Family Center. You can:

  • Restrict who’s able to tag or mention your child in comments, posts, and Instagram Stories
  • Block online bullies, harassers, and suspected predators
  • Create custom lists of words to hide from your kids’ Instagram feeds
  • Restrict someone’s ability to comment on your child’s posts
  • Continue to report bullying comments and posts
  • Set up account supervision to see your kids’ Instagram activity

Some parents also choose to set screen time limits on Instagram use. While that won’t eliminate the possibility of harassment and bullying, limiting Instagram screen time can have other positive effects on mental health, body image, and overall well-being.

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