A Parent’s Guide to Instagram

What does a parent need to know about Instagram? We’re going to tell you what it is, how kids and teens are using it, and how cyberbullying on Instagram works.

What Is Instagram?

Instagram is social media platform focused on pictures. Users post pictures, with captions and hashtags, for their followers to comment on or like. Accounts can be public or private. Public accounts can be viewed by anyone and private accounts can only be viewed by approved followers. It’s possible to search Instagram by hashtag. For example, searching for #beach will turn up lots of pictures of people at the beach.

Do Teenagers Use Instagram Differently From Adults?

Yes. An adult users might take a picture, think of a funny caption, and post it with a few relevant hashtags.

To a teenager, that would seem extremely lazy. Teenagers will typically take dozens of pictures, select the most flattering, and then edit before posting with a perfect pithy caption. This is usually done with the help of friends. Then, they’ll watch the likes and comments come in. At this point, they’ll start screencapping (that is, taking a picture of the screen) the comments. This is just in case one of their followers choses to delete what they said or if they say something mean.

If a post is underperforming, teenagers may choose to delete the post. However, others are undoubtedly screencapping posts, so deleting may be socially risky.

Want to hear three teens describe this process in their own words? Listen to the first ten minutes of this episode of This American Life.

What Is FOMO?

FOMO is “fear of missing out”. Instagram promotes a very curated image of someone’s lifestyle. If your child or teen sees lots of pictures of their peers doing stuff like wearing expensive brands, going on fun trips, and hanging out without your child or teen, they might experience FOMO. Research has linked social media use and FOMO to depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

It’s important to realize that what people post on social media, especially Instagram, is a highlight reel. It’s all the best, most curated parts of someone’s life. Your child or teen needs to learn that people don’t share the bad or boring parts of their lives and that comparing their whole life to someone else’s highlight reel won’t ever be satisfying.

Rinsta vs Finsta?

A common way to cyberbully on Instagram is by using a fake Instagram accounts. Often users will have two accounts: a “rinsta”, or a “real Instagram”, and the other is a “finsta”, or a “fake Instagram”.

A rinsta is the Instagram account that everyone knows about. It’s a teen’s public facing account, carefully curated to portray a certain public image. It is deeply filtered and thoroughly considered.

A finsta is an account meant only for close friends. It’s where teens can post stuff that’s silly, funny, mean, lazy, or just plain unfiltered. For example, on someone’s rinsta, a vacation pic might be a carefully selected, meticulously edited pool-side photo. However, on their finsta, they may post a picture of themselves getting knocked over by a wave. It’s silly and fun, but only entrusted to specific friends.

One thing non-teen readers are probably noting right now is that the two terms seem backward. Yet, teenage Instagram users consider the curated account the “real” on and the more authentic one “fake”.

Cyberbullying and Finstas

While finstas often are used for fun self-expression, they can also become a venue for cyberbullying others. By only including their close friends in their finsta, teens are trying to limit the chances of getting cyberbullied. However, this can be circumvented if one of their friends screencaps something and shares with a non-member. Also, these small circles of friends can become venues where they post mean things about non-members, a bit like a digital version of the burn book from Mean Girls.

The Bottom Line

If all this stuff seems complicated, don’t worry, it is. Instagram is a major part of teen life. It can come with a lot of baggage, including self-image, in-groups versus out-groups, and public identity. The first step to helping your child or teen with these issues is to understand the platform itself.

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How to Report Cyberbullying on Social Media

In this article we’re going to discuss how to report cyberbullying on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Reddit. If you or your child has tried talking to the person who is cyberbullying, tried ignoring them, and tried blocking them, then reporting is the next step.

Before we get into the specifics, here’s a general rule about reporting cyberbullying: document it. Take a screenshot of the comment, direct message (DM), private message (PM), abusive content, or whatever. You may need the evidence later, either for your report or if the cyberbullying continues.


To report comments, pages, profiles, fundraisers, ads, events, questions, and more on Facebook, you want to click the ellipses icon (i.e., the three horizontal dots). This will present you with a range of options. You want to click on Report. A window will pop up asking for more details. From there you can fill it out and submit your report. Note that when you report something on Facebook your name will not be revealed.

When it comes to reporting harassing messages, the process is a little different. You will have to fill out this form. Facebook will need you to provide the name or names of those harassing you, a screenshot and/or text of the messages, and a short account of what’s happening in your own words.


To report a tweet, click the down arrow next to the tweet. To report a profile instead of a tweet, click the gear icon next to the profile. If you need to report a DM, you will have to click the ellipses icon (i.e., three horizontal dots).

For each of these things, the process is the same. Clicking these icons will give you a menu of options. Select Report, and you will be prompted for more details.

You can also fill out this form. The form requires a tweet URL as evidence, a description of the problem, and your email address. If you have screenshots of cyberbullying that has since been deleted, let Twitter know in your description of the event.


To report abusive content on Instagram, you will need to fill out this form. Aside from describing the problem, you will have to provide a link to the photo or video that is abusive. If you don’t have direct access, you will have to get help from someone who does.

If someone is impersonating you on Instagram, you will have to fill out this form. Instagram will have to see a copy of your ID. These are the types that are acceptable. They need to see your name and birthdate. Remember to cover up other sensitive parts of the ID, such as license numbers.


To report a Story or a Snap sent to you, press and hold the Story or Snap until you see the flag icon in the bottom left corner. Tap it, and provide a few details about the problem. To report a user, hold their name, tap the gear icon, and then tap Report.


To report cyberbullying on YouTube, you must fill out this form. You will need the username or channel of the person harassing you. This form is for all types of abuse on YouTube, which can include impersonation, hate speech, revealing private information, and more.


Reddit is a large site broken up into smaller forums called subreddits. On Reddit, most harassment is dealt with at the subreddit level. To report harassment or other rule infractions on Reddit, you will have to click the Report button below the comment or PM that is harassing. The report will be made to the moderators of the subreddit in question. Actual Reddit employees, or admins, will not be notified unless many people also report the same problem or user. If you have a serious problem with harassment, scroll to the bottom of Reddit, and click on Contact Us, which is located at the bottom of a column titled Help. From here, click Message the Admins. From here you can report harassment. It is best to include screenshots with your report.

The Bottom Line

Before reporting harassment or cyberbullying you can always hide the type of content you’re seeing or block the person doing the harassing. While this isn’t always an option, it’s often sufficient to solve the problem. Remember, your first step should always be to document every instance the harassment or cyberbullying. That way, if you must escalate, you’ll have evidence on your side.

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