Kids today love technology. One of the most popular ways for teens to communicate with their friends and to let others know what is going on in their lives is through Instagram. Instagram is an online photo sharing and social networking site that is hugely popular. In addition to sharing photos, users can record and share videos up to 15 seconds in length.

Scientists from Ditch the Label, an anti-bullying charity, conducted a study to determine how social media can cause anxiety among youth. Ten thousand people, aged 12 to 20, were surveyed on cyberbullying and Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

Overall, 68 percent of people had been sent a mean or inappropriate private message and 39 percent of said they had a nasty comment posted on their profile.

But Instagram was the most concerning.

They found that 42 percent of Instagram users had been bullied on the app compared to 37 percent for Facebook, 31 percent for Snapchat, 10 percent for YouTube and 9 percent for Twitter.

While using social media is fun for people of all ages, Instagram is just like any other social networking site and it can be used to cyberbully others. Here are a few examples of how kids are bullying through Instagram.

Bullies can post a malicious or embarrassing photo of a target for all of their followers to see. They can do the same thing with videos. Catching someone else in compromising photos or videos known as “blackmail moments” and then reposting in an attempt to embarrass someone else is common. Another tactic used to embarrass others is playing the “slap game.” This involves one person slapping someone while another person films the victim’s reaction. This reaction is then posted to Instagram to shame and humiliate the target.

Bullies can write a caption on an insulting photo and tag it with a target’s username. For example, a teen might find a picture of an overweight girl, then they post the picture with a caption that says, “Billy’s new girlfriend @username” using the targeted child’s Instagram handle.

Bullies can also post cruel remarks under a photo that someone else posts.

For instance, if your teen posts a picture of herself doing a dance routine or singing, a bully can take this opportunity to make insulting comments.

Bullies can use the “Add People” feature and tag an image with the target’s name. If a bully is not following the victim, he or she will not know about the photo nor will she be able to see the tag, caption or comments. As a result, the victim can be harassed and humiliated without even knowing why.
Bullies can add a mean hashtag to a photo that your child posts. While just about any hashtag can be used, here are a few examples of what kids might post: #loser #faggot, or #ugly. Hashtags allow people to search for different topics, like #faggot, and your child’s photo could become exposed to a larger audience. Obviously, this makes kids feel like everyone is making fun of them, increasing their anxiety and damaging their self-esteem.

Bullies can create a fake account in your child’s name in order to exploit and to demean them. They either upload mean and embarrassing photos of your child or they post mean quotes and photos about other people. These rude comments appear to be coming from your child, making it look as if your child is actually the bully.

Bullies can post screenshots of private text messages, exploiting a conversation that was meant to be private.

While Instagram has recently implemented technology that automatically blocks offensive content and users can now disable mean comments, the only way to ensure that your child is safe from the devastating effects of cyberbullying is to keep a watchful eye. The National Crime Prevention Center said that only 11 percent of kids will tell their parents if they are a victim of cyberbullying.

Parents, it is your job to protect your kids and the only way you can do that is if you know what is happening in cyberspace. Social Judo is to parenting tool I recommend in my clinical work with parents. It is the only tool which will alert you to what is going on without having to spy or scroll through your child’s entire digital world.


Andrea Difilippo is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, nationally recognized parenting expert and Chief Parenting Officer with Social Judo.