5 things parents need to know about Instagram Direct (and why it isn’t SnapChat)…

instagram-direct-event1Today Instagram announced its new feature, Instagram Direct, which allows Instagram users to directly message photos and videos (with the cool filters) to individuals and groups instead of just posting them to a user’s individual feed.

There’s a lot of talk about how Instagram Direct is a play for the younger SnapChat users, but there are definitely differences users should understand beyond the obvious differences of not being able to draw on photos and that the photos don’t disappear after 15 seconds. (Though they don’t always in SnapChat, either, but that’s another story.)

So while this is an interesting development for so many reasons, it’s also something to be aware of as parents, especially since so many tweens and teens are on Instagram.

Here are 5 things you should know about Instagram Direct:

  1. Instagram Direct continues to work off users’ data plans and doesn’t count against SMS message allotments–issues that are important to kids with texting limits. However, the functionality of sending direct photos to each other is the same as texting.
  2. Instagram Direct allows an Instagram user to send a photo to anyone else, regardless of whether or not they are following each other. But if the recipient isn’t following the sender, the photo or video will go to a holding inbox with a “pending requests” folder. Because previously Instagram users shared their content with all of their followers, kids need to understand, in the way that they should have learned with Facebook, to only accept messages from real friends–not online acquaintances.
  3. There is no censoring of photos on Instagram Direct and there is no proactive monitoring of content. Users would need to complain or report obscene content. Again, this could become a problem if your kid is accepting messages from people they don’t know in person. That said, knowing teenagers, it could become a problem, anyway.
  4. Users can’t forward photos to other users. This might feel safe, especially in terms of #3, but as we know with SnapChat, once a photo is online, it is definitely available.
  5. This isn’t SnapChat.  When Kevin Systrom announced it this morning, he specifically said, “Revisit moments as much as you’d like.”  These photos are meant to be revisited and saved. Which means they can be used again even if the original message can’t be forwarded.

It’ll be interesting to see if kids take up with Instagram Direct. I’ve already heard grumblings from middle schoolers that it sounds like Facebook (“…which means our moms will use it more than us.”). That said, it’s good to know what you’re dealing with.

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thomas davisthomas davis