Attention #MommyBloggers: Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe on Your Instagram Lifestyle Blog
This article has been compiled from direct interviews with popular Instagram family lifestyle bloggers. Please see our background research compiled here.
In the last few years, lifestyle bloggers/influencers have grown in popularity and followers. On Instagram, #momlife has over 23 million posts, #igkids has 2.7 million posts, and #instamom has over 2.9 million public posts. We have interviewed a number of prominent #instamom’s on their tips for keeping their public accounts a little safer and bringing up their blog with their children.
Safety Tips for a Public Account
Here are some precautions you can take to keep your account safer for you and your kids. These tips were gathered from speaking to multiple moms and reading Instagram’s guidelines. However, remember that not posting photos of your children at all is the safest way to avoid abuses.
Check who follows you
Although it’s safer to keep your account private, there are ways to check and limit who follows you on a public account. Daniella (@grateful_girl_mom), a mom of three who has over 14k followers, explained,
“I have an app where I see everyone that follows me, and I spend an extensive amount of time going through nightly new followers and blocking accounts that just don’t have a picture or are private that I can’t see…I will go through, even if it takes me hours, and look at who followed me that day….But it’s like I’m putting our lives out there so I kind of feel like I have to do whatever I can.”
Jenny*, a blogger who has two kids under the age of three, told us “If they don’t clearly seem like a real person with a genuine account (comments on photos, Instagram stories, etc) I block them.”
Watermark your photos
Watermarking photos can deter people from reposting. According to Jenny*, who has been using Instagram since 2008, “Companies are less likely to repost your photo when it has something ‘marring’ the image.” She described an incident in which someone used one of her daughter’s photos without permission:
“I did have a baby account from another country use a photo of my daughter as a baby. I had tagged a company and this particular shop sells that product so they used my photo to advertise on their feed. I confronted them directly and they profusely apologized and removed the photo. I had forgotten to watermark it and I was super frustrated about it which is why, especially for full-on face photos, I have been working on watermarks again”
Read about more ways to handle these situations below.
Leave off the Geotag
Geotagging, or tagging the location of a photo you post, can be dangerous. Especially if on a public account, geotags can leave a trail of pins revealing your daily routines or hangout spots. Geotags on public posts can also be collected by algorithms — take a look at Owen Mundy’s “I Know Where Your Cat Lives” project that has mapped publicly posted cat photos on a map, using metadata.
A few moms we interviewed said that they make sure to leave a geographic location before posting a photo. Jenielle (@littlegraythread), a mom of two daughters ages 5.5 and 3, said
“I typically don’t post our location or post live unless we’re in a public place like Disneyland. Even if I do post on location, I usually wait until we leave the area….I typically don’t post photos of our home or other activities outside of theme parks”
Use pseudonyms instead of your child’s real name
A few bloggers shared with us that they use nicknames/pseudonyms to protect their child’s online identity. Jenielle (@littlegraythread) has not revealed her daughters’ first names on her account, with almost 12k followers, and she instead refers to them as “LittleGray” and “LittleSage” on her account.
Be mindful of the types of photos you post
Anything you post online stays there forever — even if you take it down. Daniella (@grateful_girl_mom) tells us that she doesn’t post bath time photos or swimsuit photos. “I don’t know, I’m just wary about like that kind of stuff.”
What To Do If Someone Has Reposted a Photo Without Consent
There have been a number of reports of some Instagram users screenshotting kid photos and posting them on other accounts — either as part of a “role-play” or an advertisement for a company. Meg, a lifestyle blogger with two young kids and 9k followers, said,
“I have a friend that was harassed and threatened — specifically threatened her kids. Instagram made her jump through hoops to get this person removed from Instagram.”
Ask the user to remove the photo
Jenielle (@littlegraythread) shared with us,
“I’ve had people repost my photos and videos without my consent and have also had people take photos of my children in public and then posted them on their accounts….When this happens, I attempt to talk to the person directly to have them either take down the photo (usually in the case where they have taken a picture of the girls without my consent) or credit me appropriately (in the case where my photos were reposted without my knowledge).”
She also shared her concern about reposting photos with her followers, and now followers will message her if they see a post of her children on a different account.
Ask Instagram to remove the post
If someone is impersonating your child, Instagram uses this form to report the account. It’s for “if you believe that someone using Instagram is under the age of 13 or is impersonating your child who’s under 13.” And if someone has reposted a photo you took without your consent, you can report the post. Instagram’s Community Guidelines state “Share only photos and videos that you’ve taken or have the right to share. As always, you own the content you post on Instagram. Remember to post authentic content, and don’t post anything you’ve copied or collected from the internet that you don’t have the right to post.”
Explaining Your Instagram To Your Kids
Depending on the age of your child, you can ask for consent from your child to post a photo of them in different ways. Wendy Sue Swanson, “a pediatrician and executive director of digital health at Seattle Children’s Hospital,” recommends asking children permission to post photos when they are around 6 to 8 years old (NPR interview here).
Explaining Instagram to kids
Daniella (@grateful_girl_mom) explains her Instagram presence to her three daughters through an analogy to the YouTube videos they watch.
“They know that I put pictures of them up. Honestly, it’s kind of funny like I show them…everything that I’m posting I let them see it and they love it like they get a kick out of — it they’re little characters….my older two comprehend you know that mommy takes pictures and people see them and that, you know, we work with other people to help show their stuff.”
Jenielle (@littlegraythread) says her daughters, ages 5 ½ and 3, don’t know how many people “follow” them (there are 11.9k that do). “They know that I take photos and videos to post and they are aware when strangers come up to them in public. When they tell them that they follow them, I explain that they like seeing their photos”
Remember you never know who is on the other side
Be mindful that even if you follow safety precautions, with a public account, you never really know who is going to see your photos. Daniella explained, “I mean when you’re public literally anyone can follow you. You know, as much as there’s like a picture of a mom on a profile, like who’s to say it’s really a mom?”
*“Jenny” is a pseudonym used to protect the blogger’s anonymity.
Melissa Du, Cris Lara, Megha Srivastava, and Gracie Young conducted interviews and research for this article for a project in Stanford’s “ Computers, Ethics, and Public Policy” course. Thank you to Anna Wang for your guidance.