Is Instagram or TikTok Safer for Protecting Our Teens?

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Heidi Lang

Instagram 101 | Jan 11, 2024

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It can be quite scary to allow teens to go on popular social platforms. There are plenty of risks, from online predators to identity theft. But you can’t exactly stop them from using social media apps. The best we can do to care for our teens is to be knowledgeable about the platforms they go on. We must know the ins and outs of apps like Instagram and TikTok to know if they’re suitable for teens. That begs the question—is Instagram or TikTok safer for young people today?

There’s no doubt that Instagram and TikTok are two of the biggest social media platforms for younger users today. They’re avenues for creative self-expression through videos and jumping in on the most viral online trends. But how safe are they for teens? Is their privacy policy and set of safety measures enough to keep our children safe?

In this guide, we’ll give you the lowdown on whether these competing social platforms are safe. We’ll also share our verdict of which platform works harder to protect our teens—Instagram or TikTok? Let’s dive in!

Someone holding a smartphone with the TikTok logo on the screen.

Should Parents Allow the Use of Social Media Apps for Teens?

According to the American Psychological Association, adolescents desire more attention and validation from peers—and social media can exploit that. That’s why it’s important to establish boundaries and set up all possible safety measures on social media as a teen.

It’s understandable when parents are wary about social media apps for teens. There’s always a fear of exposing young people to cyberbullies, privacy issues, misinformation, online predators, and internet addiction. Plus, social media can give a fatal blow to a teen’s self-esteem if they compare themselves to others online.

At the same time, there are plenty of benefits of being in a safe online environment in your teen years. It allows young people to connect with their peers and express themselves online through photos and videos. It also exposes them to all kinds of useful resources, whether it’s for school or for discovering new hobbies.

Because of these pros and cons, it’s difficult to say whether being on social media is inherently good or bad. What we do know is that teens need to be careful on the internet.

Thankfully, top social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok stay on top of things like these. They have their teen privacy settings and policies in place to protect their younger audience from harm. While these well-thought-out policies can’t make the internet 100% safe, they’re a terrific place to start (more on those later!).

A stressed-looking mother watching her young daughter scroll through social media on a cellphone.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Have TikTok or Instagram?

Parents who are worried about their small children don’t have to be that anxious about the dangers of social media. Most social platforms don’t allow young children on their apps, save for those designed specifically for kids and their parents. But exactly how old do you have to be to have TikTok or Instagram?

Instagram, TikTok and many other social media platforms only accept users who are 13 years old and above. This age requirement complies with US laws to protect the privacy rights of minors, specifically the COPPA.

These platforms also allow only those 13 and above to join their sites for safety reasons. It’s important to have a certain level of maturity when giving people access to your personal information and posts online. While 13 is far from being a grown-up, teens are mature enough to understand the red flags of social media.

Instagram, in particular, is quite strict with this age requirement. Any account representing someone younger than 13 must state in its bio that a parent manages the account.  

They also encourage people to report accounts owned by children below 13. This protects those young kids from exposing themselves too early to the dangers of social media. The platform also deletes accounts they can’t verify are run by someone over 13.

Is Instagram Safe for Kids? 5 Reasons To Have Peace of Mind

Instagram is tons of fun for adults who love aesthetic visual content and connecting with people all around the world. But is Instagram safe for kids who might not know how to navigate the digital world?

We can’t give you a straight-up answer to that. But we will tell you one thing—Instagram has plenty of security measures in place to protect younger users. Do you have a teenager who is adamant about starting an Instagram account? Here are five reasons why you don’t have to freak out about it:

They Have Tight Instagram Parental Controls

Instagram parental controls (aka parental supervision) are tools that allow parents to link their accounts to their teen’s page. These provide insights into what your teen is doing on the app. It also lets parents set healthy habits for their kids, such as screen time limits and scheduled breaks from Instagram.

What’s cool about parental controls on Instagram is that they don’t disrespect the privacy of a teen. Parents won’t be able to see conversations with others or a play-by-play of their teen’s activity. Instead, the app gives topline insights into what their child is doing online. Here are some of the things parents can see after they’ve linked their account to their child’s:

·   How much time their teen spends on the app each day

·   What accounts does their teen follow, and which ones follow them

·   The account privacy settings of their teen, including messaging settings

Parental controls are only available for teens between the ages of 13 and 17. As soon as a teen Instagram user turns 18, the link to their parent’s profile will automatically end.

A mother watching her teen daughter browse the internet using her laptop.

You Can Set Accounts To Private Mode

Instagram also allows users to set their accounts to private mode. When a user is on private, people won’t be able to see their content unless they follow their profile. Users on private also have the power to approve or deny people requesting to follow them. This creates an extra layer of protection for those worried about people seeing into their private lives on social media.

Putting your profile in private also protects you from unwanted attention from others. This includes direct messages and comments from people you don’t know.

A black and white sign that says “PRIVATE”.

Teen Privacy Settings Make It Hard for Adults To Reach Them

There are adults out there who lurk on Instagram, waiting for a chance to take advantage of unsuspecting teens. It’s a harsh reality we have to face as a society.

But Instagram isn’t taking this reality sitting down. The platform has internal systems in place to make it more challenging for adults to contact teens through the app. For example, adults aren’t allowed to see teen accounts in their “Suggested users.” Adults also can’t message teens unless the teen account already follows them.

If a teen is already messaging an adult who is acting suspiciously, Instagram flags this. They’ll send a notification only on the teen’s end to point out the sketchy behavior. The teen will then have the option to report or block the adult trying to talk to them.

An adult man in a plaid shirt hiding behind the leaves of a tree.

You Have the Ability To Post To Close Friends Only

Instagram’s “Close Friends” feature allows you to curate a list of people in your inner circle that you trust. Then, you can choose to share specific pieces of content only with that group. This is a fantastic way to let users control their audience, thereby protecting their privacy.

It creates a more comfortable environment where people can share whatever they want without fear of being judged or stalked. It also reduces the chances of receiving replies and comments from people you don’t know or trust.

They Have Advanced Comment and Message Request Filtering

While most Instagram comments are flattering and positive, the comments section can be an avenue for bullying and negativity, too. It can be detrimental to young people’s mental health to receive negative comments full of hate and discrimination.

Luckily, Instagram has advanced comment filtering set up on each account by default. This setting automatically hides comments (and even direct messages) that include specific inappropriate words.

There’s a default list of “bad” words set up by Instagram. But you can customize it to add any trigger words you won’t want to see in your comments and messages. That way, you can protect yourself from cyberbullying and online harassment, creating a safer, more positive online space.

Is TikTok Safe for Teens? 3 Features That Make It Secure

Instagram is one of the pioneer social media apps out there and has been around for over a decade. But in recent years, a competitor has emerged that has proven to be a favorite among teens. That platform is every Gen Z’s beloved TikTok.

Because TikTok has a primarily young audience, it has multiple privacy policies in place to keep teens safe. Here are three key safety features that might give parents peace of mind about their teens glued to TikTok.

They Have TikTok Family Pairing

Family pairing is TikTok’s answer to Instagram’s parental controls. It allows parents to link their TikTok account to that of their teenagers. They can then see insights into how their child is using the app and control certain screen time habits. Here are some of the things parents can do when their account is paired with their teen’s page:

·   Set daily screen time limits for their teen.

·   Set a passcode that allows their teen to go back to using TikTok even when their time limit is up.

·   Turn their teenager’s push notifications on and off after a certain time of the day.

·   Turn on “Restricted Mode” for your teen’s account.

·   Disallow specific accounts from messaging their teen. (Note that TikTok’s direct messaging feature isn’t available for teens below 16—another awesome safety feature if you ask us!)

You Can Set Your TikTok Profile To Private

Like Instagram, you can set your TikTok account to private. That way, only people whose follow requests you approve will be able to see the videos you upload. People who don’t follow you also won’t have access to your bio, likes, and other personal information on your profile. This is a terrific way to protect yourself from online stalkers and bullies.

They Have TikTok Age Protected Posts

Have you ever tried watching a TikTok video only to get an error message notifying you that the post is “age-protected”? It’s frustrating, sure. But this safety measure is meant to keep teens out of content made specifically for people 18 and above. That way, young kids aren’t exposed to TikTok age-protected posts with mature themes that might negatively influence them.

This security measure isn’t just for teens. People who are uncomfortable with seeing mature themes on TikTok can also receive these notifications by going to “Restricted Mode.” Being on Restricted Mode also turns off TikTok features that can potentially expose teens to danger, including gift-giving on Live.

The Verdict: TikTok vs Instagram—Which App Is Safer for Young Users?

It’s scary to think that people are exposed to dangers like online bullying and predators at such a young age. But it’s a reality we have to accept, especially since teens these days seem to be glued to their phones. It’s our job to inform them about which apps are safe for them to use. That way, they stand a chance at staying safe 100% of the time as they have fun on social media.

So, let’s answer the burning question. TikTok vs Instagram—which app is safer for teens and kids just learning to navigate the digital space?

Both of these platforms have thoughtful, secure measures to help make the digital world safe for teens. They allow parental supervision (parental controls for Instagram and family pairing for TikTok). They also give teens the ability to set their profile to private mode.

However, at the end of the day, you can’t deny that Instagram has more guidelines in place to protect teens. They filter out offensive comments and messages and design their algorithm so that suspicious adults can’t connect with children easily. They even allow users to post content only for a specific set of close friends to see. Talk about privacy policies at their finest!

That said, we also have to commend TikTok for their ironclad, super strict policies to keep teens safe. These include not having direct messaging options for kids below 16 and the ability to go on “Restricted Mode.”

But if you ask us which app looks safer for teens, we’ve got to give it to Instagram. Having said that, both social media apps are still awesome (and super enjoyable) for teens. Just go with what you’re more comfortable navigating with your kids.

Is Instagram or TikTok Safer? IG Has More Safety Features

So, now we’re left with the burning question about everyone’s favorite visual platform—is Instagram safe for teens? While being active on social media is always risky, everything we’ve covered in this guide points to yes, it’s safe. And because Instagram has a few more safety features than TikTok, some might consider it safer than the latter.

But there is a caveat. Instagram can be a safe online environment for younger users only if we make it safe for them. Guardians have the responsibility of understanding parental controls, privacy settings, and other security measures for teens on Instagram. That way, they can help teens navigate the platform while still enjoying it.

And while safety always comes first, teens and young users should also be allowed to have fun on social media. Parents should encourage their kids to create aesthetic content or funny videos. If you’re wondering, is Instagram or TikTok safer for teens’ content creation? Well, that’s a decision you and your child should discuss while considering each app’s safety features.

If your teen is set on making content on Instagram, help them reach their full potential with Path Social. Our AI-powered targeting algorithm helps hunt down your niche audience that will engage most with your content. As a result, your content gets more likes, more comments, and more views. Getting a boost in your follower count is just the cherry on top! Start growing your or your teen’s Instagram community today with Path Social.