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Instagram’s Porn Problem (Instaporn) – Still Kid Safe?

Instagram

Instagram’s Porn Problem (Instaporn) – Still Kid Safe?

Instagram has 700 million users.

For any of you who know me, numbers help me make sense of important things. It’s the way I’m wired. Left-brained all the way! With that in mind, I would like to share a few numbers that might help us understand the impact of Instagram on culture (and kids):

  • 700 million = total number of monthly, active users.
  • 40 billion = total photos uploaded to date (that’s 170/second since inception in October 2010).
  • 20% = the number of all Internet users who also use Instagram (let that sink in).
  • 68% = the % of Instagram users who are female.

Whether you care about numbers or not, those four figures carry significant weight for parents as they consider whether or not their son or daughter should be using this social media platform*. We have written a complete Instagram profile that covers all of the app’s basic functionality, but for this blog post, I want to focus on one specific aspect of Instagram.

Instagram has a porn problem.

*Because Instagram is social media, according to COPPA, all users must be at least 13, but keep reading to see if you agree that 13 is the right age for using the app. 

Instaporn is Real

With over 700 million daily users, it’s impossible for Instagram to police all of its content for compliance with its Community Guidelines, which state:

“We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”

There is a complete playbook for finding pornography on Instagram because both the users and the producers know that as soon as one photo is flagged as “inappropriate,” 10 more are quickly added to the site. The word “Instaporn” is well-known among those who desire to see inappropriate things. In fact, pornographers even seem to be getting in front of potential artificial intelligence being created to detect skin tones by shading pornography to avoid detection (here’s an example).

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 9.37.18 AM

 

Finding Porn on Instagram (Instaporn) is Too Easy:

When I speak to groups of parents about internet safety, one of the claims I make is that I can find porn on Instagram in five seconds. Unfortunately, I’ve been wrong. I can get there in six clicks, which takes only moments (keep reading).

  • Instaporn emoji tags – inappropriate content can be found using an array of suggestive emojis, including the #🍆 (guy part), #🍑 (girl part), #💦 (wet), #🔞 (must be 18 to view), #🔥 (hot), #😈😇 (naughty/nice), and all of their variants (e.g., 🔥🔥🔥 or 🍑🍑🍑🍑, etc.).
  • Keyword search – over the years, I’ve noticed that Instagram has become more lax by allowing use of obviously inappropriate keywords like “sex.” From time-to-time, Instagram will temporarily block a keyword like “boobs,” but endless variants quickly surface (e.g., boobz, booooobs, etc.) that fool the block. Some of the worst content on Instagram is found under hashtags in foreign languages (pörno, pörn, séxy, etc.). This is where Instagram’s autocomplete is a porn-seeker’s best friend. Even non-obvious words that can have a double inappropriate connotation easily and quickly bring up what would at least be classified as soft porn. And, it can be done in six, quick clicks (<5 seconds):

 

Instagram Screen Shot

  • Search for porn using Tumblr – Instagram’s blog (accessed through “Options”) allows access to Tumblr, which is rated 17+ in the app store and full of porn. We’ve written about this in our Tumblr app profile.
  • Search for porn with a hidden Google search – again, through an account’s “Options,” a persistent user can find a hidden Google search bar in multiple places, including the Privacy Policy and Help Center. This particular issue is present in a majority of apps, where access to Google is very easy to find (we tell parents to assume there’s access to Google somewhere in almost every app kids use today).

Here is the recent (July 2017) news segment we did with WOOD TV8 in Grand Rapids, to inform parents about this issue. Sadly, there are entire blog posts written with instructions for finding the best porn on Instagram. Clearly, the leaders of Instagram could be doing more to stem the flow of lewd content. But, they aren’t, which means parents need to step in!

Is Instagram Safe for Kids?

The objective of this blog post isn’t to compel every parent to grab their child’s device and smash it with a hammer. That won’t teach the child how to use technology well. But, it is intended to show parents click-by-click how kids are using these apps and how these apps are potential fuel for temptation in a very critical area – sex and sexuality. I’m working on a resource at Covenant Eyes right now that is going to take a deep dive into what can happen to adults who start watching porn early on in adolescence. The emerging science is frightening.

My short answer to the question, “is Instagram safe for kids?” is “no, I do not believe Instagram is safe for most kids under age 16.” Most just aren’t ready for the situations and temptations this particular social media platform presents to kids. Not to mention the self-image damage that can result in the hearts of young girls resulting from their constant comparisons to Instagram’s steady stream of perfect pictures. This isn’t a popular stance and I’m equally hard on Snapchat, but I care about kids more than I care about my popularity with kids, which is why I’m saying these things.

Parents, I can only share information. I can’t make decisions for you. So, now the choice is yours. Keep Instagram or not? That’s up to you. I believe parents who are observant, engaged, and informed often have kids who learn to use technology well. And, by reading this post, you have taken a huge step. But, don’t stop now. Please do something.

Instagram FAQ:

Q: What if my child has had Instagram for years? Do I just take it away now that I’m more informed?

A: Maybe, but maybe not. We’ve written about this exact question in our popular post, What’s the Right Age to Give My Kid Social Media, which might help you answer this question for your specific situation.

Q: Are there parental controls I can use on Instagram to prevent the issues above?

A: No, there are not. Nothing. But, the BARK Parental Control app is proving very effective at helping parents monitor their child’s Instagram activity, assuming you know all of their accounts (read this post about Finsta or “fake” Instagram accounts and how to detect them). 

Q: Based on what I’ve read, I don’t want my kid to have Instagram at all, even if they’re over 15. Is that ok?

A: Of course it is. I’m in full support of parents who decide their kids just don’t need the app at all. But, here’s what I say to those parents. Go ahead and tell them that they can’t have Instagram, but teach them about it as if they did have it. Look them in the eye, and say, “I’ve decided that based on the risks, we aren’t going to use Instagram in our home. That’s right, no account. Now, I know you could go behind my back and create an account of your own, but that’s not allowed. And, if you do (and I’ll ask you if you have often), the consequences will be [insert].”

Q: Chris, I’m freaking out. Paralyzed, actually. My kid has Instagram. What do I need to do right now?

A: Take a deep breath. Good. Now, I have some homework for you. But, you have to commit to finishing everything in this list within 48 hours. Ready?

  • Have a good conversation with your child – sit down when they seem receptive, and be very, very honest. Possible words include, “Honey, I have to admit that I may have allowed you to use Instagram without knowing much about it. But, I’ve done some homework, and now I know more. Did you know that today, 700 million different people will use Instagram? I need to do a better job protecting you from things that those 700 million people might do…..” and then take it from there. Talk specifically about porn and your stance on the issue. Talk specifically about hiding activity in fake accounts, and your stance on the issue. Say specifically, “I could download spy software that monitors your every click, but I don’t want to do that, so don’t give me a reason. Instead, we’re going to use something like [Bark, etc.] to help keep you safe.”
  • Read this blog post about overall social media considerations. It’s possible you decide that they shouldn’t have social media at all. That’s ok.
  • Decide how you are going to monitor your child’s Instagram activity. That likely includes a combination of flipping through their account and using a service like Bark to monitor app activity. When we say “flipping through their account,” that means (1) following their main account, (2) going through their followers and following lists, looking for anything unusual, and (3) checking for fake accounts. For instructions on how to do (2) and (3), read this blog post.
  • If you’re a Christian, pray specifically for the heart and mind of your child. Use Psalm 119:37, if you need a place to begin. Replace “my” with the name of your child. Remember, the enemy is a prowling lion, looking for someone to devour.

You can do this! I’m rooting for you.

Best, Chris

P.S. If you would like to receive our bi-weekly Parent Tech Update, just text the word “protect” (no quotes) to the number 66866. Easy!

 

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Living life to the full! That's why He died and how I try to live. I have an eclectic list of professional experience...CPA, business advisor, youth pastor, development director, now educational resource manager for Covenant Eyes. God shares wild ideas with me about life while I run. I want to show parents how to protect their kids from online dangers, which led to the creation of Protect Young Eyes. How can I help you protect the young eyes in your home?

1Comment
  • john winstanley
    Posted at 08:29h, 12 June

    Great article Chris. I didn’t know about the emoji trick. Keep up the good work!

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