Instagram finally has parental controls. Here’s how to use them

Instagram, owned by Meta (FB), is finally rolling out the long-promised parental controls. Now available to US consumers, Instagram’s new tools allow parents and guardians of teens to limit the time they use apps and see who they are following and who is following them.

And if you are a parent or guardian and want to minimize your child’s browsing habits, you have come to the right place. I’ll walk you through the process and explain what the tools don’t do. At least still. But first, let’s see how we got here.

The new Instagram features come after whistleblower Frances Haugen released a trove of internal media Meta documents that showed the company knew Instagram had a negative impact on the body image of teenage girls. In October, Haugen testified before the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee, accusing Meta of knowingly making Instagram more addictive for teenage users.

Shortly after Haugen’s testimony, and before his own appearance before Congress, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said the company would soon be releasing its parental control tools. In fact, in a blog post, prior to his testimony, Mosseri said that Instagram had already been working on it for quite some time.

Now that you’ve caught up, here’s how to set up Instagram’s new parental controls feature.

Supervise your kids on Instagram

The tool only works for users between the ages of 13 and 17. If your child is under 13, they’re breaking Instagram’s terms of service, then delete their account. If they’re 13 or older, though, you can set up parental controls.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri testifies during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri testifies at a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security on “Protecting Children Online : Instagram and Reforms for Young Users’ on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., December 8, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

The second thing to know about these tools is that you will also need your own Instagram account to use them. So if you don’t have one, you’ll need to create one.

I don’t have kids so I created an account for a fake 14 year old boy named Bert Howitzer. I then asked Bert to follow a few accounts, including The Rock’s profile and Nike’s page, to make my experience a bit more realistic.

Once your child has logged into their account, they will need to go to their profile page and select Settings from the options menu, the three horizontal lines in the top right corner of the screen.

From there, choose the Supervision option and have your child send you a supervision request.

Tap the following notification on your phone and your Instagram account will be linked to your child’s account.

Once your accounts are linked, you can go to the Supervision option in your Instagram app settings menu and set time limits for your child’s usage and see who they follow and who follows them. As I followed more pages on Bert’s account, for example, I received notifications alerting me to the fact via my own Instagram account.

I also set a usage limit of 15 minutes for Bert. And as advertised, the app stopped working after 15 minutes and told Bert he could come back and use the app tomorrow.

And that’s about all you can do. Yes, Instagram’s parental controls certainly leave a lot to be desired. Notably, parents cannot follow accounts that their children have previously followed. If you can see who your kids are following through the parental monitoring tool, then of course you should be able to unsubscribe from those pages for your kids as well. But this is not the case.

To be fair, Instagram’s Mosseri describes these tools as the first set the company will provide, so we hope to see more in the future. But for a service facing such intense scrutiny, you’d think it would have more to offer.

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Do you have any advice? Email Daniel Howley at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.