Why Kids Are Using Instagram to Bully

teen girl on smartphone with laptop in front

Life without technology is often unimaginable for teens. They have become to rely on it as a way of life. Not only are they able to stay in touch with friends, but they also can share a little bit about themselves in the process. One of the most popular ways for teens to stay in touch and let others know what is going on in their lives is through Instagram. Instagram is an online photo-sharing and social networking site that is hugely popular. 

In addition to photos, Instagram also allows teens to record and share 15-second videos. And while this social networking program is a fun tool for teens, just like any other social networking site, it can be used to cyberbully and troll others. In fact, according to a British anti-bullying group, Ditch the Label, the majority of cyberbullying kids experience takes place on Instagram.

For those who have experienced online bullying, 42 percent report being bullied on Instagram, 37 percent report being bullied on Facebook and 31 percent have been bullied on Snapchat. 

Consequently, it becomes increasingly important that parents are aware of how kids are using Instagram to harass, intimidate and humiliate others. Here are the top eight ways teens are using Instagram to cyberbully others.

Posting Malicious or Embarrassing Photos

One way kids gather their material is to catch others in compromising photos or videos known as “blackmail moments.” Then, they post these photos and videos to Instagram. Another tactic used to embarrass others is playing the “slap game.” This involves one person slapping someone while another person films the victim’s reaction. This reaction is then posted to Instagram to shame and humiliate the target.

Writing Captions on Insulting Photos

For instance, a teen might find a random picture of a nerdy person picking his nose. They then post the picture with a caption that says: “this reminds me of @username.” Much like on Twitter when they subtweet, kids also might post something about your child without ever mentioning her name. Yet, she and everyone else at school know it is about her.

Posting Cruel Remarks Under a Photo 

If your teen posts a picture of herself modeling a new outfit, others might take this opportunity to make rude comments like “you’re so ugly” or “lose some weight.” There also are mean girl sayings on Instagram. An example might include a girl commenting on another girl's photo with a comment like "girl did you know that your boobs go inside your shirt." The idea is to shame another girl for the way she looks. Comments also can take the form of slut-shaming.

Using the “Add People” Feature and Tagging an Image

If a bully and the intended target are not following one another, the target will not be notified about the photo nor will she be able to see the tag, caption or comments.

As a result, the victim can be harassed and humiliated without even knowing why.

Additionally, this type of bullying may even filter over into the hallways at school. Your child will have no idea why people are laughing and pointing at her until someone clues her in.

Adding a Mean Hashtag Under a Photo 

While just about any hashtag can be used, here are a few examples of what kids might post: #loser #whatnottowear and #ugly. Hashtags allow people to search for different topics, like #whatnottowear, and your child’s photo could become exposed to a broader audience. This exposure can cause a teen to feel like the entire world is laughing at her.

Creating a Fake Account

There are two ways bullies exploit your child with a fake account. They either upload mean and embarrassing photos of your child or they post mean quotes and photos about other people. These rude comments look like they are coming from your child and other people think your child is the one behind the bullying behavior. This can damage your child’s online reputation and cause her to be ostracized. It also can cause her to get in trouble at school, with coaches and employers until it is proved that the account is a fake.

Posting Screenshots of Private Text Messages 

In this situation, your teen's private thoughts suddenly are made public. For instance, if your teen texted someone in confidence about her difficulties with another student that conversation can be copied with a screenshot and posted to Instagram. When this occurs, everyone can see her thoughts including the person the private conversation was about.

Taking and Posting Embarrassing Screenshots Using FaceTime 

Using FaceTime or another video chat option, bullies catch their targets in embarrassing moments. They then post these photos to Instagram to humiliate the person. For instance, if your child FaceTime’s in her pajamas, with a low cut tank top, or with facial cream on her face, someone could take a screenshot and post it to Instagram. Sometimes bullies will lure their intended target into doing something inappropriate during FaceTime and then post that for the world to see.

A Word From Verywell

Remember, talking to your kids about Internet dangers is the first step to combat cyberbullying on Instagram. You also should educate them on how to use technology safely and responsibly. Instagram is just like any other social networking site and requires that your kids practice basic Internet safety. With proper education about the dangers, along with regular communication and some monitoring on your part, you can help prevent Instagram bullying in your child’s life. 

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4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Abaido GM. Cyberbullying on social media platforms among university students in the United Arab EmiratesInt J Adolesc Youth. 2020;25(1):407-420. doi:10.1080/02673843.2019.1669059

  4. Moreno MA, Egan KG, Bare K, Young HN, Cox ED. Internet safety education for youth: stakeholder perspectivesBMC Public Health. 2013;13:543. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-543

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