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How to Change Your Supervision Settings on Instagram: The Ultimate Guide for Parents and Guardians

As a digital technology expert and parent, I know firsthand the challenges and concerns that come with raising kids in the age of social media. While platforms like Instagram provide incredible opportunities for connection, creativity, and learning, they can also expose young users to a range of potential risks – from excessive screen time and social comparison to cyberbullying and inappropriate content.

Consider these statistics:

  • 90% of teens ages 13-17 have used social media, with 75% having at least one active social media profile (Common Sense Media)
  • Half of all teens feel addicted to their mobile devices (Common Sense Media)
  • 59% of teens have experienced at least one form of cyberbullying (Pew Research Center)
  • 25% of teens have been exposed to online content that made them feel uncomfortable (Cyberbullying Research Center)

As concerning as these numbers may be, the good news is that parents are not powerless when it comes to protecting their kids online. By taking advantage of parental control tools like Instagram‘s Supervision settings, having open and ongoing conversations about social media use, and modeling healthy digital habits ourselves, we can help our teens navigate their online worlds more safely and responsibly.

What are Supervision Settings on Instagram?

Launched in June 2022, Supervision is a suite of parental control tools designed specifically for parents and guardians of teenage Instagram users between the ages of 13 and 17. These settings allow parents to monitor and manage their teen‘s activity on the app, with features like:

  • Daily time limits: Set a maximum amount of time your teen can spend on Instagram each day (e.g., 2 hours)
  • Scheduled breaks: Specify certain hours or days when you want your teen to be offline (e.g., during school hours, dinner time, bedtime)
  • Content filters: Block certain types of posts or accounts that may be inappropriate for your teen based on keywords, hashtags, or specific users
  • Interaction controls: Choose who can interact with your teen‘s account through DMs, comments, or tagging
  • Activity insights: View metrics on your teen‘s app usage, including time spent, accounts followed, and posts liked or commented on

Importantly, Supervision is not about spying or secretly monitoring your child – in fact, your teen must provide consent and be involved in the setup process for these tools to be enabled. The goal is to promote transparency, accountability, and open communication between parents and teens around social media use.

Child psychologist Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children‘s Hospital, explains: "Parental controls like Supervision should be thought of as scaffolding, not shackles. They provide guardrails and support as kids are developing the skills to regulate their own media use. But the real key is coupling these tools with ongoing, honest conversations about what they‘re seeing and experiencing online."

How to Change Your Supervision Settings (Step-by-Step)

Now that you understand the basics of Supervision, let‘s walk through the process of enabling and customizing these settings on your teen‘s Instagram account:

Step 1: Initiate the supervision invite (on teen‘s device)

  1. Have your teen open the Instagram app and go to their Profile
  2. Tap the three lines in the top right corner and select "Settings"
  3. Scroll down to the "Supervision" section and tap "Set up supervision"
  4. Tap "Send invite" and select your name from their list of followers (if you don‘t have an Instagram account, you‘ll need to create one first)

Step 2: Accept the invite and access Supervision controls (on your device)

  1. Open the Instagram app and tap the heart icon to view your notifications
  2. Look for a supervision invite from your teen and tap "Accept"
  3. Once linked, go to your Profile, tap the three lines, and select "Settings"
  4. Tap "Supervision" to access the teen oversight tools

Step 3: Customize the Supervision settings

  1. Set daily time limit: Tap "Daily time limit" and select the maximum hours/mins per day (e.g., 2 hrs)
  2. Schedule breaks: Tap "Scheduled breaks," toggle on, and set offline hours/days (e.g., 10pm-7am daily)
  3. Manage interactions: Tap each option to choose who can DM them, comment, or @mention your teen:
    • Everyone
    • People they follow
    • No one
  4. Adjust content filters: Select "Content controls," toggle on, and choose filter parameters:
    • Keywords/phrases (e.g., violence, drugs)
    • Hashtags (e.g., #juulnation, #thinspo)
    • Specific accounts (e.g., @badinfluencer1)
  5. Review activity insights: See daily/weekly/monthly reports on time spent, accounts interacted with, etc.

It‘s important to customize these settings in collaboration with your teen, not unilaterally impose restrictions on them. "The most effective approach is to discuss the reasoning behind the rules and give kids some agency in the process," advises Dr. Carrie Goldman, social media safety expert and author of Bullied. "If teens feel invested in and accountable for their own boundaries, they‘re more likely to stick to them."

What Supervision Can (and Can‘t) Do

While Supervision settings are a powerful tool for promoting online safety, it‘s crucial for parents to have realistic expectations about their capabilities and limitations.

Supervision CAN:
✅ Limit daily/weekly time on app
✅ Restrict who can interact with account
✅ Filter inappropriate content/accounts
✅ Provide overview metrics of activity
✅ Facilitate conversations about healthy tech use

Supervision CAN‘T:
❌ Monitor exact content of DMs/comments
❌ Track real-time location or search history
❌ Detect more covert infractions (e.g., fake accounts)
❌ Control activity on other apps/sites
❌ Replace need for hands-on parenting/support

As Dr. Rich reminds us: "No algorithm or filtering mechanism is going to catch everything. Supervision is meant to complement, not replace, the ongoing work of parenting a digital native. There‘s no substitute for having frequent, honest conversations with your kids about what they‘re experiencing online – both the good and the bad."

Tips and Best Practices for Using Supervision

Wondering how to make the most of Instagram‘s Supervision tools? Here are some expert tips and strategies to consider:

  1. Collaborate, don‘t dictate. Frame Supervision setup as a team effort, not a unilateral decision. Give your teen a voice in the process and be willing to negotiate reasonable compromises.

  2. Discuss the "why," not just the "what." Don‘t just dictate the rules – explain the rationale and potential consequences behind them. Help your teen understand how boundaries can support their safety and wellbeing.

  3. Model good digital habits. Make sure you‘re practicing what you preach by monitoring your own screen time, maintaining privacy settings, and interacting respectfully online. Kids learn more from what we do than what we say.

  4. Look for teachable moments. When you notice something concerning in your teen‘s activity insights, resist the urge to judge or punish. Instead, get curious and ask questions to understand their perspective before problem-solving together.

  5. Encourage life-tech balance. Support your teen in cultivating offline interests, hobbies, and relationships. Remind them that Instagram is just one aspect of their identity, not their whole world.

  6. Regularly revisit and adjust. What‘s appropriate for a 13-year-old may not fit a 16-year-old. Be willing to loosen the reins as your teen demonstrates responsibility, while also reserving the right to tighten up if issues arise.

Dr. Michael Robb, Senior Research Director at Common Sense Media, sums it up well: "Supervision tools are most effective as guardrails, not straightjackets. The goal is to help your teen gradually internalize self-regulation skills so that by the time they hit 18, that external scaffolding can fall away naturally."

Instagram‘s Approach to Teen Safety

It‘s worth noting that Supervision settings are just one piece of Instagram‘s larger teen safety and wellbeing initiative. Amid increasing scrutiny and pressure from policymakers, child safety advocates, and parents, the platform has been working to implement additional protective features and resources, such as:

  • Defaulting under-16 accounts to private: All new users under 16 have their accounts set to private by default, meaning only approved followers can view their content.

  • Limiting ad targeting: Advertisers can no longer target users under 18 based on their interests/activity and are restricted to only age, gender, and location.

  • Hiding like counts: Users under 18 do not have the option to make their like counts public, in an effort to reduce social comparison and pressure.

  • Restricting DMs from unknown adults: Teens are protected from receiving DMs from suspicious adult accounts that have exhibited potentially predatory behavior.

  • Providing parent education: Instagram‘s Parents Guide and Family Center offer tips, articles, and expert advice to support parents in helping their teens use the app safely.

While these measures are steps in the right direction, some experts argue that the platform could still be doing more. "We‘d like to see Instagram go further by implementing stricter age verification processes, improving content moderation, and collaborating with third-party safety tech solutions," asserts Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI).

A recent study by FOSI found that while two-thirds of parents use some form of parental controls, many struggle to keep up with the rapidly-evolving landscape of social media trends and features. Instagram‘s Supervision settings, while imperfect, represent a promising shift toward empowering parents with more built-in tools to support their digital parenting efforts.

"At the end of the day, the goal isn‘t to eliminate all risk, but to help families have productive conversations and make informed decisions about technology use. Supervision is a tool for collaboration, not control." – Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety at Instagram

Conversation Starters for Parents and Teens

Now that you know how to set up Supervision controls, it‘s time to have some heart-to-heart talks with your teen about social media. Not sure where to start? Consider these conversation starters:

  • 🗣️"How do Instagram and other apps make you feel? What do you like about them? What‘s not so great?" This open-ended prompt invites teens to share their experiences and emotions without judgment.

  • 🗣️"What kind of boundaries do you think are important for staying safe and healthy on social media?" Give your teen space to voice their own ideas before layering on your suggestions.

  • 🗣️"If you saw a friend posting something concerning, how would you handle it?" Use hypotheticals to gauge your teen‘s judgment and resourcefulness in tricky situations.

  • 🗣️"What would you do if you received an inappropriate message from an adult?" Make sure your teen knows how to identify, document, and report predatory behavior.

The key is to keep the dialogue ongoing and collaborative. "One-and-done lectures rarely change behavior," notes Dr. Carrie Goldman. "Parents need to become adept at seizing ‘microdiscussion‘ moments as they occur day to day. The more we normalize talking about social media use, the more insight we gain into our teens‘ digital lives."

Additional Resources for Parents

Hungry for more guidance on navigating parental controls and supporting your teen‘s digital wellbeing? Check out these trusted resources:

  • Common Sense Media: Extensive reviews and recommendations for age-appropriate media along with expert advice and discussion guides.

  • Cyberbullying Research Center: Leading research, articles, and tips on understanding and preventing cyberbullying.

  • ConnectSafely: Practical tech safety tips, advice, and news for parents and teens.

  • The Smart Talk: Interactive tool to help families set tech agreements together.

  • FOSI Good Digital Parenting: Comprehensive hub of resources, videos, and guides for raising good digital citizens.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Social Media Parental Controls

As social media continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, parental control tools and digital wellbeing features will need to adapt quickly to stay relevant and effective. Some potential developments we may see in the coming years:

  • AI-powered content moderation: Improved machine learning algorithms to automatically detect and filter inappropriate content in real-time.

  • Cross-platform parental controls: Centralized dashboards or settings that allow parents to monitor activity and set limits across multiple apps/devices.

  • Expanded safety defaults for minors: Making data privacy and restrictive settings the norm for all teen accounts unless actively changed by a parent/guardian.

  • Collaborative filtering solutions: Integrating user reports, fact-checking, and community moderation to more quickly identify and remove harmful content.

  • Biometric-based age verification: Using facial analysis or ID scanning to confirm a user‘s age and prevent kids from creating fake profiles.

It‘s up to parents, platforms, and policymakers to work together to define and uphold safety and ethical standards in our rapidly-digitizing world. "We must move beyond the false dichotomy of safety vs. privacy and recognize that these priorities are fundamentally aligned," argues Stephen Balkam. "By empowering families with transparent and flexible tools, we can create an online ecosystem that both protects and respects young people‘s wellbeing."

Conclusion: Empower and Engage, Don‘t Just Restrict

Ultimately, Supervision settings are not a "set it and forget it" solution, but rather one tool in the larger toolkit of active, engaged digital parenting. The most effective approach combines clear boundaries, open communication, and collaborative problem-solving to help teens develop the skills and judgment to thrive online.

As you navigate the ever-shifting landscape of social media with your teen, remember that your goal is not to eliminate all risk or monitor every moment. Instead, aim to create a foundation of trust, critical thinking, and open dialogue that empowers your teen to gradually take ownership of their digital wellbeing.

By coupling thoughtful use of Supervision controls with ongoing guidance and support, you can help your teen harness the benefits of Instagram while avoiding potential harms. Together, we can raise a generation of responsible, resilient digital citizens ready to create a better online world.