Instagram Under 13, how do you tell your kids no

First of all, I apologize for the title of this post, but I could not think of any that would encapsulate the situation.

I’m hoping that there is a parent or two out there with a similar experience that can help me by sharing what has worked or didn’t work for them.

First some background on the situation. And please forgive me for how long this might be, I’m not very good at explaining things.

My eleven your old daughter has been using Instagram for awhile now. Maybe for about 6 months. Even though, I realized we should have monitored this, we didn’t and she started to get depressed and doing things to hurt herself. We looked through her Instagram account and found that she’s been chatting with strangers, other kids that were also depressed and cutting themselves. She’s made several post from cartoons she’s made, something called Gacha Life, that shows her talking about how she hates herself and wishes she was dead. There’s also animations that contain a lot of cussing, violence and name calling.

We had temporarily taken away Instagram and got her into therapy. We made an agreement in therapy that she could start using Instagram, but only chat with friends she knows in real life and that I’d have to approve her post. But before we could get to that point i found that she’s been using another app that functions a lot like Instagram. Where she’s been posting more of her animations and even the ones I’ve disapproved of on another app called Funimate.

So to me she has broken the rules.

We did find that she was making post on YouTube that she didn’t tell us about, this was easily on and it seemed easier to maintain than something like Instagram.

So she sends a video to approve and I deny it. I told her I didn’t feel it was appropriate. I told her that I’ve also found that she’s been posting to Funimate and not having me approve anything and have uploaded videos there that I disapproved of and that I was not happy about it.

I told her that we would discuss all this in her next therapy session.

She got highly upset. She said I was not being fair. That we didn’t even say she couldn’t post on Funimate(I didn’t even know she had this app or what it was. ). and that nothing we are doing is helping her. That her friends on Instagram were the ones that helped. Said she was sorry to be such a disappointment and that she’s sorry she can’t be the happy person we’re trying to make her be.

My wife manages to calm her down.

So… I start doing research online and getting books to read about internet safety and raising children in this digital age. I find out that it’s federal law that you have to be 13 to have an online presence.

To me this is great news. This takes the pressure off of being the bad guy because now it’s the law and gives me more time to research the topic and teach her about the proper way to be online and manage social media.

But here’s the thing. She is dying to get back on Instagram. I already told her that she could in theropy. However she broke the rules and found another social media platform to continue to post on, although her argument is, we didn’t say anything about Funimate, I feel like she would have known what she was doing is wrong.

Despite all this, in my opinion, she has gotten a lot better and has made major improvements and has even stopped scratching herself (her form of self harm)

She also hasn’t shown anything with violence or self harm in her animations. And at first, I was fine with the cussing, but after researching the matter further, I am against this now. She’s never cussed in person before and is starting to cuss in front of me and my 7 year old.

So, I really hate to go back on my word and change what I said, but I’m really scared for her and I’m afraid of the situation itself. I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. At all. I feel like anything I’ll say or do will make matters worse for her unless I just give in and give her what she wants.

The thought that I might say something that makes her so upset she starts hurting herself again… I can’t even bare the thought.

I’m sort of learning about all this as I go, and things are changing.

So, for anyone with some experience, what, in your opinion is the best course of action?

I know she’s having a hard time, and I’m trying to be strong for her but I am so stressed out from all this.

Any help or feedback is appreciated.

Hi there! First of all, HUGS!!! Mine are near that age - 13 & 10 - and I cannot even imagine how heartbreaking this must be for you that your daughter is going through this. :confused: Here’s what I think I would do (personally) in this situation. Of course, you know your daughter best and every family is different.

Ongoing talks, expectations, agreements, watching some documentaries and videos together, etc. are so important! IF after this she seems to show understanding, responsibility, respect for boundaries, etc., then I think it could be possible to have a shared IG account. One that only you know the password for, is also on your phone, you watch it, you approve what she posts, etc. Perhaps the agreement could be that she uses it only on your device or only in your presence, and you both schedule your Instagram time to sit on the couch together for 30 minutes or so and see how this goes for a while.

However, from what I am reading this does not appear to be the case. It seems she is still struggling with following the appropriate boundaries and expectations. I would venture to guess that she absolutely knew what she was doing on the other app was something you would not approve of. My kids try to do this too - they’ll twist my words and if I don’t specify something exactly they’ll say, “well you didn’t say ____, only this”. Example: we have a lot of homework to do, and I’ll say, “ok guys- no phones and tablets right now. It’s homework time”. The next thing I know, they’ll be on the TV or PS4. When I fuss them, they’ll say, “Well you only said no phone & tablets. Not no Play Station” (when in reality they’re SMART- they knew I meant no screens / videos / games entirely. So I have to be careful about my wording. Bottom line here, don’t let the play on words be a “thing”. Kids are smart; She likely knew better.

At any rate, there’s a reason these apps aren’t for ages younger than 13 (and even then, some kids probably aren’t ready for it even at 13). She doesn’t appear to be able to handle the responsibility at such a young age. Again- this is just me - but I would probably go full electronic detox for a long while until she’s ready. If a phone is needed, perhaps a basic phone. I’ve heard of other parents who’ve done this and they say the first few weeks are the toughest, but after that their child is like a “new kid” and even the kids admit they feel better without the stress of social media. I imagine this will be a tough change for parents too- I would have to cut back on my use, or be mindful not to use in front of my child. Perhaps there are hobbies or sports that could help to provide a healthy distraction and keep her busy.

I would recommend you (and possibly her) watch the following:
ScreenTime - Diane Sawyer Reporting

Social Animals | Netflix

You’re Losing Your Kids to Social Media: Internet Safety

#Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens

However you decide to handle, I sincerely wish the best for your family, and I hope that she understands what you decide for her is out of love and concern for her safety. :yellow_heart:


I am happy to admit if I made a mistake. Say sorry, I have new and better information now and I need to change what I said. Put it in writing. Also tell her she knew what you meant no unapproved apps. Next time word it more clearly/precisely and don’t be afraid to say, “Well that will work when you are a lawyer in a courtroom, but not here in our home”
Hang in there. Parenting is so tough.