Instagram and SnapChat are two big fish in the social media pond. Instagram’s new feature, Instagram Direct, makes the two more similar than ever. Instagram Direct is a private messaging feature that allows the followers of any profile to send text, photo, or video messages. Users can choose whether to send permanent or disappearing messages– just like SnapChat.
There are two options to make messages disappear within Instagram Direct. The first is a “true” disappearing message– if a picture or video is taken within the Instagram app, the sender can choose to make the message disappear after one viewing, two viewings, or not at all. Pictures or videos taken outside the Instagram app are automatically permanent messages, but after sending the message, you can click on the message and select Unsend. This deletes the message permanently.
After a “disappearing” message has expired, there’s a small grey icon and a line of text indicating a message was there.
However, if a permanent message was unsent, there’s no sign of a message at all. For parents of Instagram users, this is important to keep in mind. While the idea of teens sending ephemeral messages may make parents (understandably) squeamish, the unsend feature is even more problematic because it completely prevents parents from keeping tabs on their kids.
A couple other facts worth noting about Instagram Direct:
*Only the sender can unsend a message or arrange for a message to disappear automatically.
*Recipients can take a screenshot of a disappearing message through the mobile device’s screenshot function. Instagram will notify the sender immediately if the recipient took a screenshot of the message.
*The sender of a message must be a follower of the recipient, but the recipient does not need to be a follower of the sender to receive the message. So, if my account is not private, and stranger Average Joe has followed me, he can send me private photo, video, or text messages even if I don’t follow Average Joe. Parents, if Instagram is an approved social media platform in your home, require your kids’ accounts to be private! Private accounts can screen followers. Public accounts are accessible to anyone.
*As of right now, there is no way to disable Instagram Direct.
While it is important to stay informed about new social media platforms, parents shouldn’t assume that “old” apps stay the same. As new apps become popular, like SnapChat, older apps like Instagram will add popular features to attract new users and retain current users. Changes to popular social media apps often make the news, so keep an eye out for headlines about your kids’ favorite apps. Log in periodically and see if anything has changed. Don’t be afraid to give or rescind your approval if an app makes changes. As the social media scene grows, it has never been more important to stay in the loop!
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