Clinical Therapist * Mental Health Specialist * Media Expert

Instagram Obsession


I am a mother of a 16-year-old daughter who is obsessed with Instagram. I have very mixed views about social media and about the pictures that she is posting. I have bought her an iPhone and allowed her to set up an account that is private. I follow her and she follows me. I do not post on her page but observe it frequently. I have now learned about something called direct message and I would like to be able to view it. She refuses to give me her password and feels I am smothering her. How am I to protect my child without invading her privacy?

Darla, Vancouver


At some point you need to trust your daughter to do the right thing! You want her to be able to trust and confide in you as well, in case anything bad does really happen. Relax your guard and start treating her like the adult you want her to become.

Sam, Vancouver

As a parent, I believe your role is to set and maintain boundaries with your child; If they would like to have the iPhone and access to social media then they need to share their passwords with you as a matter of safety. Make sure they understand that you love and trust them, but you do need the passwords for safety purposes.

Sophie, Vancouver


Social media is dominating our children’s social worlds — we feel their constantly divided attention, and wonder just what’s being said (or shown!) behind those iPhones. Our parenting instincts warn us to protect, but we’re not always sure what we’re protecting them from. So we friend our kids on Instagram, ask for their passwords and walk the line between supervision and stalking their every online move. It’s world that can be terrifying to navigate.

First, there’s a lot you’re doing right when it comes to your daughter’s online safety: showing an interest, reviewing her privacy settings, having regular check-ins and observing without posting, is downright smart. While younger kids love to see comments from moms and dads, older kids cringe. Keep in mind, social media is your adolescent’s social world; they need to know you’re there, but not there (if you know what I mean).

There’s another secret that all parents need to know when it comes to their child’s online safety: having your kid’s passwords doesn’t mean they’re safer. Changing passwords is a cinch for kids. And if they’re really determined to lock you out, new accounts with false birthdates can be created in a heartbeat.

Her direct messaging is much like any other private conversation, but documented. This is a great chance to check in and ensure your daughter stays conscious of the fact that online conversations might feel private, yet they can be copied, printed and distributed for all to see.

Finally, turn inward and ask yourself “what is getting in the way of my ability to deeply trust my teen’s judgment?” Trust begets trust, especially with teens. Once you’ve had the conversations and covered the ground rules, take refuge in the awareness that your child holds a massive capacity for wise judgment. And when that judgment slips, you’ll be there to guide them through.


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