What are Instagram Web Profiles?
Instagram introduced web profiles in the fall of 2012. Before that, you could only see Instagram photos through the app (on mobile devices) or third-party websites. The same information found on an Instagram user’s account – name, username, description, and photos – is available on the internet for all to see.
[May 2015 – Instagram’s popularity has exploded since I first wrote this article in 2012! I’ve updated the information and screenshots, and added links to other Instagram posts I’ve written since then. ]
Anyone on the internet can view public Instagram web profiles
You don’t need to have an Instagram account to view the Instagram web site. And by default, an Instagram account is public. So any public Instagram account will be fully visible on the Internet. A random visitor could see your child’s Instagram profile if:
- They know your child’s username (such as jeanbeannh) and type it into the website like this: instagram.com/jeanbeannh.
- They click on your child’s username from someone else’s public profile, through a tag (such as @jeanbeannh)
- Your child has tagged a photo with a hashtag (like #sunset to mark a photo as a sunset, which makes it available for people who want to see sunset photos)
- They search for your child’s name, and your child is using their full name in their profile information (since Name and Username is always public information).
For example, I can search for my friend Jimmy using his first and last name and find his Instagram web profile very easily:
(Just kidding, we’re not friends, but I’m sure if he met me, we’d be friends. Also, have you tried the Tonight Dough, his Ben & Jerry flavor? If not, RUN, don’t walk, to your closest ice cream retail outlet! You’ll thank me!)
Private accounts have a web profile – but photos won’t be visible
If an account is private, only the username, name, description, and profile picture will display on the web profile. Photos will not display.
What Parents can do to protect their child’s privacy on Instagram
- Make sure your child’s account, and therefore their web profile, is private. Only logged-in Instagram users who follow your child will be able to see their photos on the web. See my earlier article to learn how to make an Instagram account private.
- Make sure your child knows all their followers. I’ve seen that kids have a tendency to try to collect followers like they used to collect marbles or baseball cards. Make sure they actually know these people!
- Make sure your child’s Instagram username (instagram.com/username) and Name listed on their account don’t include their last name.
- Since the Instagram profile picture is public, make sure it is appropriate and doesn’t offer identifying information (such as a photo taken in front of school).
- Make sure your child doesn’t include personal information in their Description, such as where they live and go to school. This is where I’ve seen that kids like to explain a bit about themselves such as “I love soccer, dancing, ice cream and going to the beach”. That’s fine but I’ve also seen “I’m 13 and a seventh grader at My Town School. I love pizza, pink nail polish, and cute boys. Follow me and I’ll follow you!” You might want to put the kibosh on that.
- Make sure your child is not leaving comments on their friend’s public profiles that include personal information.
For parents who have already allowed Instagram, take a look and check your child’s Instagram web profile. You’ll need to know their username. Then go to instagram.com/username. (Hopefully you also know their app password – always a good idea to require that you know their social media passwords). And yes, Instagram is as much a social media service as it is a photo sharing service. This is a great conversation starter and opportunity to review your expectations in regard to your child’s online behavior.
For parents who have not allowed Instagram, you are lucky! You don’t have to deal with this (yet). The introduction of Instagram web profiles may bolster your argument for not allowing the Instagram app for your child.
Other Instagram articles on Be Web Smart:
- Parents’ Guide to Instagram
- Instagram: Now with video
- Kids and Instagram
- Five unofficial rules for following your teen on Instagram
- Instagram Direct: Why you’re not seeing all your kids’ Instagram activity
More information from Instagram about Web Profiles:
Instagram Tips for Parents: