Instagram Reels: The New TikTok and What Parents Need to Know

Instagram Reels

Reels, Instagram’s alternative to the TikTok app, is now in service for Instagram’s American users. As this new Instagram feature becomes more popular, it’s likely that your child or loved ones will come across it online. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the ways in which Reels can be used safely.  

President Trump has been insistent on banning the Chinese-owned, short-video app, TikTok. Since July 31st, when Trump first threatened to ban the app in the United States, the market’s been scrambling to come up with an alternative for the millions of TikTok users. According to TikTok, over 130  million Americans use the TikTok app. Furthermore, 60% of those users are Gen Zers. This is where Instagram comes in, with its new feature called “Reels.”  

And while we’re on the subject of online-savviness for parents, you should check out “From Crisis to Calm: 5 Ways to Triumph Over Online Learning Woes This Fall”

So, What Is Instagram “Reels?”

“Reels” is a TikTok inspired short-video feature that’s accessed through the Instagram app. Just like TikTok, Reels allows users to create a 15-second video, with the ability to add text, music, and other video-editing options to the video. According to Instagram, they introduced Reels “as a new way for users to express themselves and foster their creativity, and discover even more of what they already love on Instagram.” Instagram also says that Reels gives new possibilities for “anyone with the ambition of becoming a creator.” Furthermore, they’re saying this could be the chance for lesser-known users to finally “take center stage.” 

Instagram says that smaller creators gain larger followings through the possibility of a user’s video becoming a Reels “featured video.” A “featured video” is a video that Instagram’s chosen to share to more users, across user-interests, giving that user a larger audience. “Featured videos” appear on the Reels “explore page.” The “explore page” is meant to function in the same way that TikTok’s “for you page” does. It recommends new videos for users based on other videos they’ve liked. 

What Safety Features Are Offered?  

With the proper precautions, using Reels can definitely be a safe experience for kids. So, it’s important for you to know how to operate Reels’ safety features! Firstly, Reels will only allow accounts for those who are 13 and older. If you’re worried about your pre-teen trying to make an account, you can block apps meant for users 13+ on your pre-teen’s iPad or iPhone. To do so, go into their device’s “Settings”–> “Screen Time” –> “Content & Privacy Restrictions.” In these control settings, you can restrict certain apps from being purchased, including those meant for 13+. 

Instagram assures users that when their Instagram account is set to “private,” their Reels will follow suit. Reels posted through private accounts can only be viewed by the account’s followers. Private accounts’ videos can only be shared amongst the sharer’s followers. If the user’s Instagram is public, their Reels will go onto the Reels “explore page.” If it gains traction, it could be selected as a “featured video.” In order to set an Instagram account to private, log into the account, select “Menu” –> “Settings” –> “Privacy>Account Privacy” –> and tap next to “Private Account” to activate privacy. 

The comments section can be tricky. They can be incredibly damaging to a teen’s self-image. Therefore, it’s important to consider the harsh reality: many people are unnecessarily cruel and inappropriate in the comments. In order to help combat the harmful words, Instagram’s Reels gives users the option to filter comments. To filter comments, go to “Menu” –> “Settings” –> “Privacy>Comments –>tap next to “Hide Offensive Comments” to activate the feature.

And How About Time Management on Instagram Reels?

We all know how quickly the hours can slip away from you when you’re scrolling through social media. Using Reels probably won’t go much differently. Therefore, being mindful of “timer” options on the Instagram app can be extremely helpful. It’s useful for helping your child or loved one stay on track with homework, chores, and extracurricular activities. 

On the Instagram app, you can set a daily timer for app use. On your loved one’s account, go to their profile page. From there, go to the menu option on the top right of the screen. “Menu” –> “Your Activity” –> “Set Daily Reminder.” Once a time limit is set, a notification will alert the user that they’ve reached their daily time limit.


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