Is Instagram a Safe Photo-Sharing Site?

By Corbin HartwickUpdated on December 11, 2017

Now that we’ve told you about what Instagram is and how exactly it works, you may have a few more questions you’d like answered before you sign up for an account and start using the app. In this article, we’ll go over how safe it is, as well as let you in on our top 5 safety tips for using Instagram.

How safe is Instagram?

Instagram is safe to use, in general. It is about as safe as other popular social networking sites and apps, like Facebook and Twitter. What this means is that it is safe to use as long as you don't do something on it that's overly careless or in violation of their terms of use. Still, there are some general precautions that you should take in order to be safe on Instagram. Let’s go over some safety tips to help you stay safe!

Top 5 Instagram safety tips

1. Think before you post a photo or video to your profile.

The number one thing to remember about Instagram is that it's a social network. This means that you should only post photos and videos on it that you think would be appropriate in a general social setting, where they could be viewed by people you know as well as people you don't know.

Ask yourself: would I be okay with showing this to one of my friend's friends at a party, or to a random friendly person on the street with whom I somehow struck up a conversation? If the answer is "no," then you should probably keep it off Instagram. At the very least, you should consider using more private options to share it; our next tip has more information about that.

2. Learn to use Instagram's privacy options.

Some people like to rack up followers in order to show off how popular they are. However, if you're not looking to attract attention on Instagram, there are some options available to you. You can set your account to private mode; this makes it so that people have to submit requests and have them approved by you in order to become your followers, and so that only your followers can see what you post. You can also use "Instagram Direct" to share a post directly with certain people (even if they aren't your followers), and it won't show up on any of your profiles or in any searches.

See our article on Instagram privacy for more information on private accounts and “Instagram Direct.”

3. Be respectful of other users.

In the course of using Instagram, you may come across a photo, caption, or comment that causes you anger or distress. While it may be tempting to write a comment expressing your displeasure, or to start or continue an argument, show some consideration for your fellow users by taking a step back and thinking about a few things.

First of all, ask yourself: what is the context? Check any hashtags (words, shortforms, or phrases that start with the "#" sign) in the caption or comments, and look up their meanings if they aren't obvious to you. Also check previous comments that have been made about a photo, or even the profile of the person who posted the photo. The photo may be part of a series or trend, or otherwise have some sort of meaning that isn't readily apparent, which may not actually warrant a negative response.

Second, ask yourself: is there a point to (potentially) starting or continuing an argument? Debate about topics you feel strongly about may be okay, but at some point, it may become apparent that nobody in the debate is actually considering each other's points. A sure sign of this is that the conversation devolves into participants hurling personal insults at each other. At that point, as hard as it may be, you should ask yourself: "Is getting my point across worth the risk of people continuing to be angry and hurtful towards me?"

In summary, your best policy may be simply to view or comment on photos that you like, and ignore photos or comments that may set you off. As the saying goes, "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all."

4. If another user is harassing or bothering you, block them.

Hopefully, it won't happen, but some people may repeatedly contact you in order to try to sell you something or otherwise just annoy you. Others may incessantly ask you for favours, such as "liking" their photos or following their profile. In extreme cases, they may ask for money, sexually-explicit images of you, or something else, and may threaten to expose information about you if you do not meet their demands.

In any of these cases, the best thing to do is block the person who is doing it, which prevents them from finding or contacting you on Instagram. See our tutorial on how to delete Instagram followers to learn about how to block users.

Also, if someone is threatening you or asking you for something that makes you feel uncomfortable, you should probably also report the person to customer support, or even local law enforcement (if the case is severe enough). See our next tip for more information about that.

5. If you see something that you don’t think should be on Instagram, report it.

While it doesn't happen very often, there are certain instances where people use Instagram to do inappropriate things. These include impersonating other people, deliberately insulting and offending other people or groups, distributing pornography, or blackmailing people by threatening to release private information.

If you spot anyone practicing these types of behaviour — or wind up a victim of one of these behaviours — let Instagram know about it. Also, if you feel directly threatened, you may want to contact your local law enforcement branch as well.

See our tutorial on how to contact Instagram customer service to learn how to get in touch with Instagram if you need to report someone who is breaking the rules.

That's the best advice that we can give you for how to stay safe on Instagram. Be sure to read the rest of our course to learn more about how to use Instagram. If you’re really interested in signing up for an account, check out our next tutorial where we review Instagram, so you can decide once and for all if it will be right for you.