Experts to parents: Don't let kids use Instagram before 13

AUSTRALIA'S leading cyber-safety expert has a message for parents tempted to let their children go on Instagram before they are 13 - don't do it.

Susan McLean, who spent 27 years as a Victoria Police officer, said of all the social media sites around, Instagram was "the most dangerous".

"Instagram is the new breeding ground for predators," Ms McLean said.

"It is one of the most dangerous apps children can be on. I am currently dealing with two kids who are being groomed (by sexual predators).

"The legal age (to use Instagram) is 13, the same as Facebook, and these rules are there for a reason.

PARENT V CHILD: READ THEIR VIEWS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

"If a parent puts their child on an age restrictive site, they are saying the online rules don't matter."

Ms McLean said the terms and conditions of the sites were clear and based on a US law enforceable in Australia - that information from children under the age of 13 could not be collected.

"This is to try and protect children from some of the dangers out there," she said.

"It's the same as asking why don't we let a 15-year-old drive a car, or change the age of alcohol use to 14.

"Those who say Instagram is better than Facebook are absolutely, categorically wrong. If the government enacted a law and said you could only go on one social networking site and one only, I would choose Facebook.

"It is far superior than Instagram - it has far superior safety settings.

"If I could find the mothers who keep saying Instagram is safe, I would tell them I am sick and tired of kids who are so special the rules don't matter.

"That is no way to treat a child - you are setting them up for failure.

"Schools also need to get firm on this. If a school knows there are kids with underage accounts and they fail to act, they could be questioned why they didn't.

"Facebook and Instagram allow teachers to report children under 13."

Her views are shared by University of the Sunshine Coast lecturer in public relations Karen Sutherland.

Ms Sutherland said she loved social media but it was not appropriate for those under 13.

"I don't think there is any safe form of social media until you have the maturity to understand what can happen," she said.

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