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How to stay safe on Instagram

Knowing about the different safety and privacy features Instagram offer can help you to have a better time on the app

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in life

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Instagram is one of the most popular social media apps in the world. It's a great way to share what you're up to, follow friends and celebrities, and find pictures and videos about things you're interested in. 

Instagram can be a lot of fun, but making sure you know about the different safety and privacy features means you will only connect with people you want to be in touch with. 

In this section:

Deciding who can see your posts

Who can see your content, follow you, and engage with your posts is up to you. Instagram offer a number of features to help you control who can see what you do on Instagram.

To find out more about controlling your visibility on Instagram, visit the Instagram Help Centre.

Private accounts

Having a private account means only you and your followers can see what you post. People will have to request to follow you, and you can approve or deny their request. 

Your profile is public by default, so if you want to make it private, go to your settings and change your account privacy settings in the 'Privacy' tab. Anyone who was following you before you made your account private will still be able to see your posts. If you don't want someone to see what you are posting, you can block them.

Remember, one of your approved followers can still screenshot and share the things you upload, so be careful about what you post.

Removing followers 

If you want to stop someone from following you but you don't want to block them, you can simply remove them as a follower. To do this, go to your follower list and find the user, tap the three dots at the side, and select 'remove'.

Instagram won't tell the person you have removed them as a follower. Remember, it is possible for this person to follow you again, unless you have a private account, which means you could deny their follow request. You can also block them to stop them from following you or seeing your posts.

Blocking Instagram users

Blocking an account means that person will not be able to see your posts, follow you, or send you messages. Instagram notify the person that you have blocked them, but they might find out if they visit your profile. 

If someone is bothering you or making you uncomfortable, it's okay to block that person. It's your account and you get to decide who can see it.

Deleting and archiving posts

If you have posted something you no longer want people to see, you can delete the post, which means it will be permanently removed from the account. If you want to stop people from seeing the post but don't want to delete it permanently, you can archive it instead so that it's hidden from your profile and only you can see it.

Close Friends lists

If you want to share things that you're up to on your Stories, but you don't want everyone you follow to see, you can create a Close Friends list. This means when you post stories, you will have the option to share them with everyone, or just your close friends. 

Find out how to create a Close Friends list.

Hiding stories

If you want to prevent a person from being able to see the stories you post, you can choose to hide your stories from their account. To do this, go to their profile and click the three dots. Select 'Hide Your Story'.

Controlling what you see on Instagram

Instagram is a place where you can see posts about all of your interests in one place. You get to decide what your feed looks like and what you see. 

Try to only follow accounts that you're interested in. If someone you follow makes you feel bad, unfollow them. If you feel that you can't unfollow the person, mute them instead.

Muting accounts

If you want to stop seeing posts from a certain account but you don't want to unfollow the person, you can mute their account instead. This means their posts will stop appearing on your feed, and you will stop seeing their stories too. 

To mute someone, go to their profile and click on 'following' to view your options, then click 'mute'.

Controlling comments on your posts

Comments on posts can be a fun part of Instagram, but you get to decide what comments can stay under your posts. 

Remember, you can always delete any comments you don't want under your posts.

Deciding who can comment on your posts

By default, anyone can comment on your posts. In your privacy settings, you can change this to limit the people who can comment. You can choose between:

  • Everyone
  • People You Follow and Your Followers
  • People You Follow
  • Your Followers

Blocking commenters

It's possible to block someone from commenting on your posts without blocking them from viewing your account and following you. This means the only person who can see the comments they've left under posts is them. 

To block a commenter, go to your settings and go to 'Privacy'. Select 'Comments' and then add the user to 'Block Comments From'.

Comment filters

There are two filters in the comments section of your privacy settings that can help you to prevent certain comments from appearing. One is 'Hide Offensive Comments' which will automatically hide comments that might be offensive to you or other people. 

The other is a Manual Filter, which allows you to enter words or phrases that you don't want to appear under your posts. This will automatically hide any comments that have those words or phrases.

Turn off comments

You can switch off the comments on any post by opening the post, going to the options for the post, and selecting 'Turn Off Comments'

Find out more about controlling comments on the Instagram Help Centre.

Reporting posts and people on Instagram

If you see something that makes you uncomfortable, you think is inappropriate, or if someone is harassing you, there are report functions you can use on Instagram.

You can report:

  • Posts that include abuse, spam, or violating content.
  • Accounts that go against Community Guidelines or behave inappropriately.
  • Comments that are spam or bullying or abusing you or someone else.
  • Direct messages that feel inappropriate.

Find out how to report something on Instagram.

Protecting your privacy on Instagram

When using any social media site, it's important to think about your privacy and make sure your personal information is safe. 


It's possible to add your location to posts and Stories to let people know where you are. Be careful when sharing your location, especially when you are at home, work, or school. Whether your account is private or public, this information can be used to find out where you spend time. 

Looking after your wellbeing on Instagram

Instagram can be a lot of fun, but sometimes social media can have an effect on your mental health. Take time to check in with how you're feeling and make sure to take breaks when you need them. 

Viewing your activity

If you want to know more about how you use Instagram, you can view your activity, which will tell you how much time you spend on the app, and what time of the day you're most active. This can help you to decide if you need to cut back, and what times you should work on.

To view your activity, go to your settings and select 'Your Activity'. From here, you can also set daily reminders, so Instagram will let you how much time you've spent on Instagram that day.

Find out more about doing a digital detox.

Muting notifications

If you get distracted by Instagram notifications, you can simply mute them. If you don't want them to be on mute all the time, then you can choose a set period of time to mute your notifications for. After that time has passed, notifications will turn back on. 

You can do this in your notification settings in the Instagram app.

Dealing with unwanted messages 

Sometimes you might receive message requests from people you don't know on Instagram. You don't have to accept a message request from anyone you don't want to, you can simply delete them.

If someone is sending you sexual messages, you can report them to Instagram. Find out more about what to do if you receive unwanted sexts.

Learn more about staying safe on Instagram by visiting the Instagram Safety Centre.

Need more information?

We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.

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Published Jan­u­ary 22nd2015
Last updated May 22nd2018
Tags instagram social media online safety
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