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


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.

Whether you use Instagram for posting selfies, sharing snaps of your dinner, or following the latest happenings of your favourite celebs, it’s undeniable how popular the app has become. It’s also really important to learn how to stay safe and secure on Instagram, as sharing photos with such wide reaching audiences comes with its own set of risks.

So with that in mind, here are the app’s top privacy and safety features:

In this section

How to make your account private

When you post to Instagram, your photos and videos are publicly viewable by default. If you like, you can set them to private so that only followers you approve can see them. This is done slightly differently on every platform.

  • iPhone. Go to your profile. Tap the Settings icon in the top right hand corner, next to your username. Turn on the Private Account setting.
  • Android. Go to your profile. Tap Settings icon in the top right hand corner, next to your username. Turn on the Private Account setting and then tap the checkmark to save your changes.

Remember, even though your posts may be private on Instagram, if you post them to other social networks, they may be visible there. For example, if you post a picture to Twitter that was private on Instagram, it may still be visible on Twitter to your Twitter followers.

Security tips

  • For your password, use a combination of at least six letters, numbers, symbols and punctuation marks.
  • Make sure your email account is safe and secure.
  • Every time you use a computer or phone that you share with other people, log out of your Instagram account.
  • Be careful about using any third party apps (such as Insta-collage), as these may not be secure.
  • Never give your password to anyone else.

How to block someone

Blocking someone means they will not be able to view your profile or posts. To do this:

  • Tap their username to open their profile.
  • Tap the menu button beside there username.
  • Tap Block User.

If you want to unblock someone, follow the steps above and then tap Unblock User.

How to report a photo

If someone sends abusive posts to you or someone else, or posts an inappropriate or abusive post in their feed, you can report them to Instagram. You can do this by tapping the menu button at the bottom right of a post (on Windows Phone) or the top right of a post (on iOS and Android), and then tapping Report Inappropriate. You can also go to their profile, tap the menu button beside their username and choose Report Inappropriate.

If you don’t want to see the posts that someone sends you, there is an option to Ignore them, so they won’t be visible to you. To do this, tap on the menu button on a post they’ve sent you and choose Ignore Posts from this user. They won’t receive a notificaiton that you’ve chosen to ignore posts they send to you.

Remember, if anyone ever sends you abusive posts that make you feel upset, scared, or theatened, talk to someone you trust about it. If you feel you’re in danger, contact the Gardai.

Instagram Stories

Instagram offers users the ability to share a photo or a video, comlete with filters or doodles and post it to the ‘stories’ section of the app on the very top of the home page. This feature is only available on their mobile app, and not on the web version.

To post an Instagram story, simply tap on the camera icon on the upper left part of the app. You can take a video or picture and post it to your story for the next 24 hours. Once you have a story posted, it will be visible to all your followers for the next 24 hours. If you want to delete a story you have already posted, simply open it by tapping on the ‘Your Story’ button in the stories section on the top of the app. All your stories will play out in the order you posted them. When you are on the photo or video you wish to delete, simply tap on the three dots in the lower right of the screen and tap delete.

You can also customise your story settings to allow you to hide stories from specific people who follow you. To do this, first open your profile page by tapping the user icon on the bottom right. Then, tap the settings gear icon on the top right of your profile. Then select ‘Story Settings’. Here, you can customise who can see your stories and block certain people from seeing them.

Instagram Stories settings page.

Live video on Instagram Stories

You can also share live video with your followers on Instagram. Doing this will send a notification to your followers that you are broadcasting and also put a ‘LIVE’ icon in your Instagram Story for a time. To start streaming, simply tap on the camera icon on the upper left and slide over to the ‘LIVE’ option on the left. Using the story settings (as mentioned above) you can hide the stream from certain people.

Instagram Sharing

You can enable comments for the stream and allow your viewers to comment or share hearts with you while you are streaming live. You can disable the comments if you wish.

If viewing another users live stream, you can report the video if you feel they are sharing something which is inappropriate. To do this, simply click on the three dots in the lower left and select one of the reasons for reporting it.

Instagram Direct

Instagram Direct is the inbox for your private messages on Instagram where you can keep in touch with friends or groups. You can send text messages to friends or groups, or even send them Instagram Stories which will delete after the recipient has viewed them. When posting a story (as shown above) you have the option to post it into your stories section for the next 24 hours or else send the story directly to a friend. When you send it directly, they will only be able to view it once.

To see your inbox, simply tap on the paper aeroplane icon on the top right of the app.

Minding your Photo Map

Remember, Instagram can access your location, and your photos are searchable by that location. If you set your posts to private, this won’t be visible to either your followers or the public.

However, if you manually add your location to a private posts, your followers will be able to see it on your Photo map. You can remove any geo-tags that may have been posted by editing your picture, tapping the name of the location (under your username) and tapping remove location.

Disable your account

There are two options when it comes to getting rid of your Instagram account. You can temporarily disable it or permanantly delete it.

To temporarily disable your Instagram account:

  • Log into on a computer (you cannot delete on your phone).
  • Click your user name and hit “edit profile.”
  • Click the “Temporarily disable my account” option in the bottom right corner.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions

Delete your account permanently

  • Click here
  • Follow the on-screen instructions. You will need to know your password.


For further help, check out Instagram’s Help Centre here.

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