What Parents Need to Know About Instagram Reels

If you haven’t heard, the U.S. government is thinking about banning TikTok due to privacy concerns. And while the Chinese-owned tech company just announced a partnership with U.S.-based Oracle yesterday, it’s uncertain how that partnership might impact the proposed ban.

If the ban does go into effect on Sept. 20, it’ll be a huge blow to those that have made a name for themselves on TikTok’s platform. With the outlet boasting more than 2 billion downloads in the first two years, some of its users have become Internet stars. But if TikTok does get the boot, Facebook has created its own version of the uber popular China-based app on Instagram, called Reels, that’s growing in popularity.

And that, of course, means that parents should be aware of what it involves.

What is a Reel?
Similar to the content on TikTok, Reels are short videos that users can record and edit. The difference here is that TikTok allows users to create videos up to 60 seconds, while Reels caps users’ videos at 15 seconds. But while TikTok is a separate app, Reels is already a part of Instagram.

And, right now a lot of the Reels are just repurposed TikTok videos.

How to Create a Reel
Just go to Stories in Instagram and at the bottom you’ll see three options: Live, Story and Reel. Click on the circular button and record your Reel. Once it’s recorded, users can edit by adding a filter, changing the speed or adding music from the Instagram library, or using original audio.

Where Does My Reel Go?
Well, that’s up to the creator. Each user can choose to put the Reel on their feed, add it to their Story, send it in a direct message or add it to the Explore page. This is probably the feature that most parents will want to know about, because the Reels with the most engagement get placed on the Explore page for everyone to see, unless, of course, your child has activated their privacy settings (I talk about that below). Then, the only people who can see the Reels they post are their friends, instead of the entire world. And, keep in mind, the content that is placed on the Explore page (which anyone with an account can use this search feature) is not filtered.

Any Dangers?
Like most social media platforms, you can place restrictions to an extent (which I’ll talk about below), but that doesn’t mean you can filter out all the content your kids are watching. With Reels, people can dress, act and dance how they want, just like TikTok.  And there’s also plenty of music, including explicit music, on the Reels feature for users to choose from.

Additionally, people can share Reels within Insta, as well as like and comment.

What Can I Do?
As parents, it’s our job to know what’s going on when it comes to our kids and their social media use. However, it is impossible and unrealistic to know everything. So, it’s important to have open communication with kids as well as practicing boundaries and discernment. But there are a few tangibles you can try:

  1. You can create privacy settings within Instagram. To do this, just go to Privacy in Settings. There, you can choose to “Hide Offensive Comments” from others (although what counts as an “offensive comment” isn’t specified). You can also filter who you want to comment and keep it to selected friends.
  2. You can have your kid make their account private, found under “Account Privacy.” For more details, just visit the Privacy section under Settings.

Reels would seem to be a competitive move made by Instagram to try and take over TikTok’s creative space. There’s no telling, yet, if it will be as successful as TikTok, but with the growing popularity to create short videos, it’s already made a splash.

Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).