How to Build a Positive Teen Instagram Profile

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November 10, 2017

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!


Sharon M.

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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.


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Table of Contents

We caught up with Samantha Wormser who is the Public Relations Manager at Power Digital Marketing to ask her for her top 5 teen Instagram tips to help students safely brand themselves on social media.

Key takeaways from How to Build a Positive Teen Instagram Profile

  • What you post on social media can make or break your career. When you’re posting online, think about who will see your posts in the future. Once something is posted online and on social media it can’t be deleted. Employers like to check candidates’ social profiles to ensure they’re appropriate before making any hires; that applies to interns and full time hires
  • Consider the bigger picture. In addition to what you’re posting, think about how you appear in general online. That includes pictures and posts you’re tagged in. Strive to always put your best foot forward
  • Your social media presence becomes your resumé. So, it’s important to keep in mind that everything you post is a reflection of what you can do in your future career

1. Think about your future job

As someone who will look at our intern applicants on social media (going all the way back to high school) before we make a hire, it’s so critical to have a clean social profile. We’ve denied candidates for being crass or inappropriate on social media – classy goes a long way.

2. Shining on social isn’t just about your personal profile!

Your digital footprint isn’t just your Facebook account or Instagram account, it’s really about everyone who’s talking about you online as well. This means your friends' tagged photos of you, the comments you make on other friends’ social posts reflect back on you. Your social presence isn’t just about what you’re posting directly, but how you’re interacting with others online.

3. Go for quality in who follows you, not quantity

Strive to build a like-minded community who has the same values as you. Don’t engage with people who you don’t know and who seem sketchy. Creating a supportive community on social media is critical to representing yourself in the best light possible. Just like who you surround yourself with in person is a reflection of you, so is who you engage with online!

4. Create quality content

Social media can give you a leg up if you establish well-rounded and polished content. If you want to go into social media in the future, it’s essentially your resumé, so make sure it’s appropriate but shows your personality and creativity.

5. Pause before posting

Think about if your parents are following you what they would think or if a teacher who you look up to saw your social profile. If you’re uneasy or nervous about posting something, it probably means you shouldn’t. Go with your gut and what it’s telling you on if your post is appropriate or not.

What do others have to say about building a positive teen Instagram profile?

Ben Michael

Pay attention to the content you post

Ben Michael, VP of Operations, Michael & Associates

The foundation of a positive reputation on Instagram starts with the content you post, the comments you make on other posts, and who you follow. All three of those things are easily seen by others and have arguably the most direct impact on your reputation. So, make sure to only post and comment on things that are positive, appropriate, and kind, and make sure not to follow any accounts that are inappropriate, harmful, or encourage any type of harassment.

Create a Positivity Pact

Amira Martin, LCSW-R, Founder of MA Therapy, LLC 

Social media can be a powerful tool for teens to connect with others, but it can also be a source of stress and negative influence. To build a positive reputation on Instagram, teens can take an unconventional approach and work with a group of like-minded individuals to form a positivity pact. This positivity pact approach encourages teens to focus on positivity, social good, and creativity through fun and engaging themes and shared posts.

To Create a Positivity Pact:

  • Encourage teens to invite a group of trusted friends to join the Positivity Pact
  • Set guidelines and expectations, such as focusing on positivity and social good
  • Assign a different theme for each week, such as Motivation Monday or Thankful Thursday
  • Encourage each member of the Positivity Pact to create a post related to the theme and share it with the group
  • Encourage each member to share and support each other's posts related to the theme, using Instagram's tagging feature to give credit to the original poster
  • Encourage the Positivity Pact to collaborate on creative projects related to the theme, such as creating a group dance video or designing a funny meme
  • Encourage members of the Positivity Pact to use their platforms to spread positivity and kindness
  • Avoid posting and engaging in negative or hurtful conversations online

Focus on positive messages

Troy Portillo, Director of Operations of Studypool 

Your reputation on Instagram will come from the messages you post online. If you're posting Reels that are helpful and send a positive message to other teens, your reputation will reflect that. Teens want to use social media to connect with people, so interacting with your followers in a positive way is a great way to gain even more followers. Keep your messages and interactions positive, and your reputation will be spotless.

Candace Kotkin-De Carvalho

Don’t underestimate the power of your digital footprint

Candace Kotkin-De Carvalho, Clinical Director, Absolute Awakenings

Young people often underestimate the power of a digital footprint. It can affect how future employers, universities, and friends perceive them. So it is important that teens think before posting online and consider how their posts reflect their personal values or goals. Here are a few strategies for teens to build a positive reputation on Instagram:

1. Practice mindful posting: Before sharing a post, take a few seconds to consider how your content will be perceived by different audiences. Ask yourself, “Is this going to look bad if my teachers, parents, or future college admissions officers see it? Will I regret posting this in the future?” 

2. Avoid harmful content: Instilling a sense of caution when posting is the best way to avoid unwanted attention, so steer clear of any posts that could be deemed inappropriate or offensive. This includes anything related to drugs or alcohol, violence or graphic material, or explicit language. It can also be helpful to set filters on your account that will automatically reject any comments with offensive language.

3. Focus on the positive: To create a positive reputation, focus on posting content that reflects your values and interests in healthy ways. Share things you are passionate about, such as art, music, sports, fashion, etc. Consider how you interact with other users, too; leave thoughtful comments and engage in meaningful conversations rather than simply “liking” posts or posting generic responses.

4. Filter the accounts you follow: Following accounts that promote healthy and productive content will help you stay on track to building a positive reputation. You can also mute or unfollow accounts that post inappropriate content or leave toxic comments because they also reflect on you as a user. Think of this as an example to others of the type of content and behavior you support.

Mark Joseph

Avoid arguments online

Mark Joseph, Parental Queries

As a parent of a teenage daughter, I understand the importance of building a positive online presence and reputation on social media platforms like Instagram. My daughter suffered from negative comments and bullying on the platform, which affected her mental health and self-esteem. Leading from my personal experience and a lot of research and learning, I have developed certain strategies that teens can employ to build a positive reputation and presence on Instagram.

I encourage teens to be mindful of their content, especially regarding comments or replies. Teens must avoid arguments with classmates, schoolmates, or even complete strangers on Instagram. My daughter once got involved in an argument with a stranger over a political issue, which badly affected her mental health.

I suggest teens be very selective about who they follow on Instagram instead of randomly accepting friend requests from people they do not know. This helps them maintain the quality of content in their feed. They should also be careful not to post personal information or photos that can harm their reputation.

One of the biggest tips I would give teens is to use Instagram as a platform to showcase their talents and hard work. For example, my daughter loves photography, so we encouraged her to share her amazing pictures on Instagram. This has resulted in more people appreciating her work and some amazing collaborations. It also made her more confident and happy about herself, which she lacked due to the bullying.

Post content that reflects your values

Derrick Hathaway

Post content that reflects your values: Consider what kind of messages and values you want to promote, and make sure that your Instagram content aligns with those values.

Be authentic: Don't try to be someone you're not on Instagram. Instead, focus on being your true self and sharing content that reflects your interests and personality.

Engage with your followers: Respond to comments, answer questions, and engage with your followers positively and respectfully. This will help you build a community of like-minded individuals and promote positive interactions on your page.

Use appropriate language and tone: Be mindful of the language and tone in your posts and interactions on Instagram. Avoid using offensive or derogatory language and focus on promoting positivity and kindness.

Respect other people's privacy: Be respectful of other people's privacy when posting photos and videos on Instagram. Always ask for permission before posting photos of others, and avoid sharing personal information that could compromise someone's safety or privacy.

Please think before you post: Take a moment to consider your posts' potential impact before publishing them. Ask yourself whether they promote positivity and kindness or whether they could be seen as offensive or hurtful to others.

Jeremy Dawes

Be authentic on Instagram

Jeremy Dawes, Jezweb

Parents should encourage their teens to be authentic and true to themselves on Instagram. They should avoid trying to be someone they're not or pretending to have a lifestyle they don't really have. Being authentic means being genuine and true to oneself. On Instagram, this means posting content that reflects one's true personality, interests, and values rather than trying to be someone or something they're not. It means being honest in the way they represent themselves and their life on the platform.

Being authentic is important because people can often tell when someone is being insincere, which can negatively impact their reputation and credibility on Instagram. By being authentic, teens can build a positive reputation based on their true selves rather than a false persona.

Jim Campbell

Showcase talents and interests on Instagram

Jim Campbell, CEO and Founder of Honeymoon Goals

One of the best ways for teens to build a positive reputation on Instagram is to post high-quality content that showcases their talents and interests. I've noticed that teens who do this tend to get more likes, comments, and followers than teens who just post selfies or other random photos. It's important to show your followers what you're really about, and how you want to be seen by others.

This also means thinking carefully about what you post. If you're posting something that shows off your talent in art or music, but it isn't well-executed or doesn't capture the subject matter well, then people aren't going to want to follow you. On the flip side, if you post something that's really well done but doesn't showcase your talent in any way, then people might follow you out of curiosity but not stay because they won't feel like there's anything interesting coming from your account.

So think about what kind of person you want others to see when they look at your account—and then make sure every piece of content is something that helps them see that person!

Marta De la Cruz

Protect yourself from unwanted interactions

Marta De la Cruz, Clinical Psychologist at Balance Luxury Rehab

One way to build a positive reputation on Instagram is to protect yourself from unwanted interactions. You can add someone to a “restricted” list if they are being rude or abusive in your comment section. If the issue persists, you might feel more comfortable utilizing “Restrict” or “Mute” as the first course of action before blocking or unfollowing. 

Avoid making online friends with the wrong crowd. Don't respond with yes to every request for a friend or follower. A large following is not the status symbol that some make it out to be, and it really increases your risk of being victimized. Giving out personal information to strangers exposes you to a wide range of potential issues.

Take care who you let into your domain; be selective! Regularly review your friend and follower lists and take the time to remove anyone you don't really trust. Another way is to pause and think before you post. Consider what your parents, a role model, or a teacher may think if they were following you on Instagram. You probably shouldn't post something if you're uncomfortable or anxious about it. If you're unsure if your post is appropriate or not, trust your instinct.

Rad Swierkowski

Be mindful of what you share on social media

Rad Swierkowski, Tapping School

Teens can build a positive reputation on Instagram by being mindful of their content, interacting with others in a respectful manner, and following accounts that post content aligned with their interests and values. They should also be aware of how their posts and comments can affect others and strive to post content that is uplifting and supportive. Additionally, they should take the time to interact with other users by liking, commenting, and sharing meaningful posts.

Doug VanSoest

Just be yourself on Instagram

Doug VanSoest, co-founder of So Cal Home Buyers

Building a positive reputation on Instagram can be a great way for teens to establish themselves as responsible and respectful social media users. The most important tip I always give my children to build their own identity is to *be authentic*. 

I have seen most people try to fit in and not stand out. The idea is always that “you don’t have to be unique; just be yourself.” When you are always true to yourself, your passions, and your interests, people will be able to know you and relate more as a person. Moreover, this way you will also be saved from following unnecessary practices to gain followers and stay in the limelight. The ones that will stay, will stay forever. It takes a lot of time and effort to build your identity on social platforms and network with like-minded people but it is definitely worth it.

Be transparent without oversharing

Jacqueline Gilmer, MS, LPC-S, LCDC, Clinical Director at Recovery Unplugged

Building a positive reputation on Instagram can be a great way for teens to express themselves and their interests. Here are some tips to help teens build a positive reputation:

1. Be mindful of the content you post - make sure it is appropriate, respectful and doesn't contain any hateful or inappropriate language. Remember that you can get your point across without having to resort to insults or derogatory remarks.

2. Interact with others in an authentic, respectful manner - don't engage in online arguments or troll other users. Instead, focus on having meaningful conversations and engaging with your audience in a positive way.

3. Be transparent without oversharing - it can be tempting to share every detail of your life, but try to stay away from oversharing private information.

4. Engage with people outside of your own social circle - reach out to different people and communities, and be open to new ideas and perspectives. This will help you create a network of diverse relationships that can benefit you in many ways.

5. Post with purpose - make sure that the content you post is relevant and adds value to your feed. Highlight the things that you are passionate about, be it photography, art, music, or even writing. This will help create a positive image for yourself and your followers.

Allen King

Consider keeping Instagram private

Allen King, Founder and CEO of Fun Join 

Having a private Instagram account gives a teen much more control over who sees, comments, or shares their posts which gives them more of a leg up when it comes to keeping their reputation positive. It helps to decrease the chances of being harassed online and it also keeps their life more private as they get to choose who sees their pictures and videos.

Lauren Cook-McKay

Dig into your Privacy Settings

Lauren Cook-McKay, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Dig deep into your privacy settings. When you open a social media account, everything is set in public, so you have to dig deep into the settings to make sure that you’re not sharing everything with everyone. For instance, it’s important to keep your personal information like full name, birth date, address, and a mobile number private. These are sensitive pieces of information that online thieves can use to steal your identity.

Use social media monitoring apps like Bark is a social media monitoring tool that parents can use to track teens’ social media activities. I understand teens might not be comfortable letting their parents see their social media conversations and other activities. This app can be used to alert them of potential harm coming their way, like cyberbullying, threats, and predators. Parents will always worry, but apps like this can minimize the need for them to manually check a teen’s phone to see what they’ve been up to.

Filter your friends. It’s nice to connect with many people online, especially those that share your interests. That’s how great friendships are built. Unfortunately, there’s also a toxic side to that, which you should avoid. You can filter your connections and create a “Close friends” group. These are your people—the ones who make you feel good about yourself and don’t make you question or want to change everything about you, from your hair to your clothes to your nose. Be more selective of the friends you want to share your posts with and the posts you want to see.

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