New photo-sharing app can lead to cyber-bullying, security problems

If your kids haven'talready started talking about Instagram, you'll probably be hearing about itsoon.

The popular photo-sharingapp has more than 27 million users nationwide, and many of them are kids.

It's become the latest socialnetworking craze for many Arkansas elementary and middle school students. But justlike anything in the online world, parents and kids need to beware.

Being able to take apicture, share it online, and comment on it with your friends seems like afairly innocent thing to do, until your child's identity falls into the handsof a cyber-bully or an online predator.

Nicole Kaemmerling keepsher family's computer in the main part of the house with the idea that she andher husband can keep an eye on what their children are doing online.

In the fall, they allowedtheir 12-year-old daughter, a straight-A student, to set up an account on Instagram.They thought it was safe until their daughter woke up one morning last monthand discovered someone had hijacked her account.

"Apparently somebody created a fake Instagramaccount and it had her picture on it. And it had 'I hate Alexa Kam.' And theyhad posted her picture, and they had made little devil horns on her head. Andshe didn't know who posted it," said Nicole Kaemmerling.

After much research, Alexa'sparents were able to shut down the fake account, but they weren't able to trackdown the kids who bullied their daughter.

"I just wanted to take thatchild and say, 'Why would you do this? Why would you hurt someone so badly? What was your intent? Were youtrying to be funny? Were youjealous? Did you like a boy who likedher? Why would you be so mean to somebody like this?" said Nicole Kaemmerling.

Nicole may not be able toanswer that question, but she did find out, just like Facebook and Twitter,it's against the social networking sites' policy for children under the age of13 to have an Instagram account.

Joshua Carroll, an ITsecurity specialist, says the draw for kids to Instagram is it's accessibility.

Kids only have to have anemail address and an iPhone or an iTouch, and they're free to set up an accountand interact with millions of potential followers.

"If your page is privateand you shared something with others who are not private and they re-sharedwhat you posted, then it's potentially left out there to the public internet,"said Joshua Carroll.

Being able to experimentin that public forum is just one of many problems Sharon Long, EducationCoordinator for Centers of Youth and Family has with kids using Instagram.

"It's a public forum. We'retalking children between the ages of 6 and 12 who quite honestly are not readyfor publicly sharing images or information or access to information at thatage," said Sharon Long.

If you're looking for ways to help keep yourchild safe from the dangers of cyber-bullying, Pulaski Academy is holding apanel discussion on cyber-bullying. It is open to the public on Tuesday, April17th.