Is Your Dancer Safe on Instagram?

Do You Know Your Dancer’s Instagram Handle?

Why You Need to Discourage Students from Putting Studio Names in their Instagram Handle

by Ashleigh Hill

This week will see the start of new year of dance, and keen young dancers will eagerly flock back to their beloved dance schools to work hard for another year. And it is because of this timing, I want to bring to light something which I believe is incredibly important.

Dance schools are everywhere. It’s not like twenty years ago where you went to the one local dance studio. Dance has boomed. Today, families are travelling huge distances to be at a certain studio and a big factor in this choice is how the studio is presented online and via social media. One thing that is contributing to the popularity of some dance schools is their online presence and representation by dancers ⏤ and something I see over and over again are dance students using their studio’s name in their instagram username. For example, @janesmith_ABCdance

The platform of choice by aspiring dancers is Instagram. All you have to do is search on the hashtags #dancers and #dancersofinstagram to see how prolific the genre is and how easy it is to find images and profiles of dancers.

At first I was in awe thinking… ‘WOW!  These kids love their dance studio so much that they shout it to the world.’ Every post is emitting a sense of belonging and passion. Exactly what a Dance Studio owner wants to promote. BUT, there is a catch.

Besides a range of problems this can create for the principal owner in relation to marketing the dance studio, maintaining studio values and not having control of what is presented, this is not the biggest worry. I asked a group of dance teachers what their thoughts were about having students include a school’s name in their Instagram username and not one raised the most significant issue … SAFETY.

I am not perfect at social media and I can probably do more to keep my kids safe, but this really doesn’t sit right with me and makes my stomach churn for each account I see. Instagram is a ‘predator’s paradise’ and often target girls wearing swimsuits, gym kit and dance outfits. And with a studio name in a dancer’s username, potential predators now know exactly where they will be!

Location, location, location

One of the first things on The eSafety Commissioner in Australia’s website is the warning that “When you are online, information like your full name, date of birth, contact information and where you live are like the keys to your house. Be careful with them!”  So why are we allowing kids to give away their location on Instagram?

Sexual predators are using everyday social media apps to target children. Det. Jones from the Kenton County Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force says “the most dangerous apps … are those that use your phone’s location settings … Sometimes that means whatever stranger the child is talking to can actually see where the child is; where they go to school, where they hang out”. Or, in the case of most dance students ,where they spend a large portion of their time. Why as parents and studio owners are we allowing students to serve it up to predators on a big silver platter?

It’s ok the account is private

“Be aware. As I have always said a private account on Instagram can still be messaged by a stranger,” warns Susan McLean, Cyber Safety Expert.

Having a private account is fantastic in that you are approving each follower and only sharing your images with certain people, and hopefully, only people your children know in real life. The issue here lies is that you are still giving away your personal information in one of the most prominent places on instagram. Actually, one of only TWO searchable fields in instagram. Even without the information in your bio, a few clicks and I can find out where and what times your child is at the dance school.

One of the most prominent messages from the eSafety Commissioner of Australia is DO NOT DISPLAY information about hobbies, likes/dislikes, school, etc as this information has the potential to be used as grooming tools by offenders or other persons.

As Studio owners, what can we do?

First and foremost, I would be communicating to families that you appreciate the love and passion for your studio but that you explicitly discourage any student providing their location in their instagram handle (username). Remind parents of the dangers of young children having instagram accounts and start to arm yourself with knowledge. You don’t need to be an expert but you need to know the basics.

The eSafety Commissioner of Australia has great resources that we all should be reading. While dance studios are sole entities and not community groups, we create communities with children at the heart at what we do. Here is a fantastic place to start with improving key issues: www.esafety.gov.au/key-issues/tailored-advice/sporting-organisations-community-groups

Safety is a huge topic right now with social media and it’s an issue that ALL businesses working with children need to have at the forefront of their mind.

 

For supporting articles:
www.wmbfnews.com/2019/11/28/how-sexual-predators-are-using-everyday-social-media-apps-target-children/

www.9news.com.au/national/instagram-predator-australian-group-claims-platform-rampant-with-grooming-and-abuse/6d425ae3-8942-4161-981e-7735c43000b2?ocid=Social-9nEWSm

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Ashleigh Hill
Owner & Creative Director
Smashed It Dance Company

Ashleigh Hill

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