Dominic Taylor claims to be the most popular Kiwi teen on Instagram.

The 17-year-old student at Albany Senior High School student has 270,000 followers - around 20,000 shy of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

He built up his enormous audience - which is mostly overseas - in just two years by creating memes and sharing pictures of superheroes.

Superhero fans are known for their strong views, Taylor said, and he has sometimes found himself in the firing line.

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"[I have had] death threats because of how seriously people love some of their characters and my opinion being different to theirs is not to their liking.

"Some of these people are adults and parents. I've seen some of their accounts and they've got pictures holding their babies, and I'm like 'You're commenting on a teenagers' account'."

Taylor spoke about his experience of Instagram at the launch of a new parents' guide to the social media platform, which has around 1 billion users worldwide.

"A Parent's Guide to Instagram" is an initiative by the social media giant and online safety organisation Netsafe. Published today, it gives parents tips to help their children protect themselves online - whether they have 20 followers or 200,000.

Dominic Taylor, 17, says growing an Instagram audience of 270,000 has had occasional downsides. Photograph by Dean Purcell
Dominic Taylor, 17, says growing an Instagram audience of 270,000 has had occasional downsides. Photograph by Dean Purcell

It was an important initiative, Taylor said: "A lot of parents aren't educated on how they can help their kids. Unless you have an older sibling to guide you through it you're very much on your own."

Netsafe head Martin Cocker said New Zealand parents generally supported their children's use of technology and social media.

"But some of these things are quite confronting. Products like Instagram are second nature to a lot of people … but they seem just strange to older generations.

"So they want practical advice. They want to know how it is that they can enable their children to use the technology but at the same time keep them safe."

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The guide's advice ranged from a very basic explanation of what Instagram is, to a glossary of Instagram terms and technical tips on how to adjust privacy settings or block comments and notifications.

Instagram's head of public policy for Australasia Mia Garlick said the filter settings on the site were increasingly "granular" and users could now choose to filter out specific words or even emojis which they were sensitive about.

Taylor said much of his audience was young so he "thought of every swear word possible" and filtered them out of his page. He also blocked around 300 offensive users and he turned off comments completely "if things get too serious".

As Instagram has grown in popularity, it has employed tens of thousands of people to weed out bullying, harassment and graphic images. Automation was increasingly being used to detect this sort of content, Garlick said.

In a recent case, a New Zealand school which reported a case of bullying was able to get the content removed in 41 minutes, Garlick said.

INSTAGRAM TIPS FOR PARENTS
Privacy: Talk with your child about whether their account is going to be public or private. Making sure they understand that they have control over who sees and interacts with the things they post online will empower them to feel like they can be themselves
on Instagram.

Block unwanted interactions: Your child can block accounts they don't want to interact with. This will block people from seeing and commenting on their posts, stories, and Live broadcasts. When you block an account, that person is not notified. You can unblock an account at any time.

For the full guide, see: www.netsafe.org.nz/instagram-guide/