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Instagram Sets Out to Make the Platform Safer for Teens

The safety of its users is of paramount importance to Instagram. The app is putting more tools in place to protect teenagers on the platform. As we cannot always guarantee the person behind the screen is the person we think it is, Instagram’s new safety feature is set to prevent adults from messaging teens.

New AI tools will identify ‘suspicious’ adults, notifying them that messaging a user under 18 is prohibited. Although the minimum age to sign up for an Instagram account is thirteen, the team behind the app are aware that there are cases of people who are younger than 13 lying about their age in order to set up a profile. AI features will also work to address this challenge.

The new restrictions put in place will prevent adults from sending messages to people under the age of 18 who don’t follow them. The adult will receive an automated message addressing that this action isn’t possible. If the adult and the person under the age of 18 are following one another, messages can still be exchanged, as the Instagram team are aware that young users will be connected with older family and friends. 

Urging teens to be more cautious

Although we would hope and expect that adults will abide by these new rules and accept the new restrictions in place, teenagers are urged to remain cautious in case there are situations that may slip through the net. As the new feature only works to prevent conversations between those who aren’t following one another, extra tools have been put in place to address concerns within conversations between adults and teens who are already connected. 

If a young person and an adult are already sharing messages, and the new Instagram AI technology picks up that the adult is exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior, the teen will be alerted and given an option to end the conversation, block, report, or restrict the adult. Teenagers are also encouraged to make their profiles private. 

Larry Magid, CEO of ConnectSafely.org said: “There are cases where it is appropriate for adults and teens to interact on Instagram but it’s important that teens be protected against unwanted contact from adults. Requiring that the teen – not the adult – establish the connection empowers teens to protect themselves. It puts them in the driver’s seat and gives them more control over their experiences on Instagram.”

Protection and prevention is key 

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) reported in 2019 that sexual grooming crimes have soared by a third in a year as pedophiles turn to Instagram to target children. This means that despite young people being vigilant when they’re using Instagram, it would be impossible for them to notice all forms of suspicious behaviour or grooming.  

Instagram will be exploring ways to make it more difficult for adults who have been exhibiting such behaviors to interact with teens. The app will experiment with restricting these adults from seeing teenagers’ accounts in ‘Suggested Users’, preventing them from discovering young people’s content in Reels or Explore, and automatically hiding their comments on public posts by teens.

The new tools put in place by Instagram are part of a collaborative effort with The Child Mind Institute and ConnectSafely. The newly published Parents Guide will initially be rolled out in the US, continuing to be rolled out in more countries soon.

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