Instagram is introducing new policies limiting interactions between teenagers and unknown adults to make its platform safer for young users, the company announced on Tuesday.
The Verge reports that the app is banning adults from direct messaging teenagers who don’t follow them and is introducing “safety prompts” that will be shown to teens when they DM adults who have been “exhibiting potentially suspicious behaviour”.
The prompts will give teenage users the option to report or block adults who are messaging them. They will remind young users not to feel pressured to respond to messages and to “be careful sharing photos, videos, or information with someone you don’t know”.
Notices will appear when Instagram’s moderation systems spot suspicious behaviour from adult users.
The company is not sharing details on how these systems operate but says such suspicious behaviour could include sending “a large amount of friend or message requests to people under 18”.
The Facebook-owned Instagram says this feature will be available in some countries this month, and available globally soon.
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.”
He added that requiring younger users to decide whether to establish connections with adults as a prerequisite for communication empowers teenagers to protect themselves.
“It puts them in the driver’s seat and gives them more control over their experiences on Instagram.”
Instagram also says it’s developing new “artificial intelligence and machine learning technology” to try and detect someone’s age when they sign up for an account.
Officially, the app requires that users are aged 13 and above, but it’s easy to lie about one’s age. The company said it wants to do “more to stop this from happening”, but did not go into any detail.
New teenage users who sign up to Instagram will also now be encouraged to make their profile private. If they choose to create a public account anyway, Instagram will send them a notification later “highlighting the benefits of a private account”.
The update will also make it more difficult for adults to discover and follow teenagers. Instagram said it will focus efforts on limiting the amount of teenage content pushed toward adult users.
Instagram’s new youth safety feature follows several recent privacy-related changes made by other technology companies, says the Washington Examiner.
Match Group, which owns popular dating apps and websites such as Tinder, Match.com, and Hinge, announced on Monday it would partner with nonprofit background check platform Garbo to allow users to employ background checks on matches.