Instagram unveils new safety feature for teens

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The Facebook-owned photo and video sharing app Instagram has introduced new features aimed at making the social media site safer for teenagers.

In a blog post, the company announced four new features limiting the ability of most adults on the site to explore and engage with teenagers. When users sign up for an account, the company will now ask them to include their age.

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Instagram remarked that “While many people are honest about their age, we know that young people can lie about their date of birth. We want to do more to stop this from happening, but verifying people’s age online is complex and something many in our industry are grappling with. To address this challenge, we’re developing new artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to help us keep teens safer and apply new age-appropriate features.”

Here are some of the latest features that Instagram is planning to introduce to its website.

Restricting DMs between teens and adults

Instagram has added a new feature that will restrict adults from sending messages to people under the age of 18 who do not follow them. Adults may receive a warning that sending them a Direct Message (DM) is not an option if they attempt to message a teen who does not follow them.

“This feature relies on our work to predict peoples’ ages using machine learning technology, and the age people give us when they sign up. As we move to end-to-end encryption, we’re investing in features that protect the privacy and keep people safe without accessing the content of DMs,” Instagram added.

Prompting teens to be more cautious

Instagram will also begin sending out safety alerts, advising teens to be cautious when conversing with adults with whom they are already connected. When an adult who has been showing potentially suspicious behavior communicates with youngsters in DMs, the social media site will send safety alerts to them.

With an example, Instagram explains this “If an adult is sending a large amount of friend or message requests to people under 18, we’ll use this tool to alert the recipients within their DMs and give them an option to end the conversation, or block, report, or restrict the adult. People will start seeing these in some countries this month, and we hope to have them available everywhere soon.”

Making it difficult for adults to find teens

Instagram will restrict some of the adults from seeing teen accounts in ‘Suggested Users.’ According to the company adults that have displayed potentially suspicious activity won’t be able to find teen content in Reels or Explore, and the comments section will be automatically hidden.

Encouraging teens to use private accounts

Instagram has stated that it would allow teenagers to create a private account on the Instagram site to be secure on the social media platform. The company said that if the teen does not pick ‘private’ when signing up, they will send a message explaining the advantages of a private account and reminding them to review their settings.

This does not rule out the idea of a public account for teens. According to Instagram, a private account provides users with more security so they can better monitor who sees and interacts with their posts.

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