Instagram just made it harder for ramp tackle teenagers using the social network. The service is launch a series of preventive measures to protect adolescents, including restrictions on direct messages. Adults can no longer send messages to non-following under-18s. The restriction works through a combination of the age claimed by the user upon registration and the machine learning that predicts the age of people – hopefully it is reliable enough to prevent some DMs from going between the cracks.
Teens themselves will also receive safety notices in their DMs if an adult they’ve messaged has sent a lot of friend requests and messages to people under the age of 18. Get one and you’ll have options to cut the conversation short, block the adult outright, report them, or impose restrictions. The notices will start appearing in “some countries” in March and should be more widely available “soon” thereafter.
It will also be more difficult for sketchy adults to find these teens in the first place. Instagram will soon begin to “explore” ways to prevent adults with potentially questionable behavior from interacting with teens, such as removing teen accounts from suggestions, Coils and explore. The social media giant could also automatically hide comments from these adults on public posts. You should see the first examples of these changes in the “next few weeks”.
Instagram was already encouraging teens to use private accounts and updated its Parents Guide with new privacy and security tools.
The new measures recognize that teens face a relatively unique set of dangers on Instagram and that there is little that teens and their parents can do to stop unsavory people from reaching out. It’s not clear how well DM and discovery restrictions will work in practice, but they might be worth it if they discourage some creeps and encourage a more cautious approach for the teens themselves.