The internet is a place where all types of people converge and interact without major restrictions. Subsequently, it is no surprise that it is fast becoming an unsafe place for the younger users, especially teenagers, who are often subject to inappropriate messages or content sent to them by older people or have their privacy violated. Facebook-owned Instagram, from Tuesday, has taken a step to ensure further safety for teens and their privacy, restricting the ability of adults to contact teenagers who do not follow them on the platform.
To protect teens from unwanted contact from adults, we’re introducing a new feature that prevents adults from sending messages to people under 18 who don’t follow them,” Instagram said in a blog post.
Under the new safety features, adults would be blocked from sending a direct message (DM) to any Instagram user under 18 who doesn’t follow them. When adults try to do so, they’ll see the message: ‘You can’t message this account unless they follow you.’ This new rule is a one-way street – teenagers would be able to continue to interact with adult family members and other trusted adults on the platform, like family friends.
The new measures will also include sending safety alerts to users under 18, encouraging them to be cautious in conversation with adults they are already connected to but have exhibited potentially suspicious behavior – such as sending a large amount of friend or message requests to teenage users. The teenager will also be given the option to end the conversation, block, report, or restrict the adult from further contact.
Additionally, the new features would make it more difficult for adults to find and follow teenagers on the site, by restricting adults from seeing teen accounts in the “Suggested Users” section of the app, as well as hiding their comments on public posts.
New AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine-learning technology are also being developed by Instagram to better identify the real age of users who lie about their age in order to access the platform, but this technology is not live yet. Instagram’s terms of service require all users to be at least 13 years old to have an account.
“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,” Instagram said in the blog post.
Instagram is also encouraging teenage users to make their accounts private, giving new users the option to choose between a public or a private account when they first sign up for an Instagram account. “Protecting young people on Instagram is important to us,” Instagram said. “Today, we’re sharing updates on new features and resources as part of our ongoing efforts to keep our youngest community members safe.”
“We believe that everyone should have a safe and supportive experience on Instagram. These updates are a part of our ongoing efforts to protect young people, and our specialist teams will continue to invest in new interventions that further limit inappropriate interactions between adults and teens,” they added, saying that their aim was to “encourage young people to opt for a private account by equipping them with information on what the different settings mean.”
The updates will also new include safety resources for parents in the app’s Parents Guide. Instagram also revealed that it was moving to end-to-end encryption to protect the privacy of its teenage users. End-to-end encryption ensures only the two participants of a chat stream can read messages