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Instagram will no longer allow adults to message teens who don't follow them

Ireland Instagram
Posted at 1:03 PM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 15:03:21-04

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Instagram is making some changes to its platform in an effort to better protect its youngest users.

One of the most noteworthy changes is a new feature that the social network says will prevent adults from sending message to people under 18 who don’t follow them. So, when an adult tries to talk a teen who doesn’t follow them, they'll receive a notification telling them direct messaging isn’t an option.

The feature relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning technology that Instagram says it has developed to determine a user’s true age. The Facebook-owned app says it requires users to be at least 13, but young people can lie about their date of birth. They hope the new technology will help keep teens safer by applying new age-appropriate features.

In addition to preventing conversations between adults and teens who don’t follow each other, Instagram says it will start using safety notices to encourage teens to be cautious in conversations with adults they’re already connected to. These notices will notify young people when an adult who has been exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior is interacting with them in DMs.

“For example, 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,” wrote Instagram in a press release.

In the coming weeks, Instagram says it will also start exploring ways to make it more difficult for adults who have been exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior to interact with teens. This may include things like restricting these adults from seeing teen accounts in “suggested users,” preventing them from discovering teen content in reels or their explore page, and automatically hiding their comments on public posts by teens.

Lastly, Instagram says it will encourage its teenage users to make their accounts private by equipping them with information on what the different settings mean. If a teen doesn’t choose to be private when they sign up, Instagram says it will send them a notification later on highlighting the benefits of a private account and reminding them to check their settings.