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What just happened? Instagram is introducing new policies to protect the platform's young users. The social media app has now banned adults from sending direct messages to teenagers that do not follow them. Additionally, teens will see prompts warning them to be cautious when they are in conversations with adults who have been "exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior."
Much like owner Facebook, the minimum age requirement for Instagram account holders is 13. To protect teens from unwanted contact from someone much older, any adult that tries to DM a person under 18 who isn't a follower will receive a notification informing them the action isn't possible.
Even if a teen does follow an adult, they will see notices in conversations warning them if the older person has been exhibiting suspicious behavior, such as sending a large number of message requests to people under 18.
Instagram is also making it more difficult for adults to find and follow teens, including restricting them from seeing teen accounts in 'Suggested Users', preventing them from discovering teen content in Reels or Explore, and automatically hiding their comments on public posts by teens.
"These updates are a part of our ongoing efforts to protect young people — and our specialist teams continue to invest in new interventions that further limit inappropriate interactions between adults and teens," writes Instagram.
New teenage users will also be encouraged to make their profile private when signing up to Instagram. If they do create a public account, Instagram will send notifications later, "highlighting the benefits of a private account and reminding them to check their settings." Rival TikTok said in January that all under-17s' accounts would be made private by default.
The big problem faced by Instagram is that not all users are honest about their ages when creating accounts. To address this problem, the company is developing new "artificial intelligence and machine learning technology" to try and detect someone's age when they sign-up, though it didn't go into detail about how this will work.