Breaking News: On March 16, 2021, Instagram released a new post that laid out their new parental controls for teens, which mostly focused on direct messaging (DMs). The title of the post was:
Continuing to Make Instagram Safer for the Youngest Members of Our Community
Instagram has been the focus of our attention at Protect Young Eyes for years. Although we’re encouraged by these changes, Instagram knows that they still have more to do. For now, these are more “parental suggestions” than parental controls, since nothing can be locked in. TikTok has taken the bolder step of allowing parents to set a 4-digit passcode for certain parental controls. We hope Instagram follows suit.
This post included the following headers:
- Supporting parents and teens with new resources.
- Improving our work to understand people’s real age.
- Restricting DMs between teens and adults they don’t follow.
- Prompting teens to be more cautious about interactions in DMs.
- Making it more difficult for adults to find and follow teens.
- Encouraging teens to make their accounts private.
Supporting parents and teens with new resources
We want parents to have the information to help their teens have a safe and positive experience on Instagram. In the US, we’ve collaborated with The Child Mind Institute and ConnectSafely to publish a new Parents Guide.
Improving our work to understand people’s real age
Instagram now asks for age when signing up for an account, but we all know that kids (and adults!) lie. To address this issue:
we’re developing new artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to help us keep teens safer and apply new age-appropriate features, like those described below.
Restricting DMs between teens and adults they don’t follow
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. For example, when an adult tries to message a teen who doesn’t follow them, they receive a notification that DM’ing them isn’t an option. This feature relies on our work to predict peoples’ ages using machine learning technology, and the age people give us when they sign up.
Prompting teens to be more cautious about interactions in DMs.
…we’ll start using prompts — or safety notices — to encourage teens to be cautious in conversations with adults they’re already connected to. Safety notices in DMs 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.
Making it more difficult for adults to find and follow teens
These changes haven’t been rolled out yet, but if they are, they would be a SIGNIFICANT safety improvement. We’re waiting for the follow through:
In the coming weeks, we’ll 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 Explore, and automatically hiding their comments on public posts by teens.
Encouraging teens to make their accounts private
We’ve recently added a new step when someone under 18 signs up for an Instagram account that gives them the option to choose between a public or private account.
This is optional, which is unlike TikTok, who for users under age 16, they are required to have a private account. Here’s Instagram’s reason:
We know young people, like aspiring creators or athletes, find value in public accounts. So teens can still opt for a public account if they choose to do so after learning more about the options. If the teen doesn’t choose ‘private’ when signing up, we send them a notification later on highlighting the benefits of a private account and reminding them to check their settings.
We’re encouraged by these changes and as Instagram’s blog post agrees, there is still room to grow. It’s still unbelievable to us that it took 11 years for Instagram to make changes like these, but it’s due to the relentless pressure being placed on these organizations by PYE, NCOSE and others that seems to slowly be making a difference.
As soon as these updates are available, we’ll update our website and Protect App content for amazing parents like you!
Maybe it’s time to download the PYE Protect App? We share amazing content like this in bite-sized chunks so that you can learn on the go.
Chris McKenna, Founder: A man with never ending energy when it comes to fighting for the safety and protection of children. Chris practices his internet safety tips on his four amazing children and is regularly featured on news, radio, and podcasts for his research. His 2019 US Senate Judiciary Committee testimony was the catalyst for draft legislation and on-going discussion that could radically change online child protection laws and earned PYE the NCOSE Dignity Defense Alert Award in 2020. The PYE team has performed over 1,300 presentations at schools, churches, and nonprofits and was featured in the Childhood 2.0 movie. When not leading PYE, Chris is the Digital Marketing Manager for Covenant Eyes. Other loves include running, spreadsheets, nature, and candy.