Instagram will start restricting direct messages between teen users and adults they do not follow as part of a broader set of teen-centered safety updates the platform announced Tuesday.
The feature will send adults who try to message a teen who doesn't follow them a notification that direct messaging the teen user isn’t an option, Instagram said.
Instagram requires users to be at least 13 years old to make an account. But the company acknowledged that young users sometimes lie about their date of birth.
The privacy updates, using new artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, aim to help keep teens “safer” and apply “age-appropriate” features, according to the announcement.
The app will also prompt teen users to be more cautious about interactions in their direct messages through safety notices.
The prompts will notify teens when an adult who “has been exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior” is interacting with them in their direct messages, according to the announcement.
For example, if an adult user is sending a large amount of friend requests or messages to people under 18, Instagram will use the new tool to alert the recipients and give them an option to end the conversation, block, report or restrict the adult user.
“There are cases where it is appropriate for adults and teens to interact on Instagram but it’s important that teens be protected against unwanted contact from adults,” Larry Magid, CEO of ConnectSafely, said in a statement.
“Requiring that the teen – not the adult – establish the connection empowers teens to protect themselves. It puts them in the driver's seat and gives them more control over their experiences on Instagram,” he said.
ConnectSafely and The Child Mind Institute collaborated with Instagram to publish a new parents guide, which was also announced on Tuesday.
The guide includes the latest safety tools and privacy settings.
Instagram said it is also exploring ways to make it more difficult for adults who have been exhibiting “potentially suspicious behavior” to interact with teens.
The update may include restricting adults from seeing teen accounts as “suggested users,” or preventing them from discovering teen content in Instagram’s Reels and Explore features.