Facebook-owned photo sharing platform Instagram has announced a series of updates that are designed to make its app a safer place for online teens. Instagram said that it will default users to private accounts at sign-up if they are below the age of 16 - or 18 in certain areas like the European Union. The company is also pushing existing users under the age of 16 to switch their account to private if they haven’t already done so. Apart from that, Instagram will roll out new technologies to reduce unwanted contact from adults and will change how advertisers can reach its teenage audience. The most prominent change for younger users is the default private setting.
Instagram said that according to its research, 8 out of 10 young users anyways select the “private account" option while signing up on the platform. Hence, it will now make it the default setting for those under the age of 16. The app, however, will not force teens to keep their account private. Users can switch accounts at any time. Those who have existing public accounts will be alerted about the benefits of going private and will be instructed on how to make the change through an in-app notification. Instagram said that it won’t force young users to go private.
This comes as a similar move from Instagram’s rival TikTok, which announced that it would update the private settings and defaults for users under the age of 18. Instagram, on the other hand, isn’t going beyond suggesting teens’ default account type. Instagram said that it will use new tech to identify accounts that have shown “potentially suspicious behaviour." Accounts that have been recently blocked or reported by teenage users will be flagged as having “potentially suspicious behaviour." Once identified as “potentially suspicious," Instagram will restrict these users’ accounts from being able to interact with younger users.
Instagram will no longer show young people’s accounts in Explore, Reels or in the “Accounts Suggested For You" feature to these suspicious accounts. If the adult user still finds the teenage user by searching for them, they will not be able to follow them and won’t be able to see comments from young people on other people’s posts or be able to leave a comment themselves.
These new measures are built on the basis of the technology Instagram introduced earlier this year that restricted the ability for adults to contact teens who didn’t already follow them.
Other than these, the major change that will be coming in the next few weeks will impact advertisers that are looking to target ads to teens under the age of 18. With this change, previously available targeting options like those based on the user’s interests or activity on other apps or websites will no longer be available for advertisers. Advertisers will only be able to target based on age, gender, and location. This change will go into effect on Instagram as well as Facebook and Messenger.
Facebook says that the decision to keep targeted ads away from teens was influenced by recommendations from youth advocates who said younger people may not be as well-equipped to make desicions to opt out of interest-based advertising. However, in reality, it stems from the crackdown on the company’s multi-billion dollar ad network by regulators, governments, and competitors alike.