Instagram rolls out changes to make it more safer for teenagers

APP, messenger, facebook, european union, Instagram, blog post

Facebook-owned Instagram is rolling out a series of changes to its platform in a bid to make it a more private and safer place for teenagers.

Starting this week, Instagram will default users below 16 years (or 18 years in certain regions like the European Union) to a private account when they join the platform. The app currently requires everyone to be at least 13 years old when they create an account.

Historically, users are given a choice between a public account or a private account when they sign up for the service. But the company says its recent research has shown that eight out of ten young people accepted the private default settings during sign-up.

For teenagers who already have a public account, Instagram said it will prompt them with a notification explaining how to change their privacy settings but it won’t force them to go private. They can choose to switch to a private account or keep it public.

The video and image sharing service also said they are creating new ways to stop underage kids from signing up for the service and are developing new technology to verify people’s ages as well as find and remove underaged accounts.

APP, messenger, facebook, european union, Instagram, blog post

“We’re focused on using existing data to inform our artificial intelligence technology. Where we do feel we need more information, we’re developing a menu of options for someone to prove their age,” the company said in a blog post.

Limiting ad targeting for young users

Another major change is limiting the options advertisers will have to target ads to teenagers. In the coming weeks, advertisers will be able to target ads based on only their age, gender, and location. Previously available targeting options, like those based on interests or their activity on other apps and websites, will no longer be available to advertisers. This will be applicable across Instagram, Facebook and Messenger.

The company said this move was following recommendations from its youth advocates who said young people may not be well equipped to make decisions on opting out of these interest or activity-based ads.

APP, messenger, facebook, european union, Instagram, blog post

“When young people turn 18, we’ll notify them about targeting options that advertisers can now use to reach them and the tools we provide to them to control their ad experience. This is a work in progress and we’ll have more to share in time,” the company said in a blogpost.

Apart from this, Instagram said it has developed new technology to identify accounts that have shown “potentially suspicious behavior”, including those that have been recently blocked or reported by other teenage users. Once identified, the app will not show young people’s accounts in Explore, Reels or suggested accounts to these adults.

“If they find young people’s accounts by searching for their usernames, they won’t be able to follow them. They also won’t be able to see comments from young people on other people’s posts, nor will they be able to leave comments on young people’s posts,” the company said.

This will be initially rolled out in the United States, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan, with plans to expand to other markets soon.

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