The first feature is that Instagram will default the accounts of people younger than 16 to private accounts. Private accounts give the user more control over who follows you, who sees your posts, Stories and Reels. Content posted on your private account can’t be found in the Explore Page, through hashtags or Accounts Suggested For You.
Instagram’s research has found that younger people prefer private accounts when signing up for the platform and this move wants to make their experience safe and comfortable for young teens.
For teens already signed up and have their accounts public, Instagram will prompt them to switch to a private account. The app will show them a notification highlighting the benefits of a private account and explaining how to change their privacy settings. This choice is optional and tens can choose to keep their account public.
“While most platforms have set their minimum age for participation at 13, there’s no on/off switch that makes someone ready to be a fully media-literate participant on that birthday. Defaulting accounts to private for under-16s encourages young people to develop comfort, confidence and capability as digital citizens during their younger years and help them develop habits to last a lifetime,” said David Kleeman, Senior Vice President, Global Trends at Dubit.
Instagram adds that encouraging young teens to switch to private accounts will help in stopping unwanted contact from adults. Instagram will stop accounts that have “potentially suspicious behaviour” from interacting with young users accounts.
These accounts which have been blocked or reported by a young person won’t be able to find young people accounts by searching for their username and they won’t be able to follow them.
“Instagram’s strategy to proactively weed out potential predators is a welcome innovation; teens have a right to explore their social selves freely without having to worry about predators lurking in the shadows. Whilst teens are generally aware of the risks in sharing personal information, they are often less ‘street savvy’ when it comes to privacy settings. Defaulting young people into private accounts gives them time to adapt and learn to manage their privacy without restricting their freedom of choice in any way,” said Janice Richardson, International advisor at Insight SA, expert to the Council of Europe.
Instagram hopes to use this technology across its platform.
Instagram is also changing how advertisers can reach young people. The giant social network will only allow advertisers to target ads to people under 18 (or older in certain countries) based on their age, gender and location. These changes will be global and apply to Instagram, Facebook and Messenger.