Instagram to bar messages between teens and adults they do not follow

The privacy updates will be implemented in order to help keep teens "safer" and will utilize "age-appropriate" features.

Updated: March 16, 2021 - 4:06pm

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Instagram will begin preventing direct messages between teen users and adults whom they do not follow, in an effort to enhance teen-centered safety updates, the social media platform said Tuesday. 

The new feature will not allow messages to be sent from adults to teens who do not follow them. Any adult that attempts to send a message to these teenagers will receive a notification that direct messaging the teen user is not authorized, Instagram said. 

To make an Instagram account, users must be at least 13. But the social media site acknowledged users often lie about their age to gain access to a platform.

The privacy updates will be implemented to help keep teens "safer" and will utilize "age-appropriate" features, Instagram said. 

It will also give teen users safety notices to help them to be more cautious about conversations in their direct messages.

The safety notices will inform them when an adult who "has been exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior" is sending them direct messages, according to the announcement.

If an adult user were to send a large number of friend requests or direct messages to minors, for example, Instagram will use notify the recipients and give them the 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."

Instagram also announced Tuesday that it had collaborated with ConnectSafely and The Child Mind Institute to produce a new parents guide, according to The Hill. It includes the most recent safety tools and privacy settings. 

Instagram said it is also looking into new methods to make it increasingly more difficult for adults who have been showing "potentially suspicious behavior" to converse with users under 18.

The update could include stopping adults from seeing teenagers' accounts as "suggested users" to follow, or barring them from being shown teenagers' posts on Instagram’s Reels and Explore features.

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