Instagram will now stop adults from messaging teens who don't follow them

Instagram logo on a Galaxy S10
Instagram logo on a Galaxy S10 (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Instagram is rolling out new tools aimed at protecting minors.
  • One tool would prevent adults from messaging under-18s who they don't follow.
  • Another tool would alert under-18s of suspicious behavior by adult followers.

Instagram today is rolling out new tools to protect minors from unwanted contact on social media by adults. One such move would prevent minors from being messaged by adults they don't follow. Another would alert them of additional options if an adult they do follow has engaged in suspicious behavior, for example, sending out a raft of following requests to under-18s.

The Instagram team wrote:

To protect teens from unwanted contact from adults, we're introducing a new feature that prevents adults from sending messages to people under 18 who don't follow them. For example, when an adult tries to message a teen who doesn't follow them, they receive a notification that DM'ing them isn't an option. This feature relies on our work to predict peoples' ages using machine learning technology, and the age people give us when they sign up. As we move to end-to-end encryption, we're investing in features that protect privacy and keep people safe without accessing the content of DMs.

Instagram says that while its platform is aimed at teenagers at the bare minimum — people do lie. It'll be using machine learning to try and figure out additional context for more age-appropriate suggestions in this vein. Hopefully it accounts for decreasing, as well as increasing, one's age. Otherwise many of these features would stumble out of the get go.

Instagram will also focus on making itself a more private space for teenagers. It'll prompt teenagers to make their accounts private by default, and send them a notification after account creation to nudge them towards a private account. For adults who have engaged in suspicious activity with teens, it'll try out a package of measures, including "restricting these adults from seeing teen accounts in 'Suggested Users', preventing them from discovering teen content in Reels or Explore, and automatically hiding their comments on public posts by teens."

While Instagram is an app that makes it both alluring and easy to show off the photos we take on our omnipresent phone cameras, sometimes a little caution in what you share and who has access to you is helpful. It's good advice for teens and adults alike.

Michael Allison