Instagram Restricts Adult Users From Messaging Minors Who Aren't Following Them

The social media platform announced the new feature in a blog post Tuesday, saying the move is intended to protect the safety of its young users.


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In an effort to keep young people safe, Instagram has tightened its restrictions on direct messaging.

The social media platform announced the move in a blog post Tuesday, stating it will no longer allow adults Instagram users to message minors who aren’t already following them. If an adult attempts to DM an underage user who isn’t among their followers, they will receive a notification that says sending the DM isn’t an option. 

Some updates on what we're doing to keep teens safe on Instagram ❤️ Including:

🔒 Restricting DMs between teens and adults they don’t follow

🤔 Prompting teens to be careful in DMs even with adults they're connected to

🙋 Encouraging teens to make their accounts private

— Instagram (@instagram) March 16, 2021

As of now, individuals must be at least 13 years old in order to get an Instagram account; however, the company has acknowledged that age verification is often difficult among all social media platforms.

“Around the world it’s widely understood that most social media platforms require a 13-year minimum age requirement, but the complexity of age verification remains a long-standing, industry-wide challenge,” said Lucy Thomas, the co-founder/co-CEO of PROJECT ROCKIT. “That’s why it’s positive to see Instagram investing in innovative technologies that can and will create a safer online environment for younger users. By using machine learning to flag potentially inappropriate interactions, improving teen privacy features and DM-ing younger users with realtime safety info, Instagram is equipping young people with tools to be the architects of their own online experience.”

Those between 13 and 18 will also receive messages advising them to “be careful sharing photos, videos, or information with someone you don’t know.” They will also get notifications whenever they interact with an adult who “has been exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior.” 

Per Instagram’s blog post:

For example, if an adult is sending a large amount of friend or message requests to people under 18, we’ll use this tool to alert the recipients within their DMs and give them an option to end the conversation, or block, report, or restrict the adult. People will start seeing these in some countries this month, and we hope to have them available everywhere soon.

The app is also encouraging its young community members to make their accounts private, which will give them more control over who sees their content and public interactions. Minors who opt for a pubic account will receive notifications explaining the benefits of going private and will be prompted to regularly check their privacy settings.

Additionally, Instagram has teamed up with ConnectSafely and The Child Mind Institute to deliver a new parental guide that includes tools, tips, resources, conversation starters for parents and teens. The updated guide was also launced in countries like Argentina, Brazil, India, Japan, and Mexico, with plans to roll out in other areas soon.

This is the type of change that brings a tear of joy to my eye.

Instagram is rolling out a feature that will bar adults from messaging teens who don’t follow them.

— Eliza (@elizableu) March 16, 2021

“Instagram can provide young people the opportunity to strengthen connections, practice social skills and find supportive communities,” Dr. Dave Anderson, Clinical Psychologist of Child Mind Institute, said in a statement. “It’s important that teens and parents are equipped with information on how to manage their time on the platform so that it’s thoughtful, safe and intentional. The new Parents Guide we’ve worked on does a great job of distilling what parents should know about how to support their teens as they navigate social media.”

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