18 March 2021

Instagram announce new tools to help keep under 18s safer

Boy on phone-Net aware Instagram news article_sml

Instagram has announced new measures to help make the platform safer for young people. The new safety tools will help to stop adults from sending direct messages to under 18s who do not follow them and educate teens on how they can keep their profile private. Here’s what we think.

What changes are Instagram making?

To stop young people receiving unwanted contact, Instagram has announced that adults will no longer be able to send private direct messages to under 18s who they aren’t following.

This means that if an adult tries to direct message a teenager who doesn’t follow them, they will be told that this option isn’t available to them. Instagram will use AI technology and the date of birth given when a user creates an account to manage this tool.

While this will help to stop some unwanted contact, it won’t stop adults they do follow from contacting them. You should make sure to have regular conversations with your child about who they’re following on the app and show them how to remove a follower.

Instagram will also monitor interactions between adults and young people, and notify a young person if an adult they’re talking to has been exhibiting suspicious behaviour. For example, if they’ve been sending direct messages to a number of under 18 accounts.

The notice will include advice about how they can end, block or report the conversation.

We would recommend talking to your child about this notice and ask them to come to you if they ever receive it. Remind them that they won’t be in trouble, but you’ll just want to help keep them safe. And if you need to speak to someone for advice, you can call the NSPCC Helpline Monday to Friday 8am – 10pm or 9am – 6pm at the weekends on 0808 800 5000.

Instagram users should start to see these notices being rolled out over the next few months.

Instagram has added a new step to their sign-up process for under 18s. Now when a young person creates an account they will be asked whether they want to set the profile to public or private automatically.

Previously all users had to go into their settings to manually edit them. The platform hopes this prompt will encourage more young people to set their account to private.

If the young person doesn’t choose to set their profile to private straight away, they will receive a notification at a later date encouraging them to switch their account to private.


What do we think?

Instagram’s announcement is a good first step in helping to keep under 18s safer on the platform. However, because they’re not switching off DMs completely between adults and under 18s there is still a risk your child could be contacted by an adult. Any adults your child follows on Instagram already will still be able to message them.

If your child has a public account, adults who they don’t follow will still be able to comment on their posts.

You should make sure to talk to your child about who they’re following on the app. Set some rules about who they can talk to and remind them to let you know if they’ve received a DM from an adult – even if it’s an adult they know.

It’s important to ensure your child knows they can come to you or another trusted adult, like a teacher, or a Childline Counsellor if they need to talk to about something that’s happened online.

Our top tips to keep your child safe on Instagram

1. Make sure they sign up with the correct date of birth.

2. Encourage them to set their profile to private straight away and change any existing accounts as well.

3. Have regular conversations with them about what they’re sharing and who they’re talking to on the app.

4. Show them how to remove, block and report on Instagram.


Check out our full review for more advice and information on the parental controls available on Instagram.

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