Social media channels are introducing waves of new features that are designed to protect their users from abuse online.

One recent feature on Instagram that has been implemented is a block on the ability of over 18s being able to send messages to those under 18 who don’t already follow them.

Instagram has now taken this one step further and has stated that new accounts created by under 18-year-olds will be automatically set to private.

A private Instagram account gives the account holder far more control over who sees and responds to content posted by them. With a private account those that you don’t approve to follow you cannot see or comment on your stories and posts, and your stories and posts will not feature in Instagram explore and hashtags.

Under 18-year-olds will still be able to switch their account to a public account if they choose to do so, but Instagram has reported that those accounts that are set up as private accounts in the first place are more likely to keep their account private than those who set up a public account and switch to a private account.

This change is very important as Instagram is mainly used by the younger generation and it’s a very popular first social media channel for them to use. It is also a change that has already been implemented by Tik Tok back in January 2021 for accounts run by under 15-year-olds so there should not be a mass exodus to other social media channels as both Tik Tok and Instagram are the current favorites within this age group.

Instagram is not stopping there. They have developed a new technology that allows them to pinpoint accounts that have shown suspicious behaviour.

What do they mean by ‘suspicious behaviour’? They are referring to accounts belonging to adults that may have been blocked or reported by an individual under the age of 18.

If an adult has been flagged for such behavior then Instagram will limit their ability to see posts from younger people’s accounts in explore, reels, or under the ‘Accounts Suggest for you’ section. Instagram will also stop them from following accounts run by young people and stop them from seeing comments posted by young people on other people’s posts.

Both Instagram and Facebook (remember that Instagram is owned by Facebook) are implementing new restrictions on their ad targeting systems to prevent advertisers within their platforms from being able to publish ads that target individuals under the age of 18 based on their age, gender, and geographical location. For businesses that typically target this age group online, this is a big change.

The reason for this change is based on research carried out by youth advocates that have stated that younger people are not well equipped to make purchasing decisions based on these types of ads.

Whilst there is nothing stopping businesses that used to target these age groups from moving their advertisements to Tik Tok and Snapchat, its also possible that these platforms will soon follow suit.

If you are a business such as a driving school, stationery brand, or clothing retailer that classes individuals under the age of 18 as your target audience then adapting your marketing strategies and plans accordingly is needed. Whilst advertisement is not possible on Instagram and Facebook anymore there are no restrictions on organic posts or targeting older family members of these young individuals who may in turn make a purchase on their behalf (a birthday present etc).

However you look at this new feature it is unfortunately needed in the wild west that is the Internet. With social media channels now playing a more active role in protecting their younger users, it will not even scratch the surface of the problem without the continued efforts from parents and a clearer education given to youngsters about how to use the internet safely.

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Published: 3rd Aug 2021

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