Children under 16 will have their Instagram accounts pre-set to “private” starting this week. The social network will limit the search reach of adult profiles with “potentially suspicious behavior” to prevent access to children’s profiles — the move comes after TikTok changes the default setting for accounts under 18 years old. Advertisers will no longer be able to use activities on other websites to target advertisements to younger users.
Instagram will limit contact with under 16s
The Instagram update should only happen in a few countries at first: Australia, USA, France, Japan and UK. The social network said in a statement that it intends to launch the update for more markets in the future.
The main purpose of the change, according to the company, is to prevent contact between adults with profiles with “potentially suspicious behavior” and young people under 16 years of age.
The classification of suspicious behavior will be done using a built-in Instagram tool. If the account has been recently denounced by minors, for example, the network will limit access to search for juvenile or children’s profiles. These profiles will not be able to follow younger users or find them through the Explore tab or Reels. Accounts under the age of 16 will also not be recommended for this type of user.
8 out of 10 young people on Instagram prefer a private account
In addition to limiting measures in finding who is targeted by moderators, Instagram will make all accounts under 16s private by default; they will have more control over who views posts and who can comment and interact on posts.
In the case of the private account, for example, it is necessary to ask the profile owner’s permission to follow him. Without it, other users don’t have access to content from Feed, Stories and Reels, which also doesn’t appear in Instagram’s search and hashtags tab.
Younger users entering Instagram for the first time already received a message to choose between a private or public account. But a test carried out by the social network itself to measure the opinion of young users about limiting access to their account showed that 80% of respondents say they prefer private account settings.
The update limiting access to minor accounts follows in the footsteps of TikTok, which also pre-set minor accounts as “private” by default. But, unlike the ByteDance platform, Instagram chose to reduce the age.
“Establishing private accounts for under-16s encourages young people to feel comfortable, builds their confidence and skills as digital citizens during their younger years, and helps them develop lifelong habits,” says David Kleeman, vice president from Dubit, developer of children’s apps and games.
If the user wants their account to be public, Instagram will still send notifications on how to change the settings to make it private, warning about the benefits that come with the change.
Social network will limit ads to under 18s
Within a few weeks, Instagram will also limit viewing ads. On the platform, only people over 18 will be able to receive advertisements and sponsored posts based on age, gender and geographic location.
In a survey of people under 18, the social network found that young people are vulnerable to digital ads based on their activities on other sites. “We agree with them, and that’s why we’re taking a more cautious approach to how advertisers can reach young people with ads,” says Instagram in the notice to the market.
Targeting options for advertisers based on preferences and activity history on other sites will disappear not just from Instagram, but from other apps like Facebook and Messenger as well.
Finally, Instagram emphasizes that it will continue to listen to parents and teenagers who must adapt to the new platform rules. But the change was seen as positive by Janice Richardson, International Consultant at Insight SA and a Council European expert on children’s law:
“While teens are generally aware of the risks of sharing personal information, they are often less savvy when it comes to privacy settings. Defining accounts for under-16s as private gives them time to adapt and learn to manage their privacy without in any way restricting their freedom of choice.”