Instagram on Tuesday updated its settings for users under 16 years of age on the platform, defaulting their accounts to a private setting, with less targeted advertising for this set.
The idea, according to Instagram, is to give young people a safer and a more private experience.
Instagram is very popular among teenagers in India and globally. The app, owned by Facebook, has over one billion users worldwide. Though it does not break up users by country, according to Statista, India was the leading country based on Instagram audience size as of April 2021, with 150 million users accessing the photo sharing and editing app, followed by the United States with 140 million users.
“We want young people to enjoy using Instagram while making sure we never compromise on their privacy and safety. We want to strike the right balance of giving young people all the things they love about Instagram while also keeping them safe. That’s why we’re announcing changes we’re making today. We’ll continue listening to them, their parents, lawmakers and experts to build an Instagram that works for young people and is trusted by parents,” said Karina Newton, Public Policy Director – Instagram.
Beginning this week, the change will start to roll out. In some countries, the age limit will be less than 18, instead of 16 for default private account settings.
Private accounts let people control who sees or responds to their content. If you have a private account, people have to follow you to see your posts, Stories and Reels. People also can’t comment on your content in those places, and they won’t see your content at all in places like the Explore section, or hashtags.
“Historically, we asked young people to choose between a public account or a private account when they signed up for Instagram, but our recent research showed that they appreciate a more private experience. During testing, eight out of ten young people accepted the private default settings during sign-up,” Instagram said in a statement.
For those under 16 (or 18) already with a public profile on Instagram, the platform will show them a notification highlighting the benefits of a private account and explain how to change their privacy settings. “We’ll still give young people the choice to switch to a public account or keep their current account public if they wish,” Instagram said.
Another change Instagram is introducing is limiting young users’ activity and visibility to potentially suspicious adult accounts.
“We’ve developed new technology that allows us to find accounts that have shown potentially suspicious behavior and stop those accounts from interacting with young people’s accounts. By “potentially suspicious behavior”, we mean accounts belonging to adults that may have recently been blocked or reported by a young person for example. Using this technology, now we won’t show young people’s accounts in Explore, Reels or ‘Accounts Suggested For You’ to these adults,” said Instagram.
Further, Instagram will also limit the way advertisers reach a younger audience.
“We’re also making changes to how advertisers can reach young people with ads. Starting in a few weeks, we’ll only allow advertisers to target ads to people under 18 (or older in certain countries) based on their age, gender and location. This means that previously available targeting options, like those based on interests or on their activity on other apps and websites, will no longer be available to advertisers. These changes will be global and apply to Instagram, Facebook and Messenger,” the firm said.
Cyberbullying is a leading cause of psychological issues among teenagers and young people the world over, and India is no exception.
A report last year by Child Rights and You (CRY) found that one in three adolescents surveyed reported going through negative experiences on the Internet. Around 10 per cent of the respondents disclosed being subjected to cyber-bullying. Only one in two adolescents reported the cyber-bullying incident.
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