Giving Young People a Safer, More Private Experience

July 27, 2021

Update on December 10, 2021 at 6PM PT: Our change to default teens into private accounts when they join Instagram will take effect on the web version and IG Lite over the next several weeks.

Creating an experience on Instagram that’s safe and private for young people, but also fun comes with competing challenges. We want them to easily make new friends and keep up with their family, but we don’t want them to deal with unwanted DMs or comments from strangers. We think private accounts are the right choice for young people, but we recognize some young creators might want to have public accounts to build a following.

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’ll make today, including:

  • Defaulting young people into private accounts.
  • Making it harder for potentially suspicious accounts to find young people.
  • Limiting the options advertisers have to reach young people with ads.

Defaulting people under 16 into private accounts

Wherever we can, we want to stop young people from hearing from adults they don’t know, or that they don’t want to hear from. We believe private accounts are the best way to prevent this from happening. So starting this week, everyone who is under 16 years old (or under 18 in certain countries) will be defaulted into a private account when they join Instagram.

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 unless you choose to allow others to reshare your content. People also can’t comment on your content in those places, and they won’t see your content at all in places like Explore 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.

For young people who already have a public account on Instagram, we’ll show them a notification highlighting the benefits of a private account and explaining 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.

“While most platforms have set their minimum age for participation at 13, there’s no on/off switch that makes someone ready to be a fully media-literate participant on that birthday. Defaulting accounts to private for under-16s encourages young people to develop comfort, confidence and capability as digital citizens during their younger years and help them develop habits to last a lifetime.”

— David Kleeman, Senior Vice President, Global Trends | Dubit

We also published an article today outlining the steps we’re taking as a company to understand people’s ages across our apps.

“These new updates represent important progress towards creating a safer, more private experience for young people on Instagram. In particular, using machine learning to understand when it might not be appropriate for an adult to interact with a teen puts teens in the driver’s seat as far as who they interact with, and defaulting teens under 16 into private accounts helps young people keep their content less visible to adults.”

— Larry Magid, CEO | ConnectSafely

Stopping unwanted contact

Encouraging young people to have private accounts is a big step in the right direction when it comes to stopping unwanted contact from adults. But we’re going even further to make young people’s accounts difficult to find for certain adults.

We’ve developed new technology that will allow 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. If they find young people’s accounts by searching for their usernames, they won’t be able to follow them. They also won’t be able to see comments from young people on other people’s posts, nor will they be able to leave comments on young people’s posts. We’ll continue to look for additional places where we can apply this technology.

We’re rolling out these changes in the US, Australia, France, the UK and Japan to start and will look to expand to more countries soon.

“It is good to see Instagram utilizing technological solutions to minimize the opportunities for adults who behave suspiciously on the app to discover minors. This is a strong move to build on their work earlier this year to prevent all unconnected adults from being able to message minors. I appreciate the new policy to default new users who say they are under 16 years of age to a private account. We routinely recommend that teens have all of their social media profiles set to private so that they have better control over who can see what they post. Defaulting to private just makes sense as adolescents explore the boundaries of what they want to share with whom.”

— Justin Patchin, Co-director | Cyberbullying Research Center

Changing how advertisers can reach young people

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.

We believe in showing people relevant ads so they can discover and purchase products that are interesting to them. In order to show people the most relevant ads, advertisers choose the types of people they want to see their ads. That could include choosing to show their ads to people with certain interests (like basketball) or based on information that they – or other partners – share with us about their activity on their website and apps. That’s information like whether someone put a certain pair of shoes in their shopping cart or browsed for a new summer grill.

We already give people ways to tell us that they would rather not see ads based on their interests or on their activities on other websites and apps, such as through controls within our ad settings. But we’ve heard from youth advocates that young people may not be well equipped to make these decisions. We agree with them, which is why we’re taking a more precautionary approach in how advertisers can reach young people with ads.

When young people turn 18, we’ll notify them about targeting options that advertisers can now use to reach them and the tools we provide to them to control their ad experience. If you’re a business looking for more information, please visit our Help Center.

Looking ahead

We want young people to enjoy using Instagram while making sure we never compromise on their privacy and safety. 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.

“Instagram’s strategy to proactively weed out potential predators is a welcome innovation; teens have a right to explore their social selves freely without having to worry about predators lurking in the shadows. Whilst teens are generally aware of the risks in sharing personal information, they are often less ‘street savvy’ when it comes to privacy settings. Defaulting young people into private accounts gives them time to adapt and learn to manage their privacy without restricting their freedom of choice in any way.”

— Janice Richardson, International advisor at Insight SA, expert to the Council of Europe