In 2020, there were 1.2 billion unique users active on Instagram. Twenty-five to 34-year-olds represent the majority on the social media platform, but children under 11 years are scrolling along with them. Despite an age requirement of 13 years, 11% of parents with children between ages nine and 11 said their children use Instagram. Another 3% of parents with children between ages 5 and 8 said their children are active on the platform.
In the digital age of rapidly advancing technology, keeping children safe online can be a daunting task. Fortunately, Instagram is on parents’ side and has recently upped its internet security game by releasing an important new safety feature to protect minors.
Among many other things parents can do to enhance their children’s internet safety, we’ve covered the details here on Instagram’s new safety feature:
- What is the new safety feature?
- How does the safety feature work?
- Other ways to keep children safe online
Instagram’s DM Restriction
Instagram’s new safety feature covers a couple of essential bases to ensure enhanced safety for minors. The first is the restriction of Direct Messages from adults to anyone under 18 who does not follow them.
To put that into perspective, here’s how it works: An adult, whether with ill-intentions or not, tries to send a DM to a minor who doesn’t follow them. A notification will pop up that lets the adult know they will not be able to DM the intended minor recipient.
This feature gives parents who are keeping a close eye on their child’s social media activity the peace of mind of knowing strangers cannot send their child DMs.
Instagram’s DM Prompts and Notifications
What about adult accounts minors do follow or have already DMed with? To target another avenue of internet safety, Instagram has launched a feature that sends the young user notifications and prompts regarding potential predators.
Suppose a child follows someone who has exhibited specific suspicious behavior, like mass following or spam messaging minor accounts. In that case, the minor will receive a notification that the account has been identified as suspicious. Then, they will have the option to block, report or restrict the adult’s contact with them.
What Else Can Parents Do to Ensure Their Children’s Internet Safety?
Parents who are well-aware of the potential risks online may have already identified gaps in Instagram’s new safety features. Of course, we don’t recommend relying solely on a social media platform to ensure your child’s safety.
Fortunately, there are some precautions that parents can take to double down on online safety to keep their children protected from internet predators, hackers, or anyone else with ill-intentions.
Secure your child’s device
Smartphones, tablets and other internet-capable devices have built-in safety options that allow parents to secure the device. Some of those include:
- Passcodes for device access
- Passwords for applications like Instagram
- Built-in parental controls
- Location service settings
- Browser settings
Be aware of parental control options
Outside of device-specific parental controls, apps and other internet features help parents encourage and enforce safe social media use. Parental control apps come in both free and paid options and give parents back the control in keeping their kids safe online. Here are some popular parental control apps:
- FamilyTime Premium
- Net Nanny
- Kaspersky Safe Kids Premium
- Safety for Kids
Regulate time spent online
Parents and their children should work together to establish time for non-school-related internet browsing. Set a timer and stick to the rules. You should also consider moving internet free time to an easily-monitored location, especially for younger kids.
Speak openly about the do’s and don’ts of social media
Leading by example is one of the most effective things parents can do when teaching safe internet usage. Make sure your children witness positive and safe online practices, including on social media platforms like Instagram. Speak often about the risks and benefits of the internet and how they should handle various situations.
Key Takeaways: Instagram’s New Safety Feature
Instagram’s recent upgrade to security features for its youngest users demonstrates its commitment to enhancing safety. The new feature places restrictions on adult users, prohibiting them from direct messaging any minor that doesn’t follow them. It also takes safety a step further and notifies minors when they’re interacting with an adult that has been flagged for suspicious behavior.
As social media platforms like Instagram work toward enhanced security for minors, parents must continue to take the lead when it comes to their children’s online safety.