Instagram now prevents random adults from messaging teens

Instagram has detailed a number of new changes intended to help protect young users on the platform, including teens and those who may be younger. Among the changes is a new limitation that will prevent random adults from sending direct messages to accounts belonging to teenagers, requiring the teen to first 'follow' the adult to remove the restriction.

Generally speaking, Instagram users are age 13 or older — though, the company notes in its most recent update, the minimum age requirement doesn't prevent younger kids from lying about their age. The company aims to protect these young users, one method of which is the new DM restriction between adult and teen accounts.

A teenager under the age of 18 will only receive direct messages from adults they follow; DMs from other random adults they don't follow will be blocked entirely to protect them from potentially harmful or predatory messages. The adult who attempts to message a teen that doesn't follow them will see an alert telling them that sending a DM 'isn't an option.'

The feature relies on machine learning to predict a user's age, removing the limitation that comes with using the age the user input when creating the account — though that info is factored in, too. Instagram explains that verifying a user's age online is tricky, but its AI and machine learning techniques will help address the matter.

In addition, Instagram says it will start showing teens safety prompts that advise them to be cautious about DMing adults they follow. These notices will appear if the system detects that the adult account has been 'exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior' in the private messages. Instagram is also encouraging teens to make their accounts private for extra safety.