Instagram launches new features designed to keep teens safer on the app

Instagram have announced loads of new features aimed at keeping young people safer on the app’s platform that have been launched this month.

The Instagram team have decided to take a stricter approach to what is recommended to teens on the app, will stop people from tagging or mentioning teens that don’t follow them and will nudge teens towards different topics if they’ve been dwelling on one topic for a long time. They’ve also announced the launch of the Take A Break feature in the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

They also plans to launch tools for parents to help them get more involved in their teen’s experiences on Instagram. Parents and guardians will be able to see how much time their teens spend on Instagram and set time limits. Instagram are also providing a new educational hub for parents and guardians.

‘Every day I see the positive impact that Instagram has for young people everywhere,’ Instagram founder, Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram shared. ‘I’m proud that our platform is a place where teens can spend time with the people they care about, explore their interests, and explore who they are. I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram. We’ll continue doing research, consulting with experts, and testing new concepts to better serve teens.’

By providing teens with more tools to better manage their Instagram experience, they’re helping teens to better manage their digital footprint on Instagram

Their ‘Take a Break’ feature comes into effect if someone has been scrolling for a certain amount of time. The app will ask them to take a break from Instagram and suggest that they set reminders to take more breaks in the future. It’ll also show them expert-backed tips to help them reflect and reset. Early test results show that once teens set the reminders, more than 90% of them keep them on.

Dr. Alfiee M. Breland-Noble, a psychologist and founder of mental health nonprofit the AAKOMA project, who said, ‘It is imperative that we equip a diverse population of Gen Z and Gen Alpha youth with the necessary coping skills and tech tools to help them effectively manage their social media use. The well-being of diverse teens, including marginalized youth who face a host of unique societal challenges, is an imperative for me. It was therefore my pleasure to contribute my 25+ years of scientific and clinical knowledge to the development of the “Take a Break” feature for Instagram. This feature is one necessary positive tool to support young people's well-being within the context of healthy social media engagement.’

Instagram have also started to test a new experience for people to see and manage their Instagram activity. As teens grow up, they want more control over how they show up both online and offline so, for the first time, they will be able to bulk delete content they’ve posted like photos and videos, as well as their previous likes and comments.

This tool is particularly important for teens to more fully understand what information they've shared on Instagram, what is visible to others, and to have an easier way to manage their digital footprint. This new experience will be available to everyone in January.

The founder also promised that the app will stop people from tagging or mentioning teens that don’t follow them, that it will be stricter about what is recommend to teens in Search, Explore, Hashtags and Suggested Accounts and that it will nudging teens towards different topics if they’ve been dwelling on one topic for a while. They also set about defaulting teens into private accounts when they signed up for Instagram, and stopped adults from being able to DM teens who don’t follow them.

They are currently testing these changes to further minimize the possibility that teens will hear from those they don’t know, or don’t want to hear from, and plan to make them available to everyone early next year.

Lastly, their research shows — and external experts agree, — that if people are dwelling on one topic for a while, it could be helpful to nudge them towards other topics at the right moment. That’s why we’re building a new experience that will nudge people towards other topics if they’ve been dwelling on one topic for a while.

Dr. Phillippa Diedrichs, a Professor of Psychology at the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of West England Bristol, agreed that nudging techniques show promise, saying ‘over the past eight months, I've been working with the Instagram team to brainstorm ways to help users have a positive experience and avoid social comparisons. Nudges are a behaviour change technique studied by behavioural economists for over a decade. They've been applied successfully to issues like climate change, employee well-being and altruism. More recently, digital nudges have been studied as a way to improve users' experiences online without compromising their freedom and personal choice.’

‘This is just a snapshot of our work.’ Adam Mosseri said. ‘We’re also continuing to develop innovative new solutions to verify people’s ages on Instagram, for example. As always, I’m grateful to the experts and researchers who lend us their expertise in critical areas like child development, teen mental health and online safety, and I continue to welcome productive collaboration with lawmakers and policymakers on our shared goal of creating an online world that both benefits and protects many generations to come.’

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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