Instagram just announced that it's working to make its platform safer for kids. It has introduced new policies, with more in the pipeline, to keep its underage users safe from preying adults.
Currently, the platform requires a user to be at least 13 years of age in order to register. The problem arises when these teens, who are essentially on their own on the internet, find themselves vulnerable to inappropriate and unwarranted contact from predatory adults. The problem has been a cause of concern across the industry, and Instagram’s lead in addressing it comes as a welcome one.
Though, in all honesty, there is still a long way to go in making social media safe for children.
Instagram has blocked adults from being able to message teenagers that don’t follow them back. In addition to this, they have also introduced safety prompts intended to remind young users of their liberty on the platform. These prompts will be shown to them upon contact from adults who are “exhibiting potentially suspicious behaviour”.
They will remind them not to feel pressured to respond and to “be careful sharing photos, videos, or information with someone you don’t know.” These prompts will also remind them of their options to block or report users for inappropriate contact.
Instagram has not disclosed much about how it will spot potentially suspicious behaviour other than saying adults will be flagged as inappropriate if they send “a large amount of friend or message requests to people under 18”. This will alert Instagram’s moderation systems, which will take action against the user.
The platform also noted the difficulty of verifying users’ ages, calling it as an industry wide problem. It also understands that it is popular among teenagers to lie about their age while signing up. There has been surprisingly little investment made to tackle this problem online.
Instagram is also developing an AI-based mechanism to help detect a user's age when they make an Instagram account. The company didn't, however, reveal how this machine learning tool works and what else it's doing.
The internet, and social media in particular, is inevitably providing platforms for unaddressed social issues to find new playing fields. With the rush to move life online, these issues and potential disasters are being ignored, and the ugly parts of society are being uploaded as fast as pictures of people’s pets — if not faster.
It's refreshing to see tech giants, who are vastly responsible for such interaction, make efforts to make the internet safer for all. This, however, is only the beginning and more work is needed.