Facebook and Instagram will limit advertisers’ ability to target teens

Instagram will also start setting younger teens’ accounts to private by default.

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KIRCHHEIM UNTER TECK, GERMANY - MARCH 09: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) In this photo illustration, The Facebook and Instagram logos on the screen of an iPhone on March 09, 2021 in Kirchheim unter Teck, Germany. (Photo by Tom Weller/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
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Facebook is taking new steps to limit advertisers’ ability to reach teens with targeted ads. With the change, advertisers will no longer be able to use “interests” or information gleaned from other services to show ads to Facebook, Instagram and Messenger’s youngest users.

The change won’t prevent advertisers from reaching teens at all — they can still use broad demographic information like age, gender, and location — but the update will prevent more granular data from being used, including info from third-party websites and apps.

Instagram is also making several changes to make teens on its platform less visible. The app will begin making new accounts private by default for teens younger than 16, though teens as young as 13 can still opt for a public-facing account if they wish. Instagram said that in early tests “eight out of ten young people accepted the private default settings during sign-up,” suggesting the change could lead more teens to have non-public accounts.

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For teens who do opt for public accounts, Instagram is making it more difficult for adults they don’t know to interact with them in the app. The company says it has “developed new technology” that makes it easier to identify “potentially suspicious behavior” in adults who could pose a risk to teens.

According to Instagram, adults flagged as “potentially suspicious” will be blocked from following teens or commenting on their posts (the app has previously limited adults ability to direct message teens). These adults also won’t see content from teens in Reels, Explore and other in-app recommendations. The company isn’t sharing many details about how it determines which adults might be sketchy, but said one factor would be adults who get blocked or reported by younger users.

The changes come as Instagram is vying for younger users. The company has publicly discussed future plans for a version of its service for children younger than 13 years old. That idea, which the company has said is in early stages, has already prompted pushback from lawmakers and other officials. But Facebook is still pushing ahead with the idea. In a separate blog post, the company again said it plans to work with experts in child development and online safety as it creates the service, and that it welcomes "productive collaboration with lawmakers."

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