Instagram just made it harder for creeps to prey on teens using the social network. The service is launching a string of preventative measures to keep teens protected, most notably restrictions on direct messages. Adults now can't message under-18s who don't follow them. The restriction works though a combination of the user's claimed age when they sign up as well as machine learning that predicts people's ages — hopefully it's reliable enough to prevent some DMs from slipping through the cracks.
Teens themselves will also get safety notices in their DMs if an adult they've been messaging has been sending a lot of friend and message requests to people under 18. Get one and you'll have options to cut the conversation short, block the adult outright, report them or impose restrictions. The notices will start popping up in "some countries" in March, and should be more widely available soon afterward.
It'll also be more difficult for sketchy adults to find those teens in the first place. Instagram will soon begin exploring ways to prevent adults with potentially dodgy behavior from interacting with teens, such as removing teen accounts from suggestions, Reels and Explore. The social media giant might automatically hide these adults' comments on public posts, too. You should see the first examples of these changes in the coming weeks.
Instagram was already encouraging teens to use private accounts, and has updated its Parents Guide with newer privacy and safety tools.
The new measures are an acknowledgment that teens face a relatively unique set of dangers on Instagram, and that there's only so much the teens and their parents can do to prevent unsavory people from reaching out. It's not clear how well the DM and discovery restrictions will work in practice, but they could be worthwhile if they discourage some creeps and promote a more cautious approach for the teens themselves.