Instagram will limit sensitive content for new teen users by default

Instagram automatically turns on its most restrictive content filter for all new users under the age of 16 – and recommends existing teenage users do the same, the platform announced in a blog post. Instagram rebranded it earlier this summer, which are now categorized as Less, Standard, and More, allowing users to restrict content featuring violence, sexual imagery, cosmetic surgery, and other “sensitive” topics. Only users over the age of 18 can access the More setting, which offers the least filtered version of Instagram available to the public. (Note: this may confuse some users used to Instagram’s older settings, where the “Restrict even more” option meant the strictest content controls.)

Now new Instagram users under the age of 16 have the Less setting turned on by default, which impacts the type of content they see across the platform, including in Search, Reels, Suggested Accounts, Hashtags, and In-Feed Recommendations. Instagram will also ask all existing teen users to conduct a “attitude review” and limit who can share their content, send them direct messages, and what type of content their followers can see. It’s also asking teens if they’d like to update a feature that lets them limit the time they spend on Instagram.

An Instagram spokesperson told Engadget that an example of the type of content the Less setting would restrict (which the default setting wouldn’t) is video footage of a violent protest. Content settings only apply to accounts that teens aren’t currently following.

Growing concerns about Instagram’s psychological and emotional toll on its youngest users prompted a Senate panel last year to bring in Chief Adam Mosseri for questioning. Before the hearing, the platform unveiled , including one that would notify users if they were spending too much time on the app and an option to automatically report that objectionable content to their parents. And earlier this year, Instagram launched, allowing guardians to monitor who their teen is following and imposing time limits on the app.

Mental health experts believe that parental control on social media is limited — especially given that algorithms are notorious for making mistakes and uncovering risky content. Tech-savvy teens can also easily bypass such parental controls or just watch the content of their choice on another platform or on a friend’s phone.

This latest change probably won’t have too much of an impact on teenage users whose parents or guardians already control their accounts through Instagram. And for teens who are free to roam Instagram, it’s hard to imagine how many will willingly turn on the most restrictive content settings — especially when many of their peers choose the more lenient filter.

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Russell Falcon

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