Is Instagram Finally Safe For Kids?

Shivani  Desai image
Shivani Desai
April 25, 2024

Kids and social media. It’s a topic that causes anxiety to parents left and right, and as a mother of two young girls, it’s one of the top issues that come to my mind as my husband and I raise them. Almost a year ago, I highlighted the steps that the state of Utah was taking to protect minors on social media. Now, I’m back with another update. 

Instagram recently announced that it would be implementing additional protection measures to combat sextortion scams and educate teens about the risks of sharing intimate content online. What exactly are sextortion scams, you ask? Essentially, sexual extortion, or “sextortion” occurs when one person pressures another person into sending explicit photos of themselves. They then threaten to make those images public unless the victim pays a financial ransom or engages in other explicit activities. Recently, there was a case where two Nigerian brothers pled guilty to sexually extorting teen boys across the country. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only instance where sextortion has taken place. There are numerous cases and in one particular instance, it led to a 17 year old boy taking his own life. 

 As a parent, I believe this move is a significant step forward to promoting safe and responsible use of the platform. It’s crucial for social media platforms to take proactive measures to safeguard their users.  

So what are the “new protection measures”?

First, Instagram plans to automatically blur DMs that are suspected of containing nude images, especially for users under the age of 18. This protects recipients from unwanted exposure, but also includes warnings about the risks associated with responding or sharing their own explicit images. Now, the argument can be made that the easiest answer here is to just avoid sharing explicit images altogether, which I do agree with. But, I’m also not naive, and I understand that sharing this type of content has become more normalized and can be fine for consenting adults. These warnings will, at the very least, serve as a reminder and hopefully a deterrent for kids to avoid engaging in this type of communication.

Second, Instagram is taking full advantage of various types of advanced technology to uncover and identify the accounts that are engaging in sextortion activities. Basically, they’re trying to stop the accounts before they even begin to message other accounts. Instagram plans to analyze various signals of this type of behavior, and from there, take quick action against these accounts. With technology evolving, this seems like an excellent step to continue their efforts in protecting young adults. Stopping the culprits before they’ve even had a chance to engage with potential victims can only help in the long run. 

Third, Instagram is also testing out pop-up messages to let users know if they have interacted with accounts removed for sextortion, which helps increase awareness and ideally, prevent future incidents. 

In addition to these new tools, Instagram is also upping its child protection game with new measures across the internet, including teaming up with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Lantern, a non-profit that fights against human trafficking. 

As a parent, I’m pleasantly surprised to see Instagram is stepping up to protect our kids from sextortion scams. It shows that they see the dangers that are lurking on their platform, and that they’re serious about making the online world a safer place. By using evolving technology and education, they’re taking the steps necessary to continue to evolve the platform and their respective safety measures to stay up-to-date with the world.