From now on, all Instagram accounts for those aged under 16 in New Zealand and Australia will automatically be private. 

Announced by Instagram’s parent company Facebook on Wednesday, the changes are designed to protect younger users from suspicious behaviour. 

Instagram’s terms and conditions allow those aged 13 and over to sign up for accounts. Before yesterday, all accounts defaulted to being “public”. Now, accounts for users aged 13 to 16 will be private, unless selected otherwise. That means if you’re under 16, and your account was public, it’ll now be private unless you’ve specifically made it “public” since Wednesday. 

Users aged 16 to 18 are being given the option to remain private or go public. Accounts registered to those over 18 are not impacted. 

Private accounts can only be viewed by those who follow the account, and all followers must be approved by the account holder. No posts, reels or stories show up in explore pages or Instagram searches. 

"We want young people to enjoy using Instagram while making sure we never compromise on their privacy and safety,” says Nick McDonnell, head of policy at Facebook New Zealand.

In Australia, new technology designed to detect “potentially suspicious behavior” on Facebook has also been rolled out. It is not yet known when this will be implemented in New Zealand. 

"We've developed new technology that allows us to find accounts that have shown potentially suspicious behaviour and stop those accounts from interacting with young people's accounts," Facebook says.

Once identified, those accounts will not be shown any content from young people’s accounts, Facebook says.

This week’s changes also coincide with New Zealand’s first ever NetSafety week. Hosted by NetSafe, it’s about raising awareness around online safety.

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