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Instagram stops adults from sending messages to teens who don't follow them

The app is rolling out a handful of updates that aim to protect teens from unwanted contact from adults.

Instagram also published an updated parents guide that includes safety tools and privacy settings. 
Angela Lang/CNET

Instagram on Tuesday said it's introducing new features aimed at protecting young people on the photo-sharing app, including prompts about "potentially suspicious" direct messages and restrictions on messages between teens and adults they don't follow. 

"These updates are a part of our ongoing efforts to protect young people — and our specialist teams continue to invest in new interventions that further limit inappropriate interactions between adults and teens," reads the Instagram blog post.

Some of the new features aim to "protect teens from unwanted contact from adults," the company said. Instagram will now block adults from sending direct messages to people under 18 who don't already follow them. Teens will also start seeing safety notices in messages when an adult who is "exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior" -- such as sending a large number of message requests to people under 18 -- is interacting with them in direct messages. 

Instagram said it's adding these new features, in part, because it can be difficult to verify people's ages online. The Facebook-owned app requires people to be at least 13 to have an account, but some young people may lie about their age.

Instagram said it also recently added a new step when someone under 18 signs up for the app that encourages them to opt for a private account. Its latest safety tools and privacy settings are laid out in an updated parents guide, the company said, which also includes "a list of tips and conversation starters" for parents and teens.