Instagram has recently rolled out a collection of new parental control features for users in the UK. Addressing concerns about the potentially negative mental health effects of the social network, these new tools are expected to help parents better help keep their teenagers safe online.

So what has changed?

New daily time limits

One of the biggest concerns parents have about Instagram is how long their children spend on the social network every day. The ‘infinite scroll’ design of Instagram means that the app continually loads new content, encouraging users to spend much longer on the platform than expected.

With teenagers spending hours scrolling through their feeds, parents have been worried that important tasks (like schoolwork) were being neglected. To help address this issue, Instagram has introduced a ‘daily time limit’ setting.

Using this new tool, parents will be able to set a daily limit of between 15 minutes and two hours. Once the time limit expires, the app will show a black screen and the teenage user will no longer be able to access their Instagram feed.

Controls for virtual reality content

Meta, the company that owns Instagram, has also improved parental controls on their Quest virtual reality (VR) platform. As well as requiring adult approval for new app purchases, parents can now block inappropriate apps and view their child’s friend list. With greater visibility of how teenagers are using Quest, parents will be able to help steer them away from harmful content and online predators.

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Despite Meta’s efforts, harmful content is still uploaded to Instagram where it is publicly accessible by impressionable teenagers. This has led to the development of a new “nudge” tool that suggests alternative posts and accounts if a user continually searches for the same content. The idea is to encourage teenagers to look at other information and sources if they appear to be fixated on a particular topic.

Why are parents concerned about Instagram?

Officially, Instagram is only for use by people aged 13 or older. However, Meta acknowledges that many younger children use both Instagram and the Quest VR platform and they could be exposed to content that is inappropriate.

Without the ability to “see” what their children are looking at, many parents are rightly concerned about what they are being exposed to. And these concerns seem to be well-founded. A secret internal report leaked from Meta last year found that teenagers blamed Instagram for increased feelings of anxiety and depression. There are even instances of teenagers killing themselves after viewing self-harm and suicide content on the social network.

Hopefully these new tools will allow parents to regain some control and help them to better protect their teenage children. However, for detailed insights across all of your child’s apps and social media accounts, you may need a more complete solution like Panda Dome Family – you can find out more here.