Pinterest today introduced a series of new safety features aimed at better protecting teens using its service. The features — which include things like private profiles, more control over followers and message safety controls — are similar to those introduced on other popular social media platforms with teens, like Instagram.
On Pinterest, users ages 16 and older will now be able to opt into either a private or public profile. If they choose to go private, they can still network with friends by sending a unique link that allows them to connect. These private profiles — which remain the default for users under the age of 16 — are not discoverable by others on the platform.
This mirrors the decision made at Instagram, which also defaults users to private if under 16 but then allows teens to opt to turn their profiles public if they choose.
In addition, all users, including teens under 16, will have more control over their followers and will be able to review and remove followers they don’t want tracking their posts. For teens under 16, followers will be removed, forcing them to start fresh and specifically choose who they want to collaborate with and who they trust.
That’s likely going to generate some backlash from teens who have been growing their following and will have to start over re-adding all their friends.
However, these changes come as a necessity given the reporting from earlier this year by NBC News, which exposed how pedophiles had been using Pinterest’s service to curate image boards of young girls. Many of the users under 16 had lied about their ages, which is why their profiles were discoverable. As a result, Pinterest announced a new set of parental controls and updated age verification policies, among other things to better protect its younger users.
At the time, it said it would update other features so teens would be able to safely connect with people they know and trust in the future.
Another of today’s changes follows up on that promise as it makes messaging and group boards available to all users, but only if you give them permission to contact you or collaborate. Teens under 16 will only be able to receive messages from their mutual followers who were accepted through a shared profile link. This link expires after three days or after the sender receives their first five followers with the shareable link, whichever comes first.
Meanwhile, for parents and guardians, Pinterest already offers a feature that requires a passcode they set before a teen can change their account settings. Now caregivers will have the ability to opt in and out of this passcode feature and can update the protected settings on their teen’s account.
Pinterest says all the new features and changes will begin rolling out this week, which means you may not immediately see them today.
The company has needed to address teen safety for some time, given its heavy use among younger users. In its most recent earnings call with investors, the company touted its young demographic.
“We’ve noted this multiple times that Gen Z is our fastest-growing demographic and our largest contributor to overall engagement, which means it’s not just a high growth rate on a small denominator. It’s our largest contributor to overall engagement growth,” said Pinterest CEO Bill Ready. “To be able to say that we have Gen Z, a more recent cohort that’s actually engaging even more deeply than our prior cohorts, I think is quite exceptional.”
Ready noted how young people’s use of the site helped Pinterest pursue its goals of being the first stop to plan for things like travel and shopping. The company has also targeted Gen Z with its shoppable scrapbooking app Shuffles, which went viral last year.