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How to make sure strangers can’t contact your kids on social media

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Instagram has announced it is taking steps to make it more difficult for strangers to contact teenagers through its app. A new feature will ban adults from sending direct messages to people under age 18 who don’t follow them. If an adult tries to do so, they’ll receive a notification explaining they can’t direct message the account.

A blogpost from Instagram’s parent company Facebook explains this is just one of the updates they are implementing in their efforts to “keep our youngest community members safe.”

If an adult is social media friends with a teenager, Instagram may prompt the teen to be cautious if they decide to have private messaging conversations. The safety notices will tell young people if an adult they are interacting with is exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior. For instance, if an adult is trying to send messages to a lot of people under 18, the young account holder will get a safety notification from Instagram. The notice gives teenagers the option of ending the conversation and then restricting, blocking or reporting the adult.

If kids really want to chat with adult strangers, they can always lie about their age when they sign up. But Instagram says it’s “developing new artificial intelligence and machine learning technology” to help apply these new safety features. The company hasn’t given any more information about how the new tech works, but says it will use it along with the age a user gives to help make interactions safer on the app.

After reading these features coming to Instagram, I was glad but also annoyed the company was placing all the onus on teenagers. If the app felt an adult was participating in potentially suspicious behavior, why wouldn’t it block or restrict the adult? The good news is that Instagram is taking action in that regard as well. In the coming weeks, if the company notices suspicious behavior, like an adult trying to interact will a lot of teenagers, it could take steps to make it more difficult for the adult to do so. Instagram may do things like restrict the adult from seeing teen accounts in ‘Suggested Users’ or could possibly hide their comments from public posts by young people.

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While this is a step in the right direction from Instagram, do teen users of other social media apps have the same protections? While Instagram is teens’ second favorite social media platform, according to a recent survey from Piper Sandler, Snapchat is still on top and TikTok is at No. 3.

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Snapchat makes it a little more difficult for strange adults to contact young people because the adult would need to know the teen’s username to send them a message. To make sure that doesn’t happen, young users should verify their settings are such that only friends can contact them directly or view their story.

TikTok offers a couple of ways to restrict who can send messages to a child’s account. If a parent has paired their account with their teenager’s (which I highly recommend), the parent can decide who can contact the child or whether to turn off direct messaging completely. Those over 16 can also control who can send them direct messages through their privacy and safety account settings. TikTok does not allow any private messaging for those under 16 years old.

It will be a lot easier to stop unknown adults from messaging teens by making sure their accounts are always set to private. TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram all allow the option of a public or private account. A private account will only allow those accepted as friends to see posts, photos and videos.

It’s understandable that some teens who are creators or athletes trying to gain a following for their career may desire to have a public account where everyone can see their content. If this is the case, parents should remember to have thoughtful conversations on a regular basis with their kids about potential dangers of direct messaging strangers.

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A quick reminder too that for these three (and most) social media apps, users should be at least 13 years old.

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As we try to help our kids navigate their online safety, look for a new parents guide coming soon to Instagram. It will include tips and conversation starters to help parents have meaningful discussions with their teens about life online.

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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August

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Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?

This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.

As per LinkedIn:

As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.” 

LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.

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Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:

  1. Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
  2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
  3. Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
  4. Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  5. Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
  6. Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
  7. Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
  8. Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
  9. Learning Python with Joe Marini
  10. Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
  11.  Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
  12. Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
  13. Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
  14. Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
  15. SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
  16. Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  17. Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
  18. Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
  19. Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
  20. Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
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If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.

Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.

The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …

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Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

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Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a pic.twitter.com/2chGZP9hr4

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly

PLANOLY

We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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