Grab your kids’ phones and make sure they have these new settings turned on.

By Marisa Cohen
September 27, 2017
NurPhoto/Getty Images

If you have a tween or teen, there’s a pretty good chance your kid is on Instagram. And if she’s on Instagram, there’s also a good chance someone out there has commented something super nasty on one of her posts. According to one survey, Instagram is now the largest platform for cyber-bullying, beating out Facebook (which your kid will tell you is “just for old people” anyway).

But in an effort to add a little kindness to a world that seems to get nastier by the day, the team at Instagram has added two important new features to help its 800 million users—both kids and adults—feel less hate and more love.

You Have More Control Over Who Can Comment and What They Can Say:

Instagram first started taking on trolls and cyber-bullies in June, when the app added a filter to block offensive comments (to make sure it’s on, first update to the latest version of the app, then go to settings under your profile, click on Comments, and confirm that “Hide Offensive Comments” is clicked on). You can also choose specific words to filter, so if your child has been called a particularly nasty name by the mean girls, you can go ahead and block that word forever from her phone.

The newest anti-bullying feature, however, goes one step further. If a particular user is constantly making nasty remarks, you can now type that person’s name into “Block Comments From” under the Comments controls, and you never have to see their poisonous words ever again. And here’s a key point—the kid will never know your child has blocked him or her.

You Can Reach Out to Kids Who Are in Trouble:

Another potentially life-saving new feature addresses all those terrible stories we’ve heard about kids posting live videos sharing their suicidal or harmful thoughts. The new feature allows users to anonymously report someone in distress: Instagram will then immediately send a notice saying “We’re reaching out to offer help” with options to instantly get connected to a 24/7 helpline, read suggestions about how to find help, or call a friend they trust.

You Can Send Some Kindness Into the Cyber-Sphere:

The third new feature isn’t quite as life-changing, but it is very sweet. You can now send “kindness” stickers—which are basically colorful heart emojis with a little extra oomph to them. Instagram is also sponsoring “kindness walls” in cities around the world. Artists will paint colorful murals encouraging people to be nice to one another; if you spot one, take a photo in front of the wall, write something positive, and post it with the tag #KindComments.

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