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What is a Finsta and does your teenager have one?
Teenagers are creating secret social media accounts to post what they don't want parents to see. Moms and dads should learn what they are, how they work, and how to find out if their teen has one. - photo by Amy Iverson
A Finsta is the word the world has invented for a fake (or second) Instagram account. Fake + Instagram = Finstagram = Finsta.

People create their Finstas for various reasons, but it is most often so that parents and school officials dont see the posts. Lots of kids say they only allow their closest friends to follow these accounts; usually fewer than 50 people. One user told Teen Vogue that her Finsta more accurately shows her real life, while her Rinsta (real Instagram account) is carefully curated.

Many teenagers migrated over to Instagram to get away from the prying eyes of grown-ups who took over Facebook in recent years. And now that 28 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds are on Instagram, teens feel forced to either switch to SnapChat (if their parents will let them) or try to secretly create a Finsta. Instagram made this option much easier last year when it allowed users to have one login for up to five different accounts.

Parents may be thinking theres no way their child has a top-secret social media account. In a recent National Cyber Security Alliance study, 60 percent of teen internet users admitted they had secret online accounts. But only 28 percent of parents suspected their child might have an account unknown to mom and dad.

Why your teen having a Finsta could be bad

While the majority of Finsta users are girls, many boys use them as well. And all across the country, teenagers are using these so-called spam accounts to bully and humiliate other kids. When parents, school officials, and even peers dont know who created the accounts, it can lead to the user posting unflattering photos of people with others piling on the mean comments.

My friend is a teacher at a middle school, and someone created a Finsta using a very sexually explicit handle which included her name. She was devastated. When she complained to the schools administration, they told her there was nothing they could do about it. She also reported it to Instagram with no response. Eventually the account disappeared, but this goes to show that parents and school officials may need some education on this issue and how to handle it appropriately and respectfully.

Teens often use their Finsta as a place to say and show things they would never put on their Rinsta. Observers often note that fake accounts will include sexually suggestive handles and bios. Add to that a profile picture that has gone through a filter or makes it difficult to tell who it is, and it can be tough to figure out who owns any specific account.

Most are set to private so followers must be approved. But then, like SnapChat, teens gain a false sense of anonymity. Remember, anyone can take a screenshot and share it, it can be easy to mistakenly post something publicly when you meant to post it privately, and that teens get mad at each other all the time, changing alliances and friendships depending on the day. Those who were a teens close friends one day may be their archenemies the next.

Remind your kids they wouldnt want to give these former friends ammunition to fuel any potential drama. Also, Instagram could change their privacy settings at any time and everything suddenly becomes public, plus Instagram saves every picture we post, whether we eventually delete it or not.

How do you know if your child has a Finsta? Before parents go snooping, try a good old-fashioned conversation first. It could be just a general chat about the phenomenon, or you could flat out ask them if they have one. If they say yes, ask to see it. If they hesitate, that could be a sign you need to check it out. Then, depending on what you find, decide how to proceed.

Go on their phone and open their Instagram (you should already have their phones passcode and their Instagram login information). Click on their profile on the right bottom corner of the screen. On their profile page, if there are multiple accounts, they will show up when you tap on their username at the top of the screen.

Parents will need to decide on a case by case basis whether a Finsta is a good idea for their teen or not. Now that you know what they are, how they work, and why kids use them, at least you can make an educated decision. Good luck!
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