Creating a Finsta (fake Instagram) account on the popular photo platform, Instagram has become the norm for many teens. After all, where’s a teen to go online to get away from the always prying eyes of parents, teachers, employers, coaches, and even other peers? Exactly, if it isn’t Finsta, it will be somewhere else eventually.
Because Instagram now allows users to create and toggle quickly between multiple accounts, teens started creating Finsta accounts. Finsta, in contrast to Instagram accounts, serves multiple purposes, according to the handful of teens I talked to.
Here’s the upside of Finsta: Finsta is a place they can be themselves outside of the filter-driven, perfect-photo culture of Instagram. Sounds refreshing, right? While teens often post to Instagram to garner a high number of likes and quick compliments, on Finsta, it’s understood that likes, perfect photos, and shallow comments are not the goal. Instead, teens that post photos can express real feelings, post imperfect photos, and engage in more meaningful conversations they may not always feel comfortable sharing in a more public forum. All of this sounds like freedom if you are a teen that feels pressure to post daily proof that you’re living a picture-perfect, adventure-filled life.
The flip side of freedom . . .
Still, for all of the good, authentic vibes a Finsta account affords, it’s also a place where teens might also show off by posting photos of illegal activities such as drinking, drugs, parties, or sexy photos they’d never post in the more public stream of Instagram. Because Finsta accounts usually engage with a closed circle of friends, inappropriate content can (and does) get posted more often than not. If you need proof of that statement, just ask your teen to show you his or her Finsta account.
Predictable behavior? Yes. Safe? Not always, which is where parents need to take notice.
A teen’s Finstagram account can backfire in an instant if you consider the culture of underage users, the potential for conflict, and the fact that maturity isn’t always in ample supply when you mix teens, technology, and the perceived confidentiality of a fake, private account.
Finstas exist to throw parents and other adults off a teen’s digital path. Also, with semi-anonymity and closed-platform posting comes the potential for cyber bullying, sexting, revenge posting, and amplified drama that can easily spill over from Finsta into the public stream and real life.
Finding your child’s Finsta may be difficult or easy depending on the account name and photo your child chooses to create his or her profile. Allowing your child to have a Finsta account is up to each family. Based on your family ground rules for technology use, you may require your child to provide passwords to all accounts for weekly monitoring. If your trust level is such with your child that you allow a Finsta, a conversation around safety, responsibility, and privacy is an excellent idea.
Family Talking Points on Finsta Accounts:
- Privacy online is non-existent. Total privacy online does not exist. With fake accounts, users often have a perceived sense of privacy and secrecy that can easily backfire. Content shared anywhere online should be considered public. Don’t post anything on a closed Finsta account you would not want to see in the public feed.
- Real consequences remain. While it’s tempting to rant on Finsta about classes, friends, and teachers, or boast about partying or drug use, remember you are always one screenshot away from serious consequences.
- Use discernment always. Getting into the practice of being your true self online is wonderful — however, not everything should be shared. Use modesty, good judgment, and keep private details private. Finsta is not a personal diary. Even using a fake name, it’s clear who Finsta accounts belong to. For that reason, it’s critical to think before you share. A truthful expression isn’t always a safe expression. Responsibility is still required.
- Even good friends can turn. Friends today may not be your friends tomorrow. For that reason, your circle of Finsta friends may use any risky content against you. Share responsibly.
- Report Finsta trolls. Some kids create Finsta accounts with fake names and photos only to reek havoc, gossip, and bully other users. If your child has a Finsta, encourage them to rat out the bullies and trolls by reporting abusive Finsta accounts.
- Kindness is still the goal. Just because an account is private and encourages honesty does not give anyone permission for bullying, name-calling, gossip, and shaming. Kindness still rules every social interaction, no matter what the platform or account persona.
- Show empathy always. When you mix honesty, technology, and impulsive posting, words and emotions can become reckless. The same rules apply to Finsta: Don’t bully and step in if you see anyone else being bullied. Express the same diligence, responsibility, and empathy you would on a public account. Remember: Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).
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