‘Finsta’ Is On The Rise. What Should You Do About It?
Finsta, or Fake Insta, is a fake Instagram account created mostly by teens. It’s not to be confused with a secondary or business Instagram account. Finsta is simply a secret account teens use to share images with a smaller and more tightly knit audience. (If you guessed that you, the parent, would not be accepted as a follower of such an account, you would be right.)
Does the digital inter-generational disconnect stop there? A recent study concluded that the gap between parents and children, regarding fake or secret social media accounts, is wide. While around 28% of the surveyed parents thought that their children did have a secret social media account, 60% of teenagers aged between 13 and 17 admitted that they actually did have a secret account without their parents’ permission or knowledge! To navigate the complex relationship that most parents have with their children, it is important to understand why children open a Finsta account.
What is a Finsta account?
Finsta literally means a fake or secret Instagram account. Many teenagers have one, and most teens you know probably have one. Before you get alarmed, understand that fake accounts are not intrinsically bad. Think of them as the 21st century version of the secret diary - a space for children to be more honest and upfront with their opinions.
Prior to 2016, Instagram did not allow a single profile to be linked to multiple accounts. If users wanted to create multiple profiles, they had to have a separate email id dedicated to each account, and create entirely separate Instagram profiles. When an increasing number of users reported that this was inconveniencing them, Instagram permitted linking multiple profiles under the same account. Currently, users can add up to five profiles to the same account. This change made it possible for teens to toggle easily between their Insta and Finsta accounts.
Ways teens use Finstas
• Creating Multiple Personas: Teens may have several Finstas, each portraying a different side of their personality. These personas could range from goofy and carefree to more serious and reflective.
• Connecting with Strangers: Some teens use Finstas to connect with strangers who share similar interests. This allows them to form niche communities outside their usual social circles.
• Innocent Sharing: Many teens use Finstas innocently, sharing funny or goofy images. They may also use it as a platform to vent personal feelings, keeping these expressions within a close circle.
• Avoiding Mainstream Scrutiny: Finstas provide a haven for teens who want to share content without the pressure of mainstream scrutiny. It's a space where they can be themselves without the judgment of their entire follower list.
• Sinister Purposes: Unfortunately, some teens exploit Finstas for darker activities such as stalking or bullying. The anonymity provided by Finstas allows them to engage in illicit activities while staying under the radar.
• Spam Finstas: Some Finstas explicitly carry the tag 'spam.' These accounts are often used for harmless activities, like oversharing personal views on various issues. They can be recognized by the word ‘spam’ preceding the name of the profile owner. Access to the contents of this account typically requires authorization from the profile owner.
The risks associated with a Finsta account?
On its own, very little. As mentioned earlier, it’s quite comparable to a diary or secret journal. Although Finstas appear innocuous, they come with a set of risks. Understanding these risks is crucial for us parents seeking to guide their teens through the complex world of social media.
• Cyberbullying Danger: Despite its appearance as a personal diary, Finstas can expose teens to cyberbullying. Closed off to parents, these accounts are open to the world, making it a breeding ground for hurtful comments and online harassment.
• Inappropriate Content Leak: Initially used for innocent posts, Finstas can take a darker turn as teens succumb to peer pressure. Older teens might be influenced to post compromising images or engage in harmful activities, risking their reputation and potentially facing legal consequences.
• Pressure to Conform: The pressure to stay socially relevant on mainstream platforms like Instagram is immense. As Finstas became a mark of 'coolness,' teens may feel compelled to create one, exposing them to unforeseen risks.
• Age-Appropriate Content: Younger teens may start Finstas with harmless, goofy images. However, as they grow older, the pressure to conform may lead to the sharing of inappropriate content that can have severe repercussions.
• Peer Influence on Risky Behaviors: Peer pressure can evolve into coercion, pushing teens towards risky behaviors like bullying, alcohol consumption, or drug experimentation. These activities can be documented on Finstas, creating a digital trail that can harm a teen's future.
• Legal Consequences: Posting illegal or compromising images, even within a closed circle, poses significant risks. The leaked content could lead to severe consequences such as school expulsion or rejection from colleges based on disciplinary grounds.
How parents can talk to their children about Finstas and set boundaries
• Gauge Their Online Activities: Observe your child's online behavior without being invasive. If you sense something amiss, check for multiple Instagram accounts discreetly.
• Be Objective and Open-Minded: Approach the conversation with an open mind. Let your child know you're aware of Finstas and discuss the potential risks associated with such accounts.
• Express Your Concerns: Share your concerns about online safety and the impact of Finsta on their lives. Emphasize that your intention is to protect and guide them, not to invade their privacy.
• Remind Them You Are In Charge: Reiterate that, as a parent, you co-own the devices and have the right to check them. Avoid being overly authoritative; instead, emphasize the importance of trust and communication.
• Encourage Open Dialogue: Foster an environment where your child feels comfortable discussing their online activities. Be a supportive listener rather than a judgmental authority figure.
• Educate on Responsible Use: Discuss the consequences of inappropriate online behavior. Help them understand the long-term impact such activities can have on their reputation and future opportunities.
• Set Clear Boundaries: Collaboratively establish rules and boundaries for online activities. Ensure your child understands the importance of responsible social media use.
Parents, we know that social media can be intimidating to some of you. However, it is an integral part of your children’s lives and, therefore by extension, it’s an integral part of yours too. Strike the right balance between being assertive and lenient while discussing Finsta, and you should be able to guide your children effectively.