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Does Your Teen Have a “Finsta”?

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Do you know if your teen has a Finsta? If you’re not familiar with the word, “Finsta” may sound like a brand name or a new type of e-cigarette. But it’s just an Instagram account – a fake Instagram account. Teens make Finstas using a false name – often using an altered version of their own name or a name that references an inside joke that they and some of their friends would recognize, but that other people wouldn’t know.

Why do teens make Finstas? How do they use them? And how would you know if your teen has one? Take a look at the facts about Finstas – why teens make them, their pros and cons, and what you should do if you suspect that your child has a Finsta account.


Why Do Teens Make Finsta Accounts?

The idea that your teen may have gone out of their way to create a secret social media profile under a false name is understandably scary for parents. You may be envisioning your teenager using this kind of account to attract and meet older boyfriends or girlfriends or to share pictures of wild parties that you didn’t know they attended. And some teens do use a Finsta to do those things. Finstas can also be used for other worrisome activities:

  • Anonymously post harassing messages or photos to a classmate they dislike.
  • Follow and interact with accounts that promote unhealthy behaviors, such as pro-anorexia advocates.
  • Some teens also use Finstas as a way to buy or sell drugs or alcohol without letting the rest of the world know what they’re up to.

But before you panic, it’s important to know that these are not the only reasons that teens make Finsta accounts. Some teens make them because they know that college admissions officers and employers will view their public accounts, so they use Finstas to share fun, silly, frivolous posts with friends, and confine themselves to showing their more serious and studious sides on their public accounts.

Others make Finstas to have a space to talk about serious issues like mental or physical health problems with trusted friends, while not revealing sensitive personal information on more public platforms. Finstas are often private, viewable only to a select circle of friends, and this gives teens more privacy when they want support or comfort from people who are close to them.

Teens may also just make Finstas simply for social reasons. Sharing one’s Finsta account can be a social signal letting another teen know that they’re in the “inner circle” of close, trusted friends, even if there’s nothing particularly special or sensitive being shared by that Finsta account. While this type of dynamic can be problematic, it doesn’t have to be – it could simply be a sign that a particular group of teens shares a close and supportive bond. This gives teens a place to share selfies that they think look funny or interesting, but not attractive enough to show the whole world, or to share thoughts that they might fear would be criticized or ridiculed by the general public, but accepted by their closest friends.

Finally, teens may make Finstas because they know that their parents follow their public Instagram account, and they want some privacy. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re up to anything, just that they want their own space, separate from their parents, even on the internet.

There’s no one reason why teens make Finstas, and not all of their reasons for doing so are cause for alarm. Recognizing this wide variety of reasons for making Finstas can be important for parents who are trying to figure out how to handle the subject of secret social media accounts with their teens.


How Do You Know If Your Teen Has a Finsta?

There are several ways to find out whether your teen has a Finsta, but your first step should be to simply ask them. Snooping through your teen’s phone or computer without their knowledge should be a last resort, reserved for when you have legitimate concerns about your teen’s safety. As their parent, you have the right to know what they’re doing, and even the right to look through their devices, but it’s usually better to be up front about what you want to know and when you’re going to look.

Many teens will at least tell you about their Finstas if you ask, even if they don’t necessarily want you to see or follow their Finsta. If you suspect that your teen is obfuscating about whether they have a Finsta, though, you may be able to tell by looking at their Instagram account. Instagram offers the ability to log in and out of multiple accounts. Click on your teen’s profile and look for an arrow next to their name. If you see the arrow, click on it and you’ll be able to see any other accounts that are linked to the main Instagram account.


Talking to Your Teen About Finstas

The reality is that if your teen has a secret Instagram account that they don’t want you to see, they may be able to find a way to prevent you from ever seeing it. They may be savvy enough not to link the Finsta to their main Instagram account, or to only post to it from a device that you might not check – or might not even know about. You can make it a house rule that your teen won’t have secret accounts that you can’t follow, but you can’t necessarily prevent them breaking that rule.

It’s important to talk to your teen about the possible dangers of Finstas. Let them know that even private accounts aren’t immune to having screenshots taken of them, so things they think are private might not remain that way. And if their accounts show illegal activity, like drug use or serious cyberbullying, teens should be aware that those posts can be traced back to them, no matter how anonymous they think they are.

You can’t control everything that your teens do, but you can make sure that they have the information they need to make good decisions and protect themselves.

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