Does Your Teen Have a Secret Life Online?
All you need to know about Finsta.
We’ve all heard the stories of girls as young as 11 and 12 posting shockingly inappropriate selfies on Instagram, and parents around the country had a collective heart attack when Harvard announced last month that it was taking back the admissions offers to at least ten high school seniors who had posted obscene memes on Facebook. It’s a sad fact of life now: what your kid is like on social media can be very different from the kid you think you know.
And even parents who diligently follow their child on Instragram may not be getting the entire picture. Because there is rinsta (real Instagram), and then there’s finsta (fake Instagram).
“Rinsta is the Instagram account that everyone can follow, even your parents,” explains one 14-year-old who wishes to remain anonymous. That’s where you post cute pictures of your puppy or of your friends sharing a giant cupcake. “Your finsta is a private account where you post things only for your closest friends,” the teen adds, using the term that has made its way into the Urban Dictionary. According to several reports, finsta is where teens feel they can go wild, posting pictures in their underwear (or worse), or bragging about hookups, drinking, and other bad behavior.
In many cases, the finsta is just a harmless way for kids to share inside jokes with a few friends, but it may also be the repository for photos and statements that you definitely do not want your kid sharing with the world (and we all know that even “private” photos have a way of living forever on the Internet).
If you’re concerned that the Instagram feed you’ve been following is not telling you the whole story, there’s a simple way to find out if your kid has a finsta: Go to the Instagram app on her phone, and tap on the profile icon all the way on the bottom right. Once you tap that, you should see your child’s name at the top of the screen. If he or she has more than one account, an arrow will appear next to the name—click on that to see a drop-down menu of all accounts. (Whether you ask her to show you her phone or you look secretly when she’s left it in the charger is entirely up to your own personal parenting philosophy.)
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Hopefully all you’ll see are some very silly photos. But if you see something alarming, then it’s time to have a real talk—in person, not online—with your child.