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Why you should be concerned if your teenager has a Finsta account

Your teenager’s Finsta account could expose them to abuse

A Finsta is a private ‘fake’ or secondary Instagram account reserved by a user for close friends only. It’s a place where teenagers supposedly can relax and share pics they wouldn’t normally post on Instagram – maybe the images are not cool enough, or a little inappropriate.

It’s a place where they can drop their guard and enjoy some time out from the picture-perfect images of Instagram. So why should you, as a parent, be worried?

A Finsta account can be hacked

Many younger users use their Finsta accounts to share silly or embarrassing photos. Older users often share more explicit images of themselves drinking and partying. Suggestive and sexually explicit images are also commonly found amongst Finsta users. Whatever these images contain, they are not for public consumption – which is why they are only displayed in a private Finsta account.

Unfortunately, Finsta accounts can be hacked and the images shown in the public Instagram domain. Once these images are out in the public, they can be viewed by teachers, coaches and other teenagers, exposing the Finsta user to a great deal of embarrassment and possibly disciplinary action. Followers and friends can also screenshot an image appearing on your teen’s Finsta account and then re-post the image on Instagram or any other social media platform.

Finsta accounts can be used for cyberbullying

Finsta accounts have handles that are not the original creator’s name. As the account and its content are not tied to an authentic user, there is a very low threshold of accountability associated with it. The anonymous nature of a Finsta account means they are used by teenagers to humiliate, ostracize and bully their peers. The subversive nature of an attack like this can be very difficult for a vulnerable teenager to deal with and confront.

Finsta accounts encourage deviant behaviour

The anonymous nature of Finstas mean deviant behaviour is more readily encouraged and Finsta users are encouraged to ‘let their hair down and let it all hang out’. A ‘vanilla’ Finsta user is often ignored, which encourages them to embrace more negative behaviour. Finstas are the ‘wild west’ of social media and the normal rules of society do not apply.

A Finsta account questions authenticity

A Finsta account muddies the waters of an integrated, authentic identity – at the very age when a teenager is grappling with their own identity. The question “who is the real you?” or even personally, “who is the real me?” is being raised. While these are good questions, a Finsta account encourages teenagers to explore the answers in an unmonitored domain, where peers who don’t have their best interests at heart can exploit them.

Sharon Knowles from the Da Vinci Foundation warns parents “there is a lot of pressure on teenagers to have a Finsta, but it is critical for teenagers and parents to understand the mental and emotional impact Finstas can have on teenagers”.

Here are some ways you can protect your teenager:

  • Engage in conversation. Keep the dialogue open between you and your teenager. Explain your concerns about Finsta
  • Encourage them to chat about why they feel the need for a Finsta account?
  • Explore the issues of their ‘real’ online Instagram identity and their need for a ‘fake’ Finsta identity
  • Alert them to the fact that their Finsta identity can be hacked and their pics posted on their main identity
  • Remind them that once an image has gone digital – it never goes away

For more information about how to protect your child from cyberbullying and digital abuse, contact the davincifoundation.org.za