GRAND RAPIDS, MI (WOOD) — Parents beware: a dangerous social media trend most adults don’t know about is making its way across Instagram.
It’s called Finsta, which is shorthand for fake Instagram.
Instagram is a smartphone app people use to post photos or videos for their friends to see. However, some teens are taking it a step further by creating a fake or separate account on Instagram, called a “Finsta.”
‘IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYBODY’
One West Michigan family’s life was turned upside down in one day after they found their teenager was caught in a social media nightmare. A few years ago their daughter was using a social media app the parents weren’t aware of, called Whisper, to talk to men.
The men turned out to be child predators and detectives reached out to the parents. Next came several court dates and therapy — their lives changed forever.
“We’re a suburban, as normal as a family as you can get and if it can happen to us, it can happen to anybody,” said the mother, who wished to remain anonymous.
But social media habits change quickly. Now Finsta accounts are a favorite for some teens.
Chris McKenna, founder of the internet safety group Protect Young Eyes, says while Finsta is “old news to kids” who have had accounts for well over a year, parents still don’t know about it.
“If you’re a teenager, whether you’re 13 or 18, you know that this exists and you’re going to have an opportunity to do it,” he said.
There are a few ways Finsta creators are using their accounts. With the spam account version, users create a separate account to share a more personal, raw perspective with their inner circle of friends. The second account sometimes includes the word “spam” along with the user’s original Instagram account name.
Some people create Finsta accounts to share inappropriate photos. Others use it to become an undercover bully online.
HOW TO SPOT A FINSTA
Parents can identify a Finsta account with just a few taps, if they have their child’s login information for Instagram or access to their smartphone and it’s already logged into the app.
First, tap the Instagram icon to launch the app. When it opens, parents should see five navigation buttons at the bottom.
“The one that I want to focus on for parents is the settings, sort of your profile over on the side,” said McKenna, pointing to the circular icon displaying the user’s photo.
Parents should tap on the profile photo, which will pull up the account homepage. If there are two or more accounts associated with that user, you will see an arrow alongside the Instagram user’s name on the gray bar at the top of the screen. Click on the arrow and a drop-down menu will show all the accounts.
“You can see that I have two accounts, one that’s personal and one that’s for Protect Young Eyes and it allows me to toggle between them,” said McKenna. “Which is what most kids would choose to do because it’s a real pain to log all the way out, put in a new username and password.”
The search for a Finsta is more complicated if the user does log in and out. McKenna said the best way to find out is by reviewing who your teen is “following” on Instagram and identify accounts you don’t recognize. One of those followers is likely your teen’s Finsta, if they have one.
WHAT DO I DO NOW?
For parents who find a Finsta account, McKenna suggests having an open conversation with their child about it.
He also advises parents to check their kids’ accounts, but not to snoop. Instead, he suggests reviewing their accounts with them once a week, just to make sure they’re using the app for the right reasons.