"Finsta" accounts on Instagram mask identity online

Anne Brock, Chynna Greene # State

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - In an increasingly digital age, some parents told Local 8 News they are becoming more aware of their children's social media activity on Instagram.

One of the new trends some younger people have turned to on social media includes creating "finsta" accounts, short for "fake Instagram" accounts. The accounts use false names and photos, as well as extensive privacy settings, that keep parents, teachers or employers from seeing posts to the accounts. "Finsta" accounts often have follower bases of only a few carefully selected users who can see the content these fake accounts post.

"Very few people," one 'finsta' user explained to Local 8 News.

"Probably like 30 people or less, people that I let follow me. People that follow me are just my friends, people that I trust enough not to screenshot stuff and send it to people."

While the pursuit of privacy on social media may be one motivator for "finsta" accounts, some young people told Local 8 News they themselves used, or knew others who used, the accounts in order to document experiences that may be considered reckless, dangerous or even illegal.

With the development of these undercover accounts, one question parents told Local 8 News they had was,

"How can parents protect their children on social media when they can't even find the accounts they use?"

"If they don't want to be found, they don't have to be found,"
Lacey Clark of Team Logic IT told Local 8 News reporter Chynna Greene.

Local 8 News spoke with one Instagram user who created a "finsta," and like the account, she said she wanted her identity to remain private.

"You can post on there and only people will see it who you want to see it,"
she said.
"To make a 'finsta' is just the same thing as making an Instagram account. You wouldn't really use your real email, and then make up a name that's completely not yours."

The "finsta" user said there could be several reasons behind not wanting to associate an identity with the Instagram posts.

"As you get older, you really understand what you can can't post on your social media, but with that comes drinking and relationships and problems with your parents, or problems in your relationships that you want to vent somehow,"
she said.

Local 8 News reporter Anne Brock asked senior web developer John McCulley of Moxley Carmichael what parents need to know about keeping up with kids on Instagram.

"The best defense against improper social media use is open conversation with your family,"
McCulley said.
"Know what apps your children are using. Use them yourself. Keep an eye on the latest hashtags, learn popular acronyms and check privacy settings."

McCulley also advised that several apps have been developed in order to help parents monitor their children's social media usage. Some options include Bark, Net Nanny and Webwatcher, all of which monitor social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, along with text messages and calls.

"These apps will reveal any logins or websites visited and give you the information you need to talk directly with your child,"
McCulley said.

McCulley said many young people are using Instagram and Snapchat heavily on their personal phones, while new apps continue to arise. One video messaging app similar to Snapchat that has been developed recently is called Marco Polo, which McCulley said parents may not have heard of before.

Ultimately, experts said finding the "finsta" accounts could be a difficult, if not impossible, task.

"The standard parent that trusts their kid, they're probably not going to find it,"
Clark said.