What You Need to Know About your Teen’s Secret Social Media Presence

The way that teens treat social media isn’t the way that adults use it. This might seem obvious if we are talking about the newest apps that haven’t quite reached the mainstream yet, but it also applies to plenty of apps and social media platforms that you, as a parent, browse regularly. And, while there are still plenty of teens sending out images and videos to the public that are easy to find, quite a few are taking a different tactic to avoid the watchful eye of their parents.

Last week in an article from the New York Times, the trend of secret social media accounts amongst teenagers was highlighted. In addition to the Instagram and Snapchat accounts you are already aware of, many teens are now creating second accounts for content they don’t want to be seen by a larger audience. In the world of Instagram, this is known as a Finsta account, which is meant to stand for Fake Instagram. While a Rinsta is the more publicly acceptable Instagram presence that teens utilize.

Instagram isn’t the only tool teens are using for additional anonymity. Here is more from the NYT article:

“And because so much of today’s teen social media use is rooted in a fear of getting caught, many teens have detoured their online activity to different ways of cloaked communication. Closed and secret Facebook groups are one way teens (and adults!) privatize communication to a select group — a closed group feels more private because it allows an administrator to approve new users and monitor content. Secret Facebook groups remain unsearchable, and members can only be added or invited by another member. Another trick is to use hidden apps like Calculator% and Calculator+ that look like regular calculators, but require users to enter their passcodes to reveal a back storage area containing private photos.

Also popular with secretive teens are storage apps like Vaulty, which allows users to hide photos and videos, and also has a “mug shot” feature, which takes a photo of anyone who tries to access the app using an incorrect password. Vaulty’s most clever trick? Users can create two passwords for one vault, with each password tied to specific levels of access. So, a parent who insists that a teen hand over the password still might be getting limited access. Some teens just hide apps within folders on their phones. Parents wondering if their children are hiding something might look for a cleared search history and an unexplainable spike in data usage as potential red flags.”

If you’re a parent of a teenager, does this scare you? Should it scare you?

Bringing up this topic isn’t meant to freak parents out more than they might already be. Instead, it’s intended to inform parents who have legitimate suspicions about their teen’s behavior and the newest tactics being used. As most of us know, even secret or seemingly secure channels on the internet are not always what they seem. And, the consequences can be harsh.

What teens put out on the web doesn’t always disappear, and the more that parents can help educate them on this subject without coming off as a paranoid undercover cop, the better.

The entire New York Times article is worth reading, and parents should continue to educate themselves about how teenagers are maturing, and the technology they are using to communicate.

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Joe Long