By Eric Cavalli, Assistant Principal, Rockford High School
Most adults are familiar with Facebook, the online social platform that connects people from all over the world. Thinking of Spam conjures up images of canned meat for many adults. Finsta, on the other hand, results in blank stares. In this day and age, they are all related, and young adults and children understand exactly what they are.
Facebook has a presence in the lives of many young people. A Pew research survey from 2014-2015 indicated that 71% of teens from the ages of 13 to 17 use Facebook. A 2018 survey from Pew indicates that number has declined by more than 20%. That does not mean that social media use has declined among young adults. Young adults are moving to different platforms.
Currently, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are the leading online media platforms for teens. Much of this migration has been attributed to the desire for increased privacy and anonymity. Facebook Community Standards maintain that users have a single authentic account. Other social media platforms allow for increased anonymity from their members. Snapchat allows users to send pictures and texts that disappear based on a timer established by the account holder. Snaps may only be visible for as little as one second. Instagram allows a single user to maintain multiple accounts.
Spam accounts are accounts that have been created to allow users to have a different online presence than what adults see. Finsta is a term associated with maintaining a fake Instagram account. These fake accounts can be used for bullying and harassment. In some cases, anonymous account holders will harass other teens with impunity because they can’t be identified. In other instances, accounts are created to impersonate another person and then falsely promote and say things that the victim may find embarrassing. Additionally, these accounts are used by teens to share information or images of illicit activities with groups of friends that they trust.
As parents, awareness and communicating with your children is critical. Many parents are only aware of the sanitized social media accounts that their children possess. It is important that you let your children understand that you are aware that kids have Spam or Finsta accounts. Parents need to communicate family expectations. Parents need to teach children that in some instances these accounts have led to problems ranging from embarrassment to violations of the law. There currently is not a setting or mechanism that exists to aid families in prevention. The best method to deal with this issue is awareness and communication.