By Traci Gales

Many years ago a friend called me with a report, “I saw your son in San Clemente doing a donut in the middle of an intersection today.” Busted! I appreciated the information and was able to correct my son’s wild driving habits. In fact, I counted on the community of my Christian friends from church to nark out my kids when they misbehaved. The extra eyes were helpful in my parenting. With that in mind, perhaps you’ll find my discovery helpful in your parenting.

Recently I was on Instagram looking for a friend. With the search entry of the first letter of their name, up popped several suggested accounts. I noticed a familiar photograph of the first person suggested – a girl from our San Clemente church, Heritage Christian Fellowship. Her name, however, was cleverly spelled using some symbols, not the usual way, but close enough to be recognizable. With one click, it said it was her “Finsta” account, and it was private.

That piqued my curiosity, so I investigated Finstas. I encourage you to do the same and read a few articles. A Finsta is a fake Instagram account, and a Rinsta is a real account. A Rinsta contains photos for parents, teachers and friends to see, while the Finsta account contains personal photos available only to a smaller group of close friends. They are very common among teenage girls.

While some may use Finsta’s harmlessly, photos on Finsta typically include silly photos, substance abuse, partying and sexual content – often with titles like, “Me drunk at the party last night.” The kind of photos that kids would hate for their parents to see, but are happy to broadcast to their closest friends.

The necessity to create Finstas happened when parents started invading social media in huge numbers. Kids wanted to be able to communicate privately without the invasion of snooping adults. Thus the dual identities was born, and is now commonplace.

Finstas, almost by definition, lack integrity. Integrity has two different, but closely related meanings. First, it means being honest and having strong moral principles. Second, it means being whole and undivided. Integrity means you are the same on the outside as you are on the inside. You’re the same person regardless of whether you’re being watched or not.

1 Chron. 29:17 says, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” Integrity pleases the Lord. By contrast, we can assume that those who lack integrity are displeasing to the Lord. Hiding parts of your life to avoid accountability is deception.

I think if you were to ask one of these Finsta users their real motivation, they wouldn’t consider themselves evil or diabolical. It’s just that for them and their friends, this behavior is normal and acceptable. Even if others, like parents, dislike it. In their world, the partying is OK as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. I believe it’s important to not demonize Finsta users, but seek to understand and love them toward Christ.

One theory I heard is that different age groups have different purposes. Teenage Finsta users want to hide their naughty behavior, while older Finsta users are looking to validate what is otherwise shameful behavior. Rather than feeling embarrassed by passing out drunk half naked, for example, photograph it and celebrate it with your friends on your Finsta. It normalizes among your peers what is otherwise unacceptable.

But they’ve failed to honor the Lord. What’s acceptable to man is often not good or right in the Lord’s eyes. Following Christ necessitates rejecting the world’s norms and taking a higher road. Sometimes risking the loss of friendships or risking being labeled as a religious fanatic, all for the sake of pleasing God rather than self and friends.

I pity the parent who tries to call their son or daughter out on a Finsta account unprepared. You’re very likely to be outsmarted by a kid who’s way better at technology than you. They’re difficult but not impossible for snooping parents to discover. They can easily be denied, or even deleted, in mere seconds. So parents, you must be more clever than your kids and do your homework and pray first.

My prayer is that the Lord equips parents with wisdom to be able to parent well in these technologically challenging times! May God give you all that you need to see and know in order to be a good mom or dad and to raise great kids who follow Christ. I hope this helps you in some way, just like the phone calls I often received from my friends. Raising kids is perhaps the most important thing you’ll do in life, so God bless you!