When Kids Hide Apps: How to Find a Finsta

Words by
Melissa Strange

MAR 27, 2024

When Kids Hide Apps: How to Find a Finsta

Social media has become an integral part of young lives. From TikTok dance challenges to YouTube vlogs, today’s kids navigate a virtual landscape that shares their identities and relationships.

But did you know that behind the curated and polished posts, lies a clandestine world? Welcome to the realm of unseen connections, where kids master the art of digital concealment through hidden accounts, app vaults, and pseudonyms. 

In a Pew Research Center study, 58% of kids ages 13 to 17 report using TikTok daily, and a staggering 77% saying they watch YouTube everyday. Instagram is still popular in 2024, with 50% claiming to use it at least once a day.

teen boy looking at cellphone

Why is social media more accessible, even when platforms like Instagram require users to be at least 13 years old? In 2015, 41% of children by age 12 had a smartphone, which grew to 71% in 2021

Parents who have already limited or restricted their child’s access to social media may feel confident that they’ve protected their child. But your child’s phone may have hidden access to multiple platforms despite your efforts.

Why Children Create a Hidden Instagram

Before intervening, it’s helpful for parents to understand the motives behind a child’s rogue behavior. Why do children decide to hide a social media account? What need are they trying to fill?

Social inclusion is an important “determinant of health”—without inclusion, people are more likely to experience poor health (including poor mental health), loneliness, isolation, and poor self-esteem.

Community Living NB

The desire to fit in can cause kids to succumb to peer pressure, and in the digital age, this manifests in having access to social platforms, often regardless of family rules.

The Social Connector & Identity Builder

Social media provides a way for kids to connect with their friend group as well as the avenue to establish their identity. With its ability to avoid the possibility of blatant, in-person rejection, the opportunity to put oneself out there for social feedback is practically irresistible. 

two teen girls taking a selfie

One study determined that social media likes provide an opportunity to learn about appropriate social behavior. Kids may feel that they cannot keep up with popular trends or be dialed into their social circle without access. Adolescents will go to great lengths to pursue a connection and show the world who they are.

A Child’s Self-Expression

Social media can also be a fun form of self-expression. With complete control over the way their peers see them, young people can present themselves in any manner they like, even trying out different personas. 

When children use a secret Instagram account, it may suggest an underlying problem. Don’t hesitate to patiently ask your child why they want an Instagram account and discuss how they can fill that social desire safely.

The Risk of Social Media for Children Can Be Deadly

The Wall Street Journal revealed that Instagram, owned by Meta, harms many users — particularly teenage girls. Facebook’s internal research acknowledges that the app exacerbates body image issues for one in three teen girls. Additionally, among teens with suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users attribute their feelings to Instagram. 

notification illustrations

In 2018, a study examined the impact of Instagram on adolescents and young adults. It found that high school students’ brains were adversely affected by using unfiltered Instagram accounts, leading to impulsive reactions to popular and well-liked photos. 

Upon viewing a photo that had received a lot of social proof for its trendy status, the brain’s reward circuitry began to be activated. This means that looking at any person’s popular photos makes teenagers feel validated and accomplished. 

When high school students viewed images depicting risk taking, the area of the brain that registers consequences and cognitive control showed a decrease in activation.

—Lauren E. Sherman, researcher at the Children’s Digital Media Center

Additionally, findings suggest that teenagers are more likely to respond to a photograph that has more ‘likes’ simply because the picture has been deemed popular. This creates a desire to surround themselves with whatever is trendy — a craving heightened by the like count of their own photos.

Likes Can Lead to Risky Behavior in Teens

Having a hidden Instagram account gives adolescents access to posts that can motivate them to take risks. According to researchers, liking a photo depends heavily on whether it is deemed popular by peers or followers. This cycle becomes dangerous very quickly. 

When high school students viewed images depicting risk-taking, the area of the brain that registers consequences and cognitive control showed decreased activity.

In other words, the more popular a post is, the harder it is for teens to recognize risky behavior and its consequences.

Unfiltered, hidden Instagram accounts expose children to an abundance of influence from peers who do not understand the consequences of their actions.

Hidden Instagram: Rinsta vs. Finsta

Let’s say your teenager has an Instagram account that you know about and actively follow to ensure that their feed is not harmful to them. Are you in the clear? Not necessarily. 

As much as parents want to keep their children safe, it is important to recognize that teens are savvier regarding social media.

finsta verses rinsta

Understand potential anonymity loopholes in social media for a better picture of your teen’s digital world. For example, although you may be aware of your teenager’s Rinsta (real Instagram), you may not be privy to their Finsta (fake Instagram).

Rinsta = Real Instagram

These are the accounts of which parents are most likely aware. A Rinsta account is typically public and carefully curated by the creator.

The traditional nature of this account strongly resembles a Facebook account; users typically allow friends, family, and acquaintances to follow them. Generally, it is used to keep followers updated on the often-staged lavish life of the user. Many children do not keep these accounts private, which is problematic regarding privacy and safety. 

Finsta = Fake or Hidden Instagram

Finsta is a combination of the words fake and Instagram. A Finsta account is a private, secondary Instagram account with a select audience. Users post content there that isn’t associated with their main account. It serves as an outlet for teens to express themselves, often engaging in gossip, exhibitionism, and risk-taking. 

Finstas are carefully crafted, and often use pseudonyms as account names to remain discreet. 

Although it may take time, it is possible to locate Rinsta and Finsta accounts. Consider asking your child directly. You may be surprised that they will be forthright. Asking will also provide an opportunity to observe their response and most definitely begin a dialogue.

Conversations, Not Confrontations

To foster open communication with your child regarding their device, consider following these steps:

  • Discuss Access: Before they receive a new phone, talk about the level of access you will have.
  • Safety Expectations: Clarify your expectation that they use the phone safely and responsibly.
  • Regular Checks: Let them know you’ll check apps and features periodically.
  • Protection, Not Policing: Explain that your goal is to protect, not police, their activity.
  • Tech-Savvy Commitment: Assure them of your commitment to being tech-savvy because you care.
  • Involve Your Child: Ask for their input and set boundaries together.

You will be the best judge of finding the balance between safeguarding your child and honoring their privacy.

How to Find a Finsta 

Many young phone owners download vaults and app hiders to conceal apps from their guardians. Here are some strategies to uncover these digital hideouts.

Recognize evasive behavior

  • When you enter a room, does your child hide their screen or turn off their device suddenly?
  • Does your teen resist sharing passwords or allowing you to look through their phone?
  • Have you noticed multiple apps of the same type (for example, two calculators) installed on their phone?

Common app hiders and vaults

The following list of hidden apps and vaults is not exhaustive, as the apps are often only available for a short time, and new ones are added daily. Parents are encouraged to search for these cloaks regularly. 

exclamation points illustration

Furthermore, in the app store on a child’s phone, search using keywords such as vault app, hidden app, and secret app. Be creative in your search; your child is savvy.

You’ll be able to see right on the app store if an app is installed on the photo, or was previously downloaded (a cloud image instead of the “Get” button).

  • AppLock
  • Vault
  • Vaulty
  • SpyCalc
  • Hide It Pro
  • CoverMe
  • Secret Photo Vault
  • Secret Calculator
  • Calculator Photo Vault

Create your own profile on every platform your child uses with full disclosure. Doing so will allow you to search for their accounts and become a follower or an observer. Consider following your child’s friends’ accounts as well.

How to Find My Child’s Social Media Accounts

There are two different ways you can find your child’s social accounts:

Search by name

  • Begin by typing your child’s name into the search bar.
  • Include possible nicknames your child may have used.

Survey their friends’ accounts

  • Search for one of their close friend’s accounts, then go through both the followers and those following it. Keep an eye out for an account that could be your child’s. 
  • Open Instagram on their phone.
  • Take a look at the app on their phone. Click on their name, and if they are signed in, any other accounts will be listed below. If they are not signed into their account, you will need them to log in or no other accounts will appear.
  • Of note, each unique Instagram account requires a separate email address to create it.

Next Steps

Let compassion be your guide as you engage in ongoing conversations about honesty and safety with your child. Consider the following principles:

mother and child hugging
  • If you have discovered your child has a hidden social media profile, avoid the tendency to be hard on yourself for having known. Your energy will be better spent moving forward.
  • Recognize that adolescence is a time where human beings push boundaries. It is developmentally appropriate, though not without consequences.
  • Be glad that you found the secret when you did. Look at the discovery as an opportunity to have a meaningful, compassionate discussion. You may find the following conversation ideas helpful:

Talking to your child about social media:

  • Do you have more than one social media account? Why? Let’s look at them together.
  • Help me understand why you decided to have a secret account. How did hiding it make you feel?
  • What do you imagine I want for you? I love you, and I want to keep you safe. I want to give you the best chance for success and happiness.
  • I’m always going to try to protect you. What are some ways you can think of to protect yourself?
  • Moving forward, let’s continue talking about your social media use and healthy boundaries. 

Your teenager may not appreciate these boundaries now, but eventually, they may be grateful they were given time to develop a confident identity safe from the unhealthy pressures of social media.

If you want to avoid the risk of hidden apps and social media altogether, check out Gabb’s safe kids’ phones and watches.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!


  • StoriesIG on Jun 24, 2023 01:00 AM

    Great tips on finding a child's hidden Instagram account! As a parent, it's important to stay aware of our children's online activity and this article provides useful insights on how to do just that. Thank you for sharing these helpful tips. - Alex Cool. https://storiesig4k.io/

  • Gabb on Jun 26, 2023 02:13 PM

    We are glad to hear that you found this helpful! Thanks for sharing!

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