As Popularity of Secret Social Media Accounts Increase, So Do Risks

A survey by NHK of 5,000 young people has revealed that more than a third of respondents have social media accounts they keep secret from other people.

A youth support group says the use of secret accounts has spread as people don't want to confide their personal problems to those close to them.

NHK carried out the survey of 16 to 25 year olds over the chat application LINE. 1,728 people, or 34.5 percent of respondents, said they have secret accounts.

Asked about their communications, 56.7 percent of respondents said they have exchanged messages with a stranger on Twitter and other social media. Of them, 35 percent said they actually met with the stranger they messaged with during the past year.

An expert from a youth support group said young people cannot talk about their personal problems to parents, teachers or friends, and the use of secret accounts has become so widespread that they are normal.

There have been reports of such accounts leading to trouble. Last year, 9 people were murdered in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture. The suspect and some victims were found to have communicated through secret accounts.

Struggling Youngsters Turn to Secret Accounts

A 19-year-old vocational school student says she started using Twitter several years ago. She says she has 12 accounts on her cellphone, and she created a secret one to share her true feelings and pent-up dissatisfaction about her parents and other things. Her family and friends don't know she has another account.

The woman says she is relieved she can share her feelings with others, for example, when she has feelings of wanting to die. Those feelings, she says, are hard to share with school friends because her friends may not understand.

A 22-year-old woman who lives in the northern Kanto region says she met a stranger through a secret account who stole her money and forced her to have sexual intercourse.

But she says, she is unable to reveal her true feelings or seeks advice from people close to her. She says her friends and family have their own impression about who she is. She says she feels free to tell strangers anything as she can cut them off if they don't like her.

The Role of Adults in Tackling the Issue

A youth support group says parents and other adults need to understand that communicating with strangers through these sites is becoming increasingly easy for children.

They say teens, especially in times of trouble, tend to reveal their true feelings to those who they don't personally know, when they are rejected or scolded.

They call on parents and adults to try to listen to and accept young people, to encourage them to share their feelings with the people close to them.