For parents these days, it can be a challenge to keep up with the fast-pace of change with regards to children’s usage of the internet. Most parents if asked which popular website children should not be on, will probably answer Facebook. And of course there are valid reasons for this including cyber-bullying, inappropriate content, parents not knowing who all of their ‘friends’ are, lack of maturity to understand and handle certain situations, and addiction and the associated neglect of studies and other childhood activities. But there is a popular website that in my opinion is 100x times worse for children, is very popular amongst children and teenagers, and is virtually unheard of by parents.
Ask.fm – this is the name of the website. It was founded in 2010, six years after Facebook started, and Ask.fm now has over 60 million users, of which 50% are under the age of 18. The site basically allows people to ask users questions, and provides the option of anonymity. The site has been linked to four suicides of teenagers, three of which occurred during the past five months:
- Hannah Smith – August 6th, 2013 – 14 years old
- Daniel Perry – July 15th, 2013 – 15 years old
- Joshua Unsworth – April 6th, 2013 – 15 years old
- Erin Gallagher – October 27th, 2012 – 13 years old
Whether it is 100x worse than Facebook or some other factor, I do feel strongly that it is much worse for kids than Facebook for two clear reasons:
- In Facebook, you always know who is posting – even in the case of cyberbullying – here you don’t
- In Facebook, you can always defriend someone in cases of cyberbullying – here you don’t have that option (you can turn off the anonymous option, but most don’t do that because that is the unique feature of the site)
Anonymous questions can be rude, obnoxious, of an adult nature, and/or threatening. Who posts these types of questions? Often these are ‘Internet Trolls‘ – and if you are not familiar with this term, then this would be something to learn about also. As hard to believe as it sounds, trolls are people who traverse the internet specifically trying to create trouble and emotionally upset people.
If you still have any doubts, then you can actually view these types of postings with less than five minutes effort. Just go to the website, sign up, and then search for children/teenagers who you know – there is a decent chance you’ll find some and you’ll be able to see the types of questions that I am referring to.
I’m enclosing some links with further information – these are just below pictures of the four victims who I mentioned above.