Part II of my Parenting and Social Media series - Required: A License to Tweet
What is Ask.fm?
Ask.fm is a free social media program where users can ask a question with the option of anonymity. It is an open forum where each user has a “page” and someone else with an account can ask them a question. The advantage is that everything is open for all to see, rather than hidden in inboxes. The disadvantage is the fact that teenagers can get rather gutsy behind the comfort of their screens by being anonymous and ask inappropriate or offensive things.
The Latest Skinny
There has been a lot of negative publicity surrounding the program due to increased reports of teens using it as a tool for cyber-bullying. Keep in mind cyber bullying can be done on almost all social media platforms in one form or other. Ask.fm is not the exception. The anonymity feature can make it an easier path. The company has implemented measures for users’ safety. There is an “In Question” reporting function, that with just one click, will report a harassing or offensive question or comment. Once reported it goes directly to the site’s moderators. Just because they are anonymous, does not mean they are not traceable. IP addresses are easily traced. Questions are not published on a user’s page until they are answered. Therefore questions can be ignored or reported depending on the severity of the content before anyone else, besides the person who is being asked, can see them.
Parents, if you allow your kids to have an Ask.fm account and you’re concerned about the anonymity, go into Privacy settings and turn off the Allow anonymous questions feature. Now anyone asking a question to this account displays their user name with the question.
There is also a Blacklist option, similar to Facebook's Block Users feature, for those users you no longer want to receive questions from.
Upon my parental review of my boys and their friends Ask.fm activity, I was quickly thrown into a time warp back to 1987, my seventh grade year and Slam Books. Slam Books were the Mead spiral notebook 80’s version of Ask.fm where questions were asked and statements were made (a lot with anonymity) about classmates. These were circulated around the schools. Egos were boosted and feelings were hurt, but the majority of classmates participated, because, well…everyone was doing it!
Simply put: Ask.fm is the modern day Slam Book with a much larger circulating capacity. Rest assured parents..
You Have A Choice
You can simply not allow it.
You can talk to your kids about what is acceptable and what is not. Kindness is a learned trait and so is meanness. As an informed social media parent, you can see past the tool to provide the guidance your kids need. Kids all need places to try stuff out, whether it's a Slam Book or an app.
Communication plus 3 simple steps: 1. Set anonymous question controls to OFF. 2. Educate them on the In Question feature if they receive an offensive question. 3. Create your own account to keep watch and/or know their password.
Gain back some of that parental control you feel you have lost to social media. Like anything else, it isn't so scary once you know what you're dealing with.