It’s not often that I offer a big “WELL DONE” to high school or college athletics in connection with a story about bullying of any kind. This might be the first time….hopefully not the last….
Matt Labrum, the head football coach at Union High School in Roosevelt, Utah found out that a non-football player at his school was being bullied via the (very popular among tweens and teens) social media site Ask.fm.
For those of you who might not have heard, Ask.fm has been in the news many times in connection with cyberbullying and teen suicides. ASk.fm has been linked to the suicides of four teens in the UK and one in the United States.
The premise of Ask.fm is quite simple. Here is a sample scenario.
- A user creates a profile (most kids use their real names and location – which is dumb, obviously)
For this example we’ll call her Sally Smith from Topeka Kansas
- Another user can ask the first user any question at all anonymously
Another user we’ll call Jenny Jones from Topeka Kansas
- Jenny goes onto Sally’s Ask.Fm page and posts a question – questions like the following are extremely common on Ask.fm
* Why are you such a whore?
* Why don’t you kill yourself?
* Do your parents hate you as much as everyone else?
- Sally does not know who is posting the question
The real danger of Ask.fm is in the anonymity of its structure. You never really quite know who is posting the question, and therein lies the problem. Tweens and teens feel free to post whatever they like, safe in the knowledge that there will never be any consequences. Or so it would seem.
NOTE: Ask.fm is a really really bad idea for tweens and teens
In the Union High School example, once the head football coach found out that a non-football player was being bullied on Ask.fm he suspended the entire team. All 80 players on the team were forced to turn in all of their equipment and do a week’s worth of community service instead of practicing before a big game at the end of the week.
Yes the suspension only lasted one week, and yes they never missed a game. HOWEVER, I appreciate this coach for making it clear to these young men that bullying behavior would not be tolerated on his team.
This is really the bigger point:
Your children listen very closely when you make their lives stop on a dime. Monitor what they are doing online – learn what to look for. Then deliver the consequences…loudly and consistently.
I promise that it will make a difference.
Jesse Weinberger is an Internet Safety Expert, digital strategist, instructor, and the owner of OvernightGeek University. She has been teaching parents, schools, and students how to navigate online and mobile risks for over 10 years. Learn how to keep your children safe online at www.OvernightGeekUniversity.com
Jesse "Big Mama" Weinberger is an Internet Safety Speaker for schools, the host of the Internet Safety Podcast: Big Mama's House Podcast, and the author of The Boogeyman Exists: And He’s In Your Child’s Back Pocket; a guide for parents and educators on how to keep children safe in a 24-7 always connected digital society. Learn more about how to keep your children safe online. She has been teaching parents, schools, and students how to navigate online and mobile risks since 2003. Jesse is available for internet safety presentations to schools, parents, students, and organizations all over the United States.