I spend my days teaching Internet Safety to schools, parents, and students just like you. I never have to explain to students what Ask.fm is, because you already know and chances are you have a profile. (If you don’t know what Ask.fm is – read this article for the low-down)
You already know that Ask.fm is not a safe place to share information. I don’t know why some teachers and even parents treat teens and tweens like they’re stupid – clearly you’re not.
You already know that:
- Ask.fm has been linked to suicides all over the world
- Because Ask.fm is an anonymous site, lots of trolls will hide behind that anonymity and engage in nasty behavior
- Many of your friends (or you) have already been bullied. Most of the so-called bullying isn’t a big deal because you and your friends know who the person is and you just ignore it. But sometimes it gets ugly, and sometimes it’s hard to get away from. And sometimes it really hurts, and most of the time you act like it doesn’t
Dealing with Pressure
Parents constantly ask me – “if this is all true, then why do the kids keep going back onto the site, and sites like this?”. Here’s what I tell them – and if I’m wrong I want you to tell me (tweet me here). I tell parents that you like to be connected to your friends, and even when it’s overwhelming and gets annoying (or certain people get annoying), you’d rather put up with the annoying and remain connected, it’s one of your only outlets even at the best or worst of times.
Your generation has an immense amount of pressure coming from all sides. Many parents expect you to always put forward an immense amount of effort on everything. Sometimes it feels like you can’t get anything right. Then there’s the social pressure at school added to the academic pressure, added to the pressure to be a sports-kid even if you don’t want to be a sports-kid; add in thinking about college or NOT thinking about college and sometimes it feels like you want to pop.
I get it. Seriously, I get it. (PS Hang in there, it gets better. And believe it or not, your parents are there to help.)
Is Ask.fm Evil?
Then parents ask me – “why are these companies allowed to exist if they’re harmful to our kids?”. Now that’s a better question. So here’s the thing – Ask.fm did not create their platform to cause harm. I don’t believe for a second that they are malicious people, or that they’re happy when young people commit suicide or get involved in sextortion, or worse. HOWEVER, their business is NOT to care about you. Did you hear that? Their business is to make money, that’s all.
And when you are a company hoping to make millions, or ten of millions of dollars off of young people, sometimes you assume that your audience is stupid. Make no mistake, most of the companies which market to young people think that you are a bunch of morons. Don’t forget this point.
- Sneaker companies think that YOU really believe that just buying those new kicks are going to make you faster/better/stronger.
- Ladies: clothing companies think that YOU really believe that those “women’s” pants (made for a 5 year old) are going to look the same on you as they do on the photoshopped model in the ad.
- Guys: deodorant companies think that you REALLY believe that if you use their stinky products that hot chicks will maul you in an elevator.
- And Ask.fm wants you to believe that communicating online anonymously is a smart and valuable use of your time.
You’re not stupid. You see other kids all over the world committing suicide or at the very minimum getting their feelings hurt on this totally unnecessary platform. And you know that there are eleventy-gajillion other ways to communicate with each other. You certainly don’t need Ask.fm to connect to your friends – you already do that in a bunch of different way. So why do it?
What to do now
Here’s what I’m asking you to do:
- Deactivate your Ask.fm account
Log into your account, go to [Settings] in the top right hand corner of the page, go to the profile page and chose the [Disable Account] option.
- Send a tweet or Instagram post to the companies who advertise on Ask.fm just to make sure that THEY know that you aren’t stupid (see list below)
Be sure to use the hashtag #dontaskfm
- Spread the word to your entire social network
- Pat yourself on the back, you’ve proven that you won’t grow up to be a total jerk
Oh, and just one last thing – stop taking pictures of your junk. It’s going to land you in jail. But that’s another topic.
Now get to work!!
Let’s tell these advertisers what we think
Click each and every image below – it will retweet the message to let these companies know that they need to stop advertising on Ask.fm
JustFab Online (US)
Just Fab – in the UK
Read more from the Internet Safety Blog
- VIDEO: Internet Safety: Before you buy your child a digital device – think safety
- VIDEO: Internet Safety Expert : Jesse Weinberger on WKYC-Cleveland to Discuss Cyberbullying and Internet Safety
- Internet Safety: Best Parenting Practices to Keep Children, Tweens, and Teens Safe in the Digital World
- Internet Safety for Parents: Being proactive is the only defense for your tweens, teens, and family
- Parents of teens WAKE UP! Fake Facebook account contributes to the abduction and murder of 15 year old Nichole Cable in Maine
- Entire High School Football Team Gets Suspended Because of Cyberbullying on Ask.fm
- A Cleveland Teen is Murdered After a Facebook Argument – aka Internet Safety Basics: DON’T Feed the Trolls
- California Senate Bill 568: The “Eraser Bill” Will Accidentally Hurt the Cause of Internet Safety
- Adults and Kids: Stop Being Stupid. The “Gonna-Be” Posts Are Going To Get You: Robbed, Kidnapped, Assaulted
Jesse Weinberger is an Internet Safety Expert, presenter, and the owner of OvernightGeek University. She has been teaching parents, schools, and students how to
navigate online and mobile risks since 2003. Jesse is available for presentations to schools, parents, students, and organizations.
Another day, another cyberbullying, online safety tragedy. This one happened early September 2013 when a beautiful 12 year old – Rebecca Sedwick, committed suicide in Lakeland Florida. She had been the victim of relentless IRL (in real life) and online cyberbullying.
Apparently she dated the wrong girl’s boyfriend. Fourteen year old Guadalupe Shaw bullied Rebecca relentlessly along with FOURTEEN other girls. That’s right, Shaw convinced fourteen other girls to team up against Rebecca. If the mob didn’t comply, they would face the wrath of being bullied themselves. Nice, huh?
The online platforms of choice were: Facebook, Kik, and Ask.fm. If you are a frequent reader of this blog you already know how I feel about Ask.fm. And it bears repeating now: Your child (regardless of age) should never, never, never, never have an Ask.fm profile – ever. Is that clear enough for you?
Consequences? What are those?
And here’s something else which is utterly shocking to me. After Rebecca committed suicide (by jumping off a concrete silo), and after Guadalupe (the alleged ringleader) posted on her Facebook page: “Yes ik [I know] I bullied Rebecca and she killed her self but IDGAF [I don’t give a (f***)], and after Guadalupe was questioned by the police and after she readily admitted to bullying Rebecca….Guadalupe’s parents allowed Guadalupe to keep her phone. Huh?
“I’m aggravated that the parents are not doing what parents should do: after she is questioned and involved in this, why does she even have a device?” Sheriff Judd said. “Parents, who instead of taking that device and smashing it into a thousand pieces in front of that child, say her account was hacked.”
Trust, verify (rinse, repeat)
Let me speak very plainly (!!):
- If as a parent, you are not actively checking which platforms, people, games, and content your child is involved with – you are complicit in the outcome
- If as a parent, you do not create and deliver consequences consistently to your children – you are complicit in the outcome
- If as a parent, you do not educate yourself in HOW to help your child stay safe as well as HOW to prevent brewing your own little Frankenstein-bully – you are complicit in the outcome
- If you are expecting gaming companies and media companies to do your parenting job for you – you are complicit in the outcome
How young is too young?
If you have recently spent any time around a 14 or 15 year old, you will quickly come to the conclusion that young teens are merely taller, hairier 3 year olds. They bounce from topic to topic and app to app looking to engage, or hide – or whatever their impulse du jour is. And this is developmentally appropriate. They are supposed to act like tall, hairy 3 year olds.
Children are still children until they are well into their high school years. They do not have the physical/cognitive/emotional/social maturity which 24-7 connectivity demands. Those skills develop with time and experience.
But it’s hard – blah blah
I recognize that it’s hard to be a parent in the 21st century. And there’s a lot to learn – all the time. I teach Internet Safety for a living and I am constantly learning the new and nauseating ways children get themselves into trouble. But you have *no choice* as a parent.
Actually that’s not true; you actually have two choices: 1. Don’t give a device to your child or 2. Give a device to your child and engage in the education and monitoring process.
There is no third choice. Sorry.
Jesse Weinberger is an Internet Safety Expert, digital strategist, instructor, and the owner of OvernightGeek University. Weinberger has created an online course for parents and families called Internet Safety for Families. 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