Today’s children have never known a world without Google. Their entire lives have been in the digital age, and they’re often far more tech-savvy than their parents. With that in mind, it’s more important than ever for parents to understand the technology landscape and educate their children about the proper uses — and hidden dangers — of the Internet and social media.
One social media service that has become rather controversial is Ask.fm. It’s a question and answer site that’s really popular among the 11–14 crowd, and while its premise is harmless enough, anonymous interactions on the platform have proven worrisome for parents.
Before we dive into this, I want to note that I would never advise parents to limit their children’s use of technology as a whole or forbid certain aspects of it without explaining why. You’re not preparing your kids for the real world by sheltering them from the Internet, but it would be wise to teach them about the potential dangers and urge them to steer clear.
With that said, let’s take a look at why many parents have taken issue with Ask.fm.
1. Ask.fm is the Perfect Cyberbullying Platform
Due to its anonymous nature, Ask.fm is quite conducive to cyberbullying. What better platform for bullying than one where you can say whatever you want anonymously? Interestingly, the phenomenon of anonymous bullying is not unique to Ask.fm’s teen and pre-teen users — we constantly see similar behavior in comment sections all over the Web. When users are anonymous, they often feel like they can say anything they want without fear of consequences. Combine that with the tendency to forget that there are real human beings with real feelings on the other side of the screen, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
2. Anonymous Questions Often Turn Sexual
Ask.fm’s anonymity also brings sexually explicit messages to the table. Because any user can ask any other user a question (anonymously), there’s no telling whether your child is talking to someone their age or someone much older.
3. Ask.fm Is a Public Gateway to Private Conversations
The conversations that start on Ask.fm don’t necessarily stay on Ask.fm. Many of the platform’s core users are also avid users of Kik, the popular mobile messaging app. For that reason, the question “What’s your Kik?” comes up a lot — often from anonymous users. Profiles and answers on Ask.fm are public. Anyone with an Internet connection can come along and see someone’s Kik handle if they’ve shared it in a previous answer. When the users who bully and harass others on Ask.fm get the chance to interact privately, the outcome can’t be good.