So my wife follows a slew of middle school girls on Instagram and Facebook. Recently she noticed a new site called Ask.fm popping up on several “about me” sections. We started doing a little research and what we learned is VERY alarming. To the point where I immediately blocked the entire ask.fm domain using our Open DNS and Windows Family Safety filters (read this post for more info re: installing good Internet filters on your home network).
What’s so alarming you ask? If you haven’t already, take a quick peak at the small sampling of “questions” and answers on a random 15 year old girl’s Ask.fm page in the image above. These are the PG-13 examples. I literally had to cut and paste to avoid sharing the extremely vulgar posts interspersed throughout the 800+ questions this one girl answered.
At first glance the site seems innocent enough. It’s a simple place to ask a fun or interesting question and get back immediate answers. However, the problem centers around the site’s decision to allow anonymous posts – letting any malicious, horny, vindictive, or twisted individual post WHATEVER they want on your page. This could be a friend from school, an ex-boyfriend, a jealous peer, or an incarcerated pedophile. There is no way to tell who is posting what.
The site claims more than 40 million users and is run by Russian entrepreneurs based in Latvia. It’s also been named in various lawsuits associated with upwards of 6 teen suicides allegedly due to aggressive bullying on the site.
Because the site is so new, most parents are clueless. Please take a moment to share this post with other parents so we can address the dangers with our children before they are needlessly hurt by it (or worse). And, please take a moment to sit down with your kids to be sure they understand the dangers themselves. More than anything else teens need to know how to identify dangerous sites like these themselves – to be able to see through the hype and to recognize a concerning site on their own. Use this new knowledge as an opportunity to educate on the ways to do just that.