Ask.fm: Social Chat You Should Know About To Protect Your Kids
Being a parent of a teenager, you just have to keep up with the latest trends in technology, music, games, and fashion, if you want to fill in that naturally occurring generation gap. While you assume you have all those bases covered, there is one more thing to be aware of — social networks.
You have probably got an account on Facebook, and thus, you suppose to know everything about your child’s online friends and communication. However, there is a platform, which might be of no use to you, and where teens fiddle around after school. Meet Ask.fm. I bet, once you have a glimpse of several user profiles, there will be two likely outcomes.
First, there is an urge to unsee those flashbacks of high-school dramas about who likes whom, who said what, teasing, showoffs, and often bad language. Second, you could swear your kid would never be interested in such a platform considering he or she is not like that. While you have your right to think the best of your offspring, the fact is that Ask.fm is a booming platform with more than 60 million users aged 13-25. It may look as innocent and harmful as your abovementioned child, but there are a few things you should know about it.
What’s So Special about Ask.fm That Makes It One of The Most Fast Growing Social Platforms, Especially Among Adolescents?
While Ask.fm has some standard features, like sharing photos and videos, it has one peculiar thing to boast about – anonymity. You can ask any user any question on your behalf or as a mysterious stranger. Think back about those middle-school times, when you wanted to talk to a boy or a girl you had a crush on, but was too embarrassed to make the first move. Well, now, if your crush has an Ask.fm account, you can easily do it anonymously. If you want to know what Lizzy’s favorite flowers are, go on, just ask. Or maybe you wish to attract your peers’ attention with some intimate details — not a problem at all.
What’s So Alarming about Anonymity?
Anonymity gives power. Let’s say Lizzy doesn’t like Jake, so she would never start talking to him, answer his silly questions, or “pap” (an acronym for “post a picture” used within Ask.fm users). But she responds to the same stupid questions asked by another stranger and shares her answers to the whole world.
On the other hand, the same anonymity makes teens vulnerable. Our Lizzy does not like Jake, but she is secretly in love with Tim, and she hopes the feeling is mutual. So, each time she gets an anonymous question, chances are it is Tim who asks it. That’s one of the reasons she is so eager to respond. And if not Tim, it’s probably some handsome, tough boy she doesn’t even dare to smile to at school, but it’s not Jake or some old pervert, never.
Chances are, it’s not that better for Jake or Tim. Lizzy can ignore the requests or stall them. It can add to their insecurities and mood swings fueled by their hormones wreaking havoc.
There is a need to say, there are only few privacy settings. You can disable anonymous users from asking you questions and you can forbid other users to share your responses on other social platforms.
Potential Dangers on Ask.fm
If we leave this high-school drama aside for a moment, there are several potential risks kids are exposed to regularly.
First, it is bullying. Anyone can tell a child anything on Ask.fm. The platform has faced a serious scandal about teenage suicide cases back in 2013. A 14-year-old girl committed suicide after being bullied online on this website. Since then, the website offers some advice on how to avoid bullying, and what to do in case you are being bullied. But the UK officials still call for a boycott of the service.
Second, there are identity theft and phishing scam issues. They happen to be left in the shadow of cyberbullying but are nonetheless quite significant. Once a user answers a question, both the question and an answer get public exposure on a user’s page. Comments on such innocent things like ‘What is your car plate number?’ or ‘Pap of where you are right now’, can lead to some quite harmful incidents, and provide opportunities for phishing scams and, again, cyberbullying. You do not need to be friends with a user to see his or her chitchat, pictures, and answered questions. Moreover, teenagers link their Ask.fm profiles with their twitter and facebook pages. Those two or three combined are just a golden mine for cybercriminals.
If you are a parent of an adolescent, make sure you protect him or her from potential cyber-crimes on seemingly harmless Ask.fm. Be proactive and prepared. Use parental controls to avert danger in the making.