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Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Angst of the Anonymity of Ask.fm

I sit at my computer struggling as a mom and an educator. My heart fears the social networking site known as Ask.fm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ask.fm). The Latvia-based website is set up for people to ask others questions about themselves. There is an option to sign in and your name shows up on your questions OR you can do it anonymously. Oddly, I see a large portion of 13-15 year olds answering questions asked and posting pictures of themselves that seem to take social media to the next level of inappropriate familiarity.

Perhaps these kids can not see that this site would be a sexual predators playground. How simple it is to stalk a kid by asking an anonymous question. The following article gives some great insight into the perils of this website: http://www.chicagonow.com/tween-us/2013/10/facts-about-ask-fm-parents/

Here is what I am seeing that I am not use to seeing regarding these kids I know...a very easy digression when asking and answering questions- bad language, inappropriate questions, etc. whether teens are asking anonymously or not. Definitely anonymous questions are more prone to be inappropriate and open for the world to see...the entire world...including the guy on the sexual predator list that lives 2.7 miles away from your child. For the most part I see kids signing in and asking questions of their friends but I also see the anonymous questions that have a sexual bent to them show up fairly often.

While it is fairly simple to delete an Ask.fm account, it is also VERY simple to reactivate the account as well. That becomes a huge temptation for the kid that thinks they are being treated unfairly by having to delete their account. This site feeds our inner need to want others to want to know more about us. It gives the shy kid a way to ask a question they would never be brave enough to ask. It gives the girl a way to flirt. It gives the boy a way to say both explicitly or innocently what he sees in a girl. Teens very innocently start talking as if only their friends are seeing these accounts but I have NO DOUBT unknowns are always lurking.

The ease of bullying, as shown in the article above, worries me as well. Kids that don't normally "join in" can do so anonymously. This website opens the door for easy judging without accountability of any sort. It appears that the owners of the website have no desire to enforce any accountability either. To me, this is the epitome of the scary side of the Internet for kids that appears to be perfectly innocent to them. Just one of the reasons we have to teach our students and our own children about digital citizenship issues. We need to strive to be aware of the latest websites our kids are using; this isn't always an easy task because they do not want us to know, but it is an important part of keeping our children safe. So many educators and parents choose to just "not be a part" but I think if we all choose that avenue we don't show kids appropriate usage nor do we serve as quiet accountability. Our kids need to know parents and educators are on these sites.

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