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Ask.Fm: Where Wild West Meets Social Media

May 10, 2013 5 comments

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Another day, another social network to monitor. I first learned of ask.fm from my friend last week. She was in a flap. Generally, she is unflappable. My interest was piqued.

It’s horrible and nasty, you won’t believe what kids are saying on it, and ALL the kids are on it. Check it out.

So I did, and my unflappable friend was quite right to be flapping.

Ask.fm is an anonymous platform that allows users to post questions or comments to a user’s profile. It’s the social media equivalent to the wild west: anyone can follow anyone, and users don’t have access to who is following them, they can only see their number of followers.

In other words, it is a hotbed breeding ground for bullying, harassment, and inappropriate comments. If I could sound alarm bells here, I would let them ring.

You should know I’m not a helicopter parent. I have somewhat liberal views on social media, I believe it will play a role in our children’s lives and we need to keep an eye on things, while understanding that we don’t fully understand its (important) role in their lives. Whether we like it or not, it’s here, and it’s big.

That being said, I created an alias on ask.fm and followed my kid and her friends.

The questions and comments range wildly from inoccuous compliments to ranting insults, and everything in between.

Interestingly, as dismayed as I was with the content, I was impressed with the way she handled the insults, basically by laughing at the caustic comments or posting silly YouTube cartoon videos as a response. I suppose a sidebar of these social network sites is kids learn to deflect and stand up to haters. (I’m not sure I have the same capacity.)

But inevitably, others will fall victim to its nasty nature. Ask.fm is being blamed for the suicide of at least one teenager in England last month.

Apparently, you are able to block a user that is being abusive, and if you don’t respond to a question or comment, it won’t show up on your profile. This article, aimed at parents and teachers, will give you the lowdown on this potentially caustic site.

I can’t see the point of this network – it seems like nastiness personified to me, but I guess that is also its charm. My daughter tells me it’s just silly fun. When I was her age my friends and I stuck jellybeans up our noses for silly fun, but there you go. The times they are a changin’.

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