It’s a familiar story. 7th grader has a birthday party, can only invite 5 friends, pictures of said birthday party are posted on Instagram, the next thing you know, anyone not invited to the party is upset, parents are calling, asking why their child wasn’t invited, groups are formed at school, each one taking a side… before you can finish singing ‘Happy Birthday’, a simple celebration has caused so much drama you are left wondering why you threw the party in the first place.
Middle school kids are notoriously unkind. It’s probably hard to pinpoint the exact day when your angel of a 6th grader turned the corner and started calling you ‘Mom’ vs ‘Mommy’, and maybe they have started to roll their eyes so many times you wonder if they’ve developed a tick. Perhaps they come home one day from school, crying because Liz doesn’t want to be their best friend anymore, or Jessica sat with Brenna at lunch instead of them.
When I talk to my sisters and hear their stories about the drama they experience on a day to day basis, I am thankful that my tween and teen years are behind me.
I was on Instagram the other day, and came across a new application which users are adding to their ‘About Me’ section of their Instagram account. This application is also a website – Ask.fm.
Why is it popular? Ask.fm only has one purpose – users ask other users questions, and the user answers. That’s it. That’s all it is. Here’s the catch – questions are asked anonymously. I had this application for less than 24 hours, and already anonymous users were asking ‘a/s/l’ (age, sex, location) and other much more inappropriate questions.
Why is it dangerous? If you thought that posting a picture on Instagram caused drama – imagine a forum where children can ask other children questions completely anonymously. “Who is your best friend?”, “Why are you such a ____?”, “What are you wearing?”.
There’s more. Senior Engineer, Peter Andrada, says it’s cause for concern that Ask.fm is based in Latvia, and the company has not shown they have usable tracking data or monitoring of who asks the questions and other activity. Also, according to research, the headquarters for Ask.fm is based in Latvia, however, the .fm part of the web address suggests it is hosted from Federated States of Micronesia.
It may be too soon to tell what information may or may not be tracked and stored by Ask.fm, but one thing is clear. This site being used by children is asking for trouble.
My advice: Have your kids delete Ask.fm… There are too many unknowns, and not a single appropriate, justified reason to let them keep their account. If your kids want to be asked questions, there’s a device for that. It’s called a telephone and it’s worked for many generations as an appropriate means of communication.
Do you have insight about Ask.fm? Share below! For more advice about how to keep your kids safe online, follow me on Twitter @tctompkins.