By Randi Crawford
If you’re reading this and you have children between the ages of 9 – 18, here’s a question for you: have you ever heard of ask.fm? Because as tech savvy as I consider myself when it comes to managing social networking, I had never heard of it until about a month ago. Now for those parents, who have no clue what I’m talking about, get ready for the ride, because folks, this site is ugly.
Ask.fm is a social networking site that is marketed to “Let you ask and answer. Find out what people want to know about you.” It sounds harmless, right? Turns out, it has no privacy settings and therefore,
young curious minds can ask whatever they want. And naïve kids (tweens and teens), have no problem answering the questions. Basically, the person asking the questions is anonymous, but the person answering them isn’t. Let me digress and explain how I first learned about ask.fm and why I think it’s such a nightmare.
Around a month ago, a group of moms received an email directing us to common sense media for online safety tips for our children. One mom responded to the group and told us to check out a site called ask.fm. So I took one of my kids’ phones (yes, both of my kids have iPhones, but that’s an entry for another time) and looked everywhere but couldn’t find it. So I asked my kids if they had ever heard of ask.fm and they both gave each other that brother/sister secret society look. I made sure neither of them had it, but it was clear they both knew what it was. Now I’ll admit my curiosity was peaked and I went digging. And after hours of finding nothing, I realized that I had been staring at ask.fm the whole time. You see kids link their ask.fm to their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. There it is, in tiny little letters under their name. If you click on the link, you won’t believe what you will read coming out of the mouths of babes. When it says, “Find out what people want to know about you”...trust me, they aren’t asking about music and shopping. There’s basically one thing they all want to know about and I think you can take a wild guess.
We all know what it’s like to be in the 7th and 8th grade. We had secrets that we wrote in a diary, or told to our best friend. But people, kids are writing down their innermost thoughts and feelings on the Internet. They have no idea who can access what they are saying. To say that they haven’t thought this through would be the understatement of the century!
Even if these kids think that they can outsmart their parents and take a post down after a few minutes, guess what? Someone out there has seen it, taken a screen shot, and has a digital imprint forever. You just want to shake these kids and tell them that there are real consequences when they put this kind of information online.
So I spoke with several parents and here’s the breakdown:
•They have no reason to doubt their kid, so they don’t check their accounts. In fact, they think it’s an invasion of their children’s personal space.
•They monitor their kids’ social media daily.
•There’s a large group of moms who believe they are doing a good job of monitoring, and then they find out about something else their kid is doing that they had no idea about. Can you say snap chat?
I know it’s almost impossible to stay ahead of and on top of our kids’ social media. But I can tell you, with zero hesitation, that I’m in the monitoring camp. It’s called being a parent. Obviously it’s not fun being a policeman, but it’s our job. Our kids are basically guinea pigs for all this technology. If you choose not to monitor online activities, don’t be surprised one day when your child applies for college, or tries to find a job, and some administrator or employer taps into their social media account. Because what they find just might rock your world! I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org