Social media network Ask.fm, a question and answer site recently popular with teens in North American and Europe, has bowed to pressure from families, advertisers and the public in agreeing to adopt policies to make the site safer.
Ask.fm has been linked to at least three suicides, including one recently in the UK. Typically in these cases, a teen asks an open-ended personal question, or a series of them, and is met by a barrage of bullying and taunting. Ask.fm allows users to add personal information, including real names and photos, but also functions with users cloaking themselves in complete anonymity. In fact, anonymous users are not even required to register an account with the site. Teens who find themselves the victims of bullying generally make the mistake of revealing too much information, while bullies hide behind the anonymity of their keyboard or cell phone.
According to a BBC report this week, Ask.fm has agreed to:
- Add staff including a safety officer, in order to be more responsive to bullying reports.
- Respond to all reported abuse cases within 24 hours.
- Make the “report abuse” button more visible.
- Create a “bullying/harassment” category for reporting abuse. This category did not previously exist.
- More prominently tell users how to opt out of replies and questions from anonymous users.
- Limit the functionality of unregistered, anonymous accounts.
The changes make a lot of sense, and are a far cry from how unresponsive Ask.fm has been to public pressure in the past. This is a step in the right direction, but we continue to caution parents to be aware of what your teens are doing online.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.