People are naturally curious about each other; consider how when you first meet someone, you’ll ask them questions like what they do for a living, where they live, where they’re from, and so on. Social networks like Ask.fm have taken that tendency online, which can create risks for teens. And Ask.fm’s checkered history makes it clear why parental control software is a good idea.
What Is Ask.fm?
Ask.fm is a social network based in Latvia founded in 2010 and currently owned by a California venture firm. The social network is restricted to users age 13 and over but has no robust verification tools to prevent younger children from opening accounts.
It has approximately 215 million registered users, although the base of active users is likely much smaller, and is available on iOS and Android
The main premise of Ask.fm is to ask anonymous questions. That is where the site’s problems begin, as a brief look at controversies and scandals around it shows.
A Brief Chronology of Controversies Around Ask.fm
- 2013: A British teenager reportedly commits suicide over cyberbullying on the network. The site hires more moderators and enhances reporting and blocking functions.
- 2014: The site is purchased by IAC, refocusing on safety and firing the original founders over their attitudes towards cyberbullying and user responsibility. Soon after this, BBC News reports on the terrorist group ISIS using the platform to recruit.
- 2018: The site is relaunched as a “blockchain-based social network” with its own cryptocurrency. A promotional stunt burying hardware containing $50,000 in coins at the summit of Everest ends with a climber lost and presumed dead.
- 2019: The site launches Leaderboards, featuring the most active users, and tipping, which allows rewarding answers with coins.
The history of the site is essentially an arms race between the worst of the internet and cyberbullying protocols, as its anonymity focus allows bad behavior, and the site is almost constantly chasing down and dealing with one problem or another. Introducing a financial incentive into the mix, despite the currency not exactly thrilling the investing world, is likely going to create new problems.
This is not to dismiss the site totally: For example, it may be useful for teens who need to collect answers to questions for school projects about opinion or design. Yet it has to be used carefully.
Using Ask.fm Safely
For teens, Ask.fm should be carefully monitored:
- The site should be restricted under normal rules in your parental control software.
- The family should have a conversation about safety and cyberbullying.
- Kids should look out for signs of aggressive and inappropriate behavior, such as online grooming.
- Any content, like profile photos, should be carefully moderated to limit giving away information.
- If being used for a project, a parent should work together with their child to use the site, and then shut down the profile and block the app with parental control software if they’re concerned about content.
Managing social networks is important, as they’re how kids begin to learn how to socialize outside a personal context. Parental control software can help you manage social media so families get the benefits while limiting the risks. To learn more, try it for free!