Hannah SmithFourteen-year old Hannah Smith’s suicide is the latest to be linked to the social media site Ask.fm. At least six other young people have taken their lives since the site’s launch in 2010 due (at least in part) to the cyberbullying they endured from other Ask.fm users.
After finding her sister hanging in her bedroom in Leicestershire, sixteen-year old Jo Smith discovered a letter Hannah wrote containing a foreboding statement: “I wonder if it’s ever going to get better.” Now, that’s exactly the question that parents across the globe are asking about the vicious online abuse that occurs on social media networks. Some are calling for the site to close its virtual doors while others just want to know how to keep their own kids safe from cyberbullies. These are some things parents need to know about Ask.fm:
### It’s Extremely Popular
When you think of social media sites, the big names like Facebook and Twitter come to mind, but that’s not always where kids are spending most of their online time. Smaller sites like Ask.fm are heavily populated by teens and are growing fast. Often times, parents don’t know about these sites because kids don’t want them to. Teenagers have always found ways to sneak behind their parents’ backs, so it should come as no surprise that they’re doing it online as well. Just how popular is Ask.fm? As of June of 2013, the site had 60 million registered users, up from just 5 million the year before.
### It’s Anonymous
Perhaps the most dangerous thing about Ask.fm is that users can post questions, answers, and comments on the site anonymously, which means they don’t have to be accountable for what they post. Virtual anonymity encourages the cruel among us to unleash their venom without a second thought, and that’s exactly what Ask.fm users did to Hannah Smith. Her dad, Dave Smith, posted this on his Facebook page: “I have just seen the abuse my daughter got from people on Ask.fm and the fact that these people can be anonymous is wrong.”
### It’s Not Safe
The most important thing that you need to know about Ask.fm is that it is not safe for kids. Though the site’s founders say that posts are moderated, they also admit that keeping the site 100% clean is virtually impossible. BeatBullying, a charity organization, points out that there is no clear way to report bullying on the site, and that Ask.fm should post on-screen advice for victims. Even if the site took this advice, there’s still the potential for irreparable harm to be done. The best thing kids can do is to avoid sites like these all together.
### Support for Cyberbullying Victims and Prevention
If your child has been a victim of cyberbullying or you would like to know more about prevention, here are some organizations that offer support and information:
Of course, telling your child to stay off of sites like Ask.fm is one thing, but making sure they follow the rules requires a little more time and effort. Qustodio allows parents to block dangerous apps and websites like Ask.fm from their child’s laptops, tablets, and yes, even Smartphones. Managing your child’s Internet use is just one part of the solution, though. Be sure to talk to your teen about cyberbullying and its consequences. Remind them that they can come to you if anything is bothering them. It could make all the difference.
#### Other Articles About Cyberbullying and Child Safety from Qustodio
– My Child Is Being Cyberbullied: What Now?5 Practical Tips for Protecting Your Child from Cyberbullying
– Cyberbullying Can Be Deadly
– Instagram Bullying: Why It’s Worse Than You Thought
– Facebook Confession Pages: What They Are and Why Parents Should Be Concerned
Teenager Hannah Smith killed herself because of online bullying, says father http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/aug/06/hannah-smith-online-bullying