I’ve been ranting about Ask.fm for a while now and there are a flurry of new articles where websites have just discovered this popular cesspool of slut-shaming and cyber-bullying aimed at the 13-25 year old set. I loathe this website, and I don’t care if it can be argued that tweens and teens need a place where they can communicate online with each other, either under the guise of anonymity or not, because the truth of the matter is – they just don’t. So many of us grew up without the Internet, without chatrooms, without websites like this or Tumblr or Instagram and we turned out just fine. The difference between these other social media platforms and Ask.fm is that Ask.fm encourages kids to be utter assholes.
It’s a cesspool. And these are just screencaps I grabbed quickly but there are thousands of them, kids talking about suicide, about underage drinking and drug use, calling each other sluts and whores and accusing each other of all sorts of bad behavior. And a lot of times, they are doing it anonymously. From CNET.com:
Ask.fm is a 3-year-old question-and-answer app that’s wracked up 57 million users and is adding members at a rate of 200,000 a day. It’s spreading from kid to kid, infiltrating middle schools and high schools the same way that mobile sensations Instagram and Snapchat have.
The Latvian-run platform, launched in June 2010, resembles predecessor Formspring and offers a Web and mobile space where people create profiles so that anyone, not just other members, can ask them questions. The service was essentially a European clone of Formspring until the latter shifted focus in July of last year. Since then, Ask.fm has added about 50 million users.
Today, Ask.fm has ballooned into a parent-free digital space where kids go to goof off and escape the built-in accountability of Facebook. According to brother co-founders Mark and Ilja Terebin, Ask.fm is big in Brazil, the U.S., Italy, Russia, the U.K., Germany, Turkey, Argentina, Poland, and France, though it has a presence in 150 additional countries.
The article closes with:
For now, a parent’s best hope is that kids tire of Ask.fm and move on to the next app.
And no, that is NOT a parent’s best hope. You don’t hope your kids get sick of this website and move on to something else, you shut this shit down immediately. I really don’t understand parents who feel like their only option is to “wait it out.” if your kid has an account on this website, unless you are policing it constantly, chances are they are being asked creepy questions or getting comments on their uploaded selfies, and not just by people they know, users of any age from all over the world.
It’s one thing for kids to be bullied in public, at school, by their peers. That is horrible. But by letting your kids have accounts like this, chances are if they are being bullied it will continue online. And chances are if they aren’t being bullied, by having an account like this where other people can ask them anonymous, intrusive questions or post anonymous comments, they will be asked things that harm their self-esteem. I know our kids aren’t delicate snowflakes and they will encounter jerks in their lives, but isn’t our job as parents to protect them from this stuff?
Maybe I’m old-fashioned and pearl-clutchy about this website, but I really don’t see anything positive about it.