• Fri, Dec 20 - 10:00 am ET

Vile Threats Posted Against A Young Girl Show Why We Need To Shut Down ASK FM

Clueless-UK-Prime-Minister-Labels-Ask-fm-quot-Vile-quot-374899-2I absolutely hate Ask.FM. I have said it before and I am saying it again here. Any parent who lets their kid have an account on this website is opening up their kid to bullying, harassment, and threats of the worst kind. Last time I wrote about the site I was met with comments from people who said that parents should pay more attention to what their kids are doing, that ASK FM should not be to blame for this, that the website has its merits because it allows pre-teens and teens to expresses themselves anonymously and that it allows them to be open with their peers – screw that. I don’t care. It needs to be shut down.

A  19-year-old physics major at the University Of Wisconsin, Madison has been arrested due to threats he made against a 14-year-old girl who asked the question on ASK FM :

‘Do you go to skyline?’

 

Which is a high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Rishi Ragsdale, the son of two college professors, answered the young girls question with replies like this, taken from the affidavits posted by The Smoking Gun. WARNING, THE FOLLOWING IS A HUGE TRIGGER WARNING SO READ AT YOUR OWN RISK: 

 

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 7.47.24 AM

And it gets worse.

From The Daily Mail:

Armed with the sender’s IP address on Ask.fm, investigators were able to track down Ragsdale and determine that the 19-year-old’s university student account, rragsdale, was used to log into Ask.fm on the evening the threats were sent.

When police executed a search warrant at his Madison home Wednesday, Ragsdale claimed that he ‘didn’t know what this was about’ before asking for a lawyer.

For those of you who still feel like this website is harmless, at least nine suicides have been linked to online bullying in conjunction with ASK FM. It is one of the most visited websites in the world, especially amongst those under 20. It needs to be shut down. This website does nothing but foster the sort of comments, to YOUNG KIDS, that Ragsdale made above. This goes well beyond the typical “You’re ugly” or “You’re a whore” so many users of this website receive.

I see no point in letting kids have accounts here. And a parent, I make sure this is one website my kids NEVER visit.I’d love to hear arguments about why parents think this website is important for kids to have, but due to all this I doubt I’ll change my mind.

(Image: ASK FM)

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  • Alex

    1.) “physics major”, not “psychics major”

    2.) “University of Wisconsin, Madison”, not “University Of Madison, Wisconsin”

    3.) Yes, let’s place responsibility for preventing online bullying on the website and the parents of kids who are bullied rather than on the bullies.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      TY for edits, boo on comment :)

    • Raquel Amada

      The place is horrid. Between all the perverts trying to have sex talk and then this bullying I had to just leave.

    • libraryofbird

      Yes it is the bullies fault first and foremost but, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to get rid of a known problem/place/site that fosters hateful and depraved crap like this. This is a complex issue and it needs a solution that is also complex not just “blame the bully.”

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      NOTHING good has come out of it.

    • Véronique Houde

      There are so many websites that are run by adult professionals where kids can ask their questions and get reliable answers (such as kidshelphone.ca where I work – my work rocks if no one knew ;)) that there is ABSOLUTELY no need for websites like these.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      Oh my gosh, you work for kid’s help phone? I know it wasn’t you specifically (unless you are significantly older than I’m assuming you are) but I just want to thank your workplace for saving the life of a friend of mine in elementary school.

    • Véronique Houde

      thank you :) most likely wasn’t me because I’m only 30 years old right now and have been working there for 6 years only, but I’ll def pass on the word!!! It’s a HUGE organization that’s only getting bigger with time, but I really believe in it and it gives a lot of meaning to my life… I always love meeting people who have been affected positively by what we do because we cross their paths so little!

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      I used to post on the Kids Help Phone forums when I was a teenager.

    • Véronique Houde

      OMG on the alpha ghetto green website! That thing survived an eternity!

    • Alicia Kiner

      On your 3rd point, maybe everyone shares in the blame when it comes to cyber bullying. The people who run the sites and allow the bullying to happen, the parents who don’t parent and allow their children to be bullies, the bullies themselves, the parents of the victims of bullies, the bystanders who just sit and do nothing. Eve is calling for an action to DO SOMETHING. Maybe it’s not what you would like to have done, but it’s something. I don’t know how to make bullying stop. I don’t. Do you?

    • Alex

      I don’t KNOW (as in a fail-safe guaranteed solution) how to make bullying stop either.

      But we don’t advocate trying to stop rape or murder by placing responsibility on anyone but the criminals. Why is the approach different here? Shutting down a website doesn’t prevent a bully from wanting to be a bully.

      A potential solution could be modified education and modified website administration controls, as had been mentioned above with apparently some success. I don’t know all the technical or legal details that would be involved with enforcing this (nor even in shutting it down), but I’m not in favor of any policy/opinion which makes no mention of the truth that criminals are the ones responsibly for crime.

    • EmmaFromÉire

      We can give these deranged fucks one forum fewer to be predatory on. Definitely a good thing in my book.

  • Véronique Houde

    Kids need to stop having computers in their rooms!!! I can’t say it enough!!! Last week, on my second week back at work, I spent almost 2 hours on the phone with a 12 year old (a child 12 year old, not a teen 12) who, despite all of the discussions her parents had had with her about internet safety, despite a rule that she add no one on her friend lists except for her friends, despite an amazing relationship with them, made the mistake of adding a guy on skype who she was convinced was a friend. It took the guy literally 30 seconds after connecting with her to take a screen grab of her, photoshop her face on a naked teen body, send it to her, and threaten that if she didn’t show herself naked to him and talk dirty to him, that he would send that picture to her entire facebook friendlist and her parents and he would ruin her life. It was Amanda Todd all over again, and even younger this time. Out of sheer terror, she did what he asked. She saw him masturbate (and i’m pretty convinced that she’d never been exposed to sexuality before). She didn’t want to unfriend him because he threatened that he would show everyone her pics if she did because he would know.

    Within 10 minutes, this guy harmed this girl to her core. She was so afraid of telling her parents because she was convinced that they wouldn’t believe her, and that they would take her Christmas presents away. BECAUSE they had set such strict rules, and she was convinced that it was all her fault and that they would blame her because she added this creep who wasn’t her friend.

    I was able to convince her to report it to the police. Do I have hope that the police will intervene? GOD if they don’t I swear to god I will rage soooooo hard.

    So for all of you parents who think that, just by setting rules and talking to your kids, you can avoid this, think again. No matter how awesome your relationship is with your kids, letting them have the internet in their rooms, and not monitoring their activity is irresponsible and will put them in harms way. Would you buy a house, in a bad neighborhood on the ground floor and encourage your child to leave their window open in the middle of the night? Giving your children access to the internet when they can close their doors is the same fucking thing.

    Rant over.

    • Emily

      Thank you, thank you, thank you.

      There is absolutely no valid reason, not a single one, why the computer should be in the kid’s room.

    • Véronique Houde

      Thanks. And to say that I VERY VERY rarely RAGE so hard after I get home from work. This is just an issue that I’ve seen causes so much damage, and parents often times just don’t have the experience with to know how to deal with.

    • Kay_Sue

      And now, I am legitimately terrified. My oldest stepdaughter is 11 and her mother/grandmother bought her a laptop for Christmas, despite my husband’s stringent objections (they honestly haven’t had a fight in years, and this one was so bad I left the house with our boys).

      When I was 17, I was pursued across the internet by a guy I met in a Yahoo chatroom. I never sent him pics, but he was vile, rude, nasty, and very damaging at a difficult time for me, personally. And he followed me across all of my accounts. I had no idea how to deal with it, no idea how to talk to my parents about it–it really is suffocating and destructive. I know some folks are just like, “It’s the internet, why take it serious”, but it’s very alienating and isolating. I can’t imagine being in this little girl’s shoes that you talked to–it’s devastating. She’ll be fighting through this for years. I really want to just give her a hug, and then shake her parents. Very hard.

    • Véronique Houde

      Ask them to watch the Amanda Todd documentary before deciding what to do about the computer. http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/episodes/2013-2014/the-sextortion-of-amanda-todd
      Even if the daughter never gets harassed to this level, cyberbullying is becoming more common than in person bullying, and children should NEVER be alone with this. Her father shouldn’t let this go, honestly. I’ve spoken to so many kids who’ve gotten in bad situations online, and every. single. time. the computer is in their bedrooms, or they get exposed to bad stuff on their phones. alone. in their bedrooms. It’s the common denominator.

    • Kay_Sue

      They already gave it to her. I promise, we fought it. We sent them fact, figures, stories. I personally told her mother what I went through and how damning it was at the time. Honestly, if there had been an option to legally bar her from having it, we probably would have pursued it. She is bringing it down tomorrow and he’s going to install whatever software he can and set up whatever parental controls he can.

      I honestly couldn’t believe any parent would think of it for an 11 year old. Having gone through the experience i did, I could never imagine it. I don’t know what went through their heads with this. The truth is, technology far outpaces what the prior generation understands at any given time. We can educate ourselves on it, but kids are always finding the newest, hippest way to use it–and it seems like we are always two or three paces behind in catching up.

      I will have him pass the documentary on though, to maybe reinforce for them the importance of making sure that there are boundaries and that they are enforcing the rules they claim they have (it’s only supposedly used for school work and only in their presence–but it’s still upsetting for us because they have a desktop, in a prominent place in their home, that she could use just as easily. THERE IS NO REASON to put this burden of responsibility on her.).

    • nikki753

      Ugh. What a miserable position for you. There are a lot of things that scare the sh*t out of me about having kids but trying to protect them in the internet age is somewhere near the top of the list. As a non-parent but relatively recent kid, the best thing is to teach her that you’re not just trying to ruin all of her fun and be total buzzkills but to protect her and to implore her to get help from you or a helpline if she ends up in over her head on anything. You hate to make her terrified of everything and to crush the beautiful childish belief that people are nice and the world is a nice place but bad people can destroy you so quickly over the internet – stealing your identity, exploiting you… ugh. I kind of want to move to a secret cabin in the woods just thinking about it.

    • Kay_Sue

      I know. Thanks for the perspective too. Before I was a parent, I was like, “I will never forget what it felt like to be a kid/teenager/young adult” but the truth is, it’s really easy to.

    • a_narwhal

      Then DON’T. Duh. Return it. Put it away until you deem her old enough. Sell it on Craigslist. or just lie down and let someone else dictate your parenting decisions for you which apparently is the route you have resolved into taking.

    • Kay_Sue

      Yes, because then when her grandmother and mother charge us with larceny, that would be a totally wonderful Christmas present for everyone.

    • Fabel

      I think your tone is unnecessarily harsh, but yeah, I’m also confused as to why the laptop cannot simply be returned. Arguing with figures, facts, etc. sets it up as a debate— just say “[stepdaughter/mydaughter] will not be accepting such a gift, but thanks. If you insist on giving her this gift, we will make sure it is returned to the store.”

      I don’t want to overstep & give parenting advice (& maybe ~you’d~ even be overstepping to do something like I suggested) but it’s just sort of frustrating to hear that a laptop is being given to a child against her immediate parents’ wishes…

    • Véronique Houde

      I think it’s hard to do when it’s one parent against the other

    • Lillibet

      Except it is an immediate parent giving it. It’s a really hard situation when you have separated parents and are in the position of being a step parent doing the best for your family,

    • Katherine Handcock

      What an awful story — so glad you were there for that girl. My kids are still little, so we haven’t had to wrestle with the “what to do online” conversation yet — although we’re starting the “what information is it okay to give a stranger” conversation now with my son, who’s a little too willing to tell people his name and details about where he lives (although fortunately he doesn’t know many right now.)

      I think what I’ve concluded is that my kids will get their own computer in their room as they approach university age. Prior to that, maybe we’ll let them have a laptop that we remove/check nightly, but that’ll remain to be seen. I am a big believer that they have to practice safety at home before they are out on their own, but it’s so hard to know how to best let them do that.

    • Véronique Houde

      Take it for what it is, but what I can tell you is that these things happen just as much during the daytime as it does at nighttime. Therefore, it’s not because you take it before they go to bed that they won’t get exposed to stuff they’re not ready for.

      Let’s take this girl as an example. One of the biggest reasons for feeling guilty about this situation is because of all of the prevention and tools her parents and schools put into place. She attended a workshop at school that talked about cyberstalking, cyberbullying, posting naked pictures online, etc. Her parents went through her security settings on her facebook and skype accounts to make sure that only her friends were on it and no one else could see her profile. They spoke to her about being smart online, never taking naked pictures, etc. Therefore, when it happened, she kept berating herself, telling her she should have known better, she should have said no, she should not have done what she did, that it was all her fault, that her parents taught her better… No parent wants their child to go through that emotional turmoil.

      It took this girl 24 hours and 4 separate phone calls with counsellors (because she was terrified and unable to sleep all night) to finally accept to speak to her parents about what had happened. Before that, she was too afraid of what they might think of her. She didn’t want them to think negatively of her or blame her, or not believe her.

      It’s not about HER being safe online, it’s about other people being experts at hurting people online, and getting to them when they are isolated and have no one to protect them in the moment. That’s why it’s so important for computers to be in family rooms. First off, teens will be much less likely to go on websites that might be iffy if there’s a risk of their parents catching them in the act. They are less likely to use their webcams – therefore being exposed to people showing themselves naked or asking them to show themselves.

      Teens don’t have the emotional maturity to cope with what they might be exposed to online – no matter how mature or responsible you think they will be. It has nothing to do with trust – it has to do with giving them the chance to develop emotionally without having to deal with unnecessary predatory behaviour from jackasses at school and predators online.

      Surfing the web isn’t something you do to gain responsibility online. It is not a way to learn to become more mature. It is a tool that can be uber useful in daily life when used within certain limits. You can’t treat this in the same way that you would allowing your teen to go out in public alone.

    • Katherine Handcock

      Thanks very much for this information! I’m still a long way off, but I know that we can set the foundation now to give our kids the best possible chances — right now we emphasize to our kids that we would ALWAYS rather they tell us the truth about what happened, even if they’re worried we’ll be angry.
      My thinking about taking it away at night wasn’t so much that it couldn’t happen during the day, but so that reviewing the online activity for the day — possibly together — would become an understood part of the routine.
      One question for you, though; how DO you recommend teaching teens how to handle online interaction on their own? I say this because you say that it’s not like allowing the a teen to go out in public alone, but I don’t really see how it’s different: you start with lots of supervision, give them lots of rules and guidelines, start with small excursions (in the case of going someplace alone, walk to a friend’s house and call me as soon as you get there; in the case of the internet, maybe saying “I’ll let you surf on your own for half an hour, and then we’ll review where you went/what you did”), and slowly help them develop their skills.
      I ask particularly because I know too many teens today where I can see tragedy looming not because they have access to the internet, but because they don’t — yet. But they’re six months away from life at a college dorm with their own computer and 24/7 included wireless. They have lots of education about the importance of computer safety, but no skills…and other than slowly allowing them more access while at home, and reviewing what they did and where they went, I don’t know how parents can help prepare them.

    • Véronique Houde

      The thing about online interactions is that, if you’ve never been exposed to chatting online as a teenager, you won’t be “socially awkward” online later on. As an adult, you will interact as adults do, and have the critical thinking skills and emotional maturity to know how to respond to people, how to protect yourself, etc. You don’t need to practice knowing how to interact with strangers online as an adult.

      Teens need practice interacting with people, yes. They need to practice going out, dating, etc. The difference is that face to face, people have buffers – people watching them, not wanting to be embarrassed, not being able to take things back. Teens very rarely act the same way online as they do in person.

      When I give teens workshops on online safety, I always ask: if you were in a public park, would you suddenly lift up your skirt and show people your privates? No? Well, taking a picture and sending it to someone online is like showing yourself in a public park.

      So why do teens do it (or do other stuff online that is unsafe)? Many reasons:
      - Teens feel like they can be whoever they want to be online. For them, they can have a whole different persona. They like testing the field and act like someone completely different than they are in person.
      - Teens don’t have a buffer online: often times, they say things they would NEVER say in person because they don’t have to look the person in the face while doing it. Therefore, they are more likely to bully, and get into sexually compromising situations online. Because there is a screen between them and the other person, things seem a lot less intimate.
      - Kids are emotionally immature and sometimes let themselves get carried away online. They form relationships that they are convinced are real, even if they’ve never met the person in person. They open themselves up too much, trusting faster than they would in person. People seem more perfect online than they are in real life becauséàe they can press erase and retype. Being emotionally vulnerable, they sometimes have a hard time differentiating between real relationships vs. virtual ones.
      - Teens are impulsive, and can post things before thinking and then regret it later on. The difference online is that the traces stay, whereas words said in person most often are forgotten with time.

      I can guarantee that a teen that is socially apt in real life, who has a strong self-esteem and good emotional maturity most likely won’t get in trouble online later on.

      I’m all for teens going online and interacting with their friends. There are lots of advantages! Yet, it’s important that you bring the computer into a PUBLIC space so that you are increasing the chances of your child acting as they would in person with people.

    • Katherine Handcock

      Okay, so your recommendation is to focus on general social skills/appropriate public behaviour and then get older teens to relate than understanding to their online behaviour. Thanks! That clears it up. I was thinking of it in terms of practicing a practical skill, but your analogy of “would you do this in a public park” is a really good, easy-to-apply standard.

    • Véronique Houde

      Exactly! :)

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      I 100% agree. No private access to the internet. There’s a lot less you can get away with and get involved in if the computer is in a family space and the wifi is password protected and the kids don’t know what it is.
      Kids are prevented from going outside alone these days, but it’s really the internet and social media that is the venue most kids are being hurt with.

    • Bunny Lucia

      Jesus Christ I hope that child’s okay.

      That dude is a fucking psychopath, I take it she at least knows what he looks like and can identify him if need be?

      And if the cops don’t do something about it report it to the higher-ups. That’s child pornography, harassment, stalking, and so many others. If the local police don’t do anything take it to the state, if the state police don’t do anything make as much noise as you need to to make them look into it.

    • Véronique Houde

      The thing about it is that it’s already the federal police that takes care of that part of the country (the RCMP) so if they don’t investigate, no one will. I’ll only know if she calls back and complains about it really.

    • Justme

      Yes! And they also don’t need to keep their cell phones in their room overnight! Centralize the cell phone charging station in a common area of the house…or even better, in the parent’s bedroom.

  • Janok Place

    Oh… my… God. What the fuck. Just, fuck.

  • TwentiSomething Mom

    When I was younger, the computer was in the family room so everyone could see what you were doing online. At that time it was mostly chatrooms on AOL parents had to worry about but now there are so many websites and advances in technology that make it easy for perverts and creeps to prey on children or bully them to the point they feel taking their own life is the answer.

    There are obviously so many benefits to the internet, but our kids benefiting? Do they really need unlimited and unsupervised access from their phones and personal computers in their room? Its one thing to let your kid have a cellphone where they can talk to their friends but letting them have access to almost anything and anyone and anytime is not beneficial at all and I think parents should set more boundaries for their kids with internet usage.

  • Kay_Sue

    I am not typically a “ban it, ban it now, then kill it with fire” type of person, but it truly doesn’t seem like any good has come out of this website.

    My parents (and a lot of y’all’s, I’d wager) were among the first to have to encounter this issue, and I don’t think they were in any way prepared. I know I’m not–I just recently had my sister tutor me on how to use Twitter–and I’ve been using computers since I was 4. It’s frightening to think of the challenges our kids face online.

  • pineapplegrasss

    OH!MG. reading those comments scared the shit out of me, I can’t even imagine what that family went through.
    Passwords. your children must give you all their passwords! they are not ready for privacy online

  • Sandy Reis

    Rishi? Most likely foreign and from one of those misogynistic cultures. I wonder which excuses his parents will come up with to defend their serial killer-ish rapist-like son.

    • Véronique Houde

      Wow that’s a racist comment if i’ve ever seen one… :S

    • Sandy Reis

      To point out that someone isnt Anglo-American or Native American isnt racist. No American person is named Rishi okay. You’re the liberal that thinks everything is racist and wants to ruin free speech for all of us. And Veronique, you’re not American either with a french name. I dont care what you think since you’re not American.

    • Véronique Houde

      http://i2.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/002/135/sw50sw8sw578.gif

      OOOOH such an insult to be Canadian as opposed to American. The land of the great ;). No but really, saying that someone is a serial-rapist-like son because he has a foreign name is racist. But never mind, you won’t get it.

    • Boots

      Rather be Canadian than American anyway… (you guys got the bacon / maple syrup combo right!), but given I’m Australian (you know, the each-day-is-a-survivor-challenge continent?), I know I’m just that tiny bit more awesome ;P

    • Boots

      My real name is Marta – does that make me Spanish, Polish or Aramaic? That’s right – you can’t possibly tell!

    • EmmaFromÉire

      Possibly even Hungarian or Romanian. Look at you, you jigsaw of potential nationalities.

    • Sally C

      This is quite possibly one of the stupidest comments I’ve come across …and I mean that not as an insult but just as genuine truth, as in you must actually be deficient. I really hope you are just trolling. But if I may ask, where exactly do think all the “white” names came from? Also, clearly you are in need of a geography lesson, as there are two whole continents named America and most of the people on them are not fair skinned and do not speak English as a first language. But many do write it much brtter than you.

    • marc

      He was one of my friends in high school. He is American and I never would of thought he would say this stuff. And you are racist sandy

  • Aussiemum

    My 16 yr old has an account. I looked at it and was thoroughly disgusted by what these so called people posted.
    ‘Why are you still breathing? Why don’t you just go kill yourself? Just go hang yourself. Slit your wrists c*nt’
    I was in tears reading these comment written to my son. He is a beautiful soul and an amazing human being full of compassion for others and always puts his (very large) group of friends first. When he was 14 one of his very best friends suicided (not because of the site) and it devestated our family and our small community immensely. The people writing these things on his wall, were all kids from his school who know him personally and knew his friend well. Those comments where about him breaking up with a girlfriend who was telling him she would kill herself if he every broke up with her. We sat him down and had a very long chat with him about what she was saying and how she was affecting him mentally. Needless to say, they broke up the next day and she didn’t kill herself over him, they are actually good friends now.
    WTF is with kids these days? Bullying over the Internet is terrible. They think they can hide behind the anonymous tag and say what ever the fuck they want and dont think of the consequences and the tragic results that come from these vile words.

  • Emily

    This is awful, and i always feel so bad for children being bullied, especially having been bullied myself. BUT I used to peruse ask.fm and it was so boring, I never had anyone to talk to, but because I’ve been on there, I know that they do have privacy options. You can opt to never recieve anything annoymous, so from there a bully would need at least an account to bully someone, and then from there just block whoever is bothering you. And if you get a giant jackass, admins of websites can just ban that person’s IP adress from accessing/having an account. I don’t like the site, but it isn’t their fault if someone doesn’t do anything to protect themselves from some faceless entity that just types out hurtful words. And of course parents should really stay open with their kids and talk about internet saftey, and leave the computer in a public room like the living room. And even laptops can have parental controls.

  • http://ultimatemamacat.tumblr.com/ Hana Graham

    Sites like that encouraging anonymous bullying and vile comments are so so so dangerous.

  • Lindsey Sweet

    I’m thankful neither I, nor my children, have even ever heard of this website! But just in case, it is now blocked on any internet capable item in our house. What a horrible thing to say to a little girl that just asked what school he went to!