Like most secondary schools we have had lots of our students using Ask.fm and some of those students being negatively affected by the responses to the questions. Today we are sending out a letter to all the parents of Year 9 and 10 giving them advice on how to help their students stay safe online, but particularly in regards to Ask.fm.
I used these 2 websites (very) liberally in producing the letter:
(thanks to @NEAL_Education for the 2nd link)
Here’s what we sent:
Dear Year 9 and 10 Parents,
As Deans we are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact that the social networking site Ask.fm is having on your teenage sons and daughters. This site can be linked to Facebook and Twitter, so questions can be posted to friends and followers.
Who is the ugliest at our school? Does she really like me? Who are my real friends?
These are just some of the questions that get asked on ask.fm, a social media site that allows users to invite anonymous answers. Kids put those kinds of questions out there in the hopes that they will learn the “truth” from people who don’t feel compelled to spare their feelings.
They hope the “truth” turns out to be good news: Yes, she truly likes you. I am your real friend xoxo. But too often, it doesn’t work out that way.
We urge you to seriously consider telling your children they are not allowed to use Ask.fm.
Freed by guarantees of anonymity and emboldened by the computer screen standing between them and the person they are hurting, people can say terrible, hurtful things. Ask.fm is often involved in cyberbullying incidents — from casual cruelty to death threats. There have been a number of bullying-related suicides linked to use of the site, and one British family has released a public statement asking that the site be taken down following the suicide of their 16-year-old son.
What do parents need to know?
- Whether you allow your child to use the site or not, have a conversation with them about civility online and how anonymity might change how people act.
- If you choose to allow your child to use Ask.fm, show them how to use the privacy tab in their settings to block anonymous posts, so that all comments are linked to the names of account holders.
- Users can also create a blacklist to block comments and posts from those known to be cruel and/or aggressive online.
- If your child chooses to link Ask.fm with their Facebook account, they can adjust the settings in Facebook so that posts are seen by the following: public, friends, only me or custom settings (allowing them to choose specific friends).
- Supervise your kids’ activities online, especially on sites such as these. At minimum, you should have their username/ password and sit down with them once in a while to monitor what’s happening online.
- If your child is involved in a bullying incident on Ask.fm, tell them not to respond. The best option is to delete the app and account.
- It is also possible to block the person harassing you, once you get another question from them. This can be done by pressing “block” next to each question.
For more information, please see this article by NetSafe about how to stay safe on ask.fm: http://www.netsafe.org.nz/how-can-i-complain-about-ask-fm/
The Year 9 and 10 Health programme looks at online safety and discusses the pros and cons of the various social media websites. By working together we can help students develop their digital citizenship skills and assist them to stay safe online. If you have any concerns please do not hesitate to contact the Student Services Centre where the Deans and Guidance team work together to support your students.