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What is Ask.fm? An app review for parents

What is Ask.fm? An app review for parents

Ask.fm started off as a website and eventually morphed into an app as well. The purpose of the app is to allow users to ask questions where anyone can answer. You can also answer other people questions. Questions can be posted anonymously and then shared via Facebook and Twitter. It was reported in 2015 that the app has 150 million unique monthly visitors.

It should be noted here that Ask.fm was acquired by Ask.com in 2014 but it’s important to understand the history of this app.

*NOTE: Since the editing of this video, Ask.fm changed the icon of the app to an owl as shown in the video image. The app still works the same.

The anonymous nature of the application can be dangerous when used by teenagers. It is not uncommon for children to ask unkind or mean questions to other users and for users to respond with the idea there are no consequences. In one suicide case involving Ask.fm the question was asked, ‘Why doesn’t ______ kill herself?” and was followed up by other peers responding on ways to do it.

History of bullying

It has received lots press attention and was referenced in the Florida bullying suicide case in 2013 where a 12 year-old child committed suicide. Two other girls were charged with a felony, a 12 year-old and a 14 year-old for bullying her on the this application. They were charged but up to 15 other youth were involved in bullying this teen until she jumped off an abandoned cement plant to her death.

This is not the only case of online bullying with this application. It was also referenced in a teen suicide case in Great Britain where the Prime Minister David Cameron, called for a boycott of the Ask.fm website and app.

Buzzfeed also featured an article in 2013 stating that Ask.fm is responsible for 9 teen suicides.

The new management of the app, Ask.com, has taken precautionary measures to address the earlier concerns of this application by providing help within the app. It is reported that they have moved headquarters to Dublin, Ireland and have spent millions of dollars to focus on safety and improving the reputation of the app.

Currently, there are a lot of great features for parents, children and teachers within the app.

What parents should know

  • Users can ask questions anonymously on the app. The anonymous part is what allows the cyberbullying to occur. Some questions have been to the extent of asking other users to kill themselves and providing answers on how to do it.
  • Sharing content is easy as the app is friendly with Facebook and Twitter. It’s one click away from sharing in an environment where things are anonymous to a social media platform that is not.
  • It’s probably the best formatted social media platform to have help available. Still, these are only useful if the user decides to use them. Parents should always be the first line of support and help for their children.
  • This is not an app that is popular with parents but is gaining traction with children and teens because they want their own forum to engage with their peers.

What parents can do

  1. Have access to your child’s electronic devices and check them often at least once a week.
  2. Set boundaries and limits on your child’s use of technology. Use the skill of Preventive Teaching to help you and your child set good boundaries.
  3. Use additional apps and programs to monitor your child’s engagement online.
  4. Talk to them often about Internet Safety using the skill of Effective Communication. Set up a plan and keep the lines of communication open.

Next week we review another app. Until then, be safe in cyberspace.