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Parenting Nightmare: Ask.fm is playground of 57 million hormone-crazed tweens and teens

By Randell Suba , Jun 09, 2013 06:59 PM EDT
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Ask.fm is a social media platform based in Latvia and is considered an internet wonder. It is a website with 57 million users and adding 200,000 more every day. It is a parent-free space where tweens and teens talk freely about anything they want.

The chit-chat website is considered a replica of Formspring, a question and answer website that changed focus and started to dwindle. It also allows users to ask questions anonymously. Teens might say there is no harm since there are questions that are quite innocent but things can get pretty ugly.

Signing up for an Ask.fm account is very easy. One can use an existing Facebook or Twitter account and access will be granted in a few seconds. The site's Terms of Service requires members to be 13-years old or older but anyone can practically sign-up without having to worry about age verification. One can be nine or 49 or older and it will not really matter. Users can also link their social media profiles such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to their Ask.fm account so they can get more questions.

According to a report on CNET, Ask.fm received 13 billion views and 180 million unique visitors in April. Each visitor registers about 100 minutes a month on average on the site. Fifty percent of the users are said to be below 18 while the bulk of its audience is between 13 and 25 years old.

The founders of Ask.fm, brothers Ilja and Mark Terebin, informed CNET that the site is very popular in the United States, UK, Russia, Germany, Italy, Argentina, France, Turkey, and Poland but it has presence in over 150 countries.

A quick scan of the stream of questions will let you see questions such as "Do you like me?" "What are you doing tonight?" or "Do you think Sarah is pretty?"

There are also questions that reflect teen concerns on depression, crushes, hating math, among others.

Completing the spectrum of questions are comments such as "You are a slut" or "Tits or ass?" and other teen musings that anyone can peek into.

"Ask.fm has become associated with some of the worst forms of cyberbullying and has been linked to a number of recent teen suicides in Ireland and the US. It is almost a stalker's paradise. In cases like this young people need protection from those who exploit internet anonymity to intimidate, isolate and bully," according to security expert Jim Gamble when interviewed by Daily Mail.

"Sites like Ask.fm lack even the most basic child safety mechanisms or reporting protocols. They are of huge concern to us and the young people we work with," added Richard Piggin from BeatBullying, a charity organization the UK focused on bullying prevention.

Ask.fm had been linked to a number of suicides allegedly due to bullying on the websites. There have been efforts to campaign for its shut down but nothing has been done and advertisers continue to spend to display banners or sponsored questions on the site.

In fairness to Ask.fm, it has a set of safety reminders for its users plus account holders can tweak their privacy settings but still a Ask.fm can be considered a dangerous ground when kids are left unsupervised.

For tweens and teens, it is their right to communicate. For parents, it is a nightmare as the site could be a haven for cyber bullying or online stalkers. For Ask.fm founders, they are not doing anything wrong.

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