Cyber bullying is a growing problem that’s been making headlines since the inception of social media. But now, there’s another social media site that seems to be fueling the problem. It’s Ask.fm, and it allows people to pose questions anonymously. The anonymity of the site is opening the door to bullies who can hide behind their computer to post hateful messages to others.
A FOX43 viewer reached out to us, to share her 12 year-old daughter’s story. A bully posted the following on her daughter’s Ask.fm page:
“Everyone hates you. You’re no good for anyone. You don’t deserve to go to heaven. Your gonna burn in hell. I can’t even explain how ugly you are. You should cut yourself and go too deep that way you’d kill yourself. You should commit suicide. No one would care.”
“I don’t understand.. Some people are innocent and don’t deserve to get bad messages like that,” says the 12 year-old.
But a lot of people, namely teens, are getting messages like that. And unlike Facebook, those messages are public for all Ask.fm users to see. It’s a double blow to victims who are dealing with their insecurities. By some accounts, nine teenagers have taken their lives this past year, after being relentlessly bullied on the site.
It’s a startling revelation, our viewer, wants everyone to know about. ”We need to start somewhere… to take control of this situation somehow as parents… as society to make it safer for kids to be on the Internet.”
One way to take control is by having a very honest talk with kids about the dangers online. Counselor Erin Tang Sing recommends parents sit with their child, and draw up a contract.
“Basically you’re writing down the time frames the children can use their digital resources. Everyone in the household gets to participate, even moms and dads get to participate in this and hold each other accountable and there needs to be consequences for if you break a written part of the agreement,” says Tang Sing.
Parents can also designate a safe adult the child can go to if they’re having any problems. ”Sometimes kids don’t talk to their own parents about what’s goin on in their lives. So if they have a safe adult… whether it’s at school, friends of yours, a relative, that they can share different experiences that they are going through.”
Tang Sing adds, the key, is getting children to talk about a problem. That’s because research shows 80 percent of our high schoolers are bullied online, and only a small percentage of them try and get help.
That’s why it’s so important to be tuned into your child, and to be able to recognize the signs they are being bullied.
“They might withdraw socially. They may not want to go to school. They may not want to participate in activities anymore. They may oversleep or under-sleep. They may overeat or under-eat. They may not enjoy things that were pleasurable before. They may withdraw to their room when they come home. They may become irritable,” says Tang Sing.
If you get the sense your child is being bullied, or may even be a bully, Tang Sing say visit a counselor. She adds, a visitor to the child’s doctor with whom they already have a rapport with, is a good first step.
Our viewers wanted to share their story. For mom, it was to get the attention of parents. The daughter wanted to let bullies know they won’t get the best of her. It’s the other teens she’s worried about. “I don’t want people to go out and commit suicide because of someone that doesn’t feel good about themselves has to go out and do this to other people. And i don’t want people to feel like they’re worth nothing,” says the victim.
We contacted Ask.fm to ask them about their security policy. They say they are working with a consultant to boost their privacy features and add they do have an option on the website to block users, anonymous posts–and to report bullying.