Social Media Fail
What’s wrong with this image? Obviously, it’s a troubling story about a missing 16 year old girl (Veronica Bobadilla) who was last seen last Monday. When her family tried texting her phone the message they received back said, “I’ve killed Veronica. Stop texting her.”
Very sad and unsettling. WYFF4 reported that Tuesday afternoon, Bobadilla called home to say she was on her way back, but it is not yet clear where she was headed or where she was when she called.
Hooray for happy endings!! So now that THAT is settled, let’s go back to the image. Do you see the match.com advertisement? Many companies, large and small, advertise on their website. It’s a nice revenue stream, right? So why wouldn’t they??
The trouble is when automated processes are in place and not reviewed by someone who understands both the context of their site as well as that of the product/service being advertised. Whoever is managing the AdSense campaign for The Huffington Post should have prevented this potentially embarrassing ad from popping up. After all, the sad truth is that 70% of runaways become a part of the sex trade industry, often within the first 24 hours of leaving. (Are you surprised by this? If so read up on the disturbing practice of prostituted girls in Georgia here.)
If you are concerned about a similarly inappropriate ad landing on your website, ask your advertising partner to share the categories of companies that could possibly show up on your site. If you’re a DIY type, and have your own AdSense account, you will probably want to start by looking at the “Sensitive categories” of possible advertisers. For example, if you run a bakery, you probably will want to rule out any weight loss centers, or run the risk of an ad with an obese person on it popping up on your website designed to sell your bakery items. Because as you may know…muffin tops don’t sell muffins.
My daughter and I were interviewed yesterday by Fox 5 Atlanta’s Tacoma Perry about the risks involved in a relatively new website that teens and preteens are using called Ask.Fm. Here is a link to the interview:
Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5
To recap, Ask is a site where you set up a profile and anyone can anonymously ask you a question. Kids are using it to find out more about each other. Sometimes it’s cute “What’s your favorite color?” but I’ve seen more and more posts that are deeply alarming, including questions posed to 12 and 13 year old girls about their sexual history. I’ve also seen girls bullied and encouraged to commit suicide. I was so concerned about one kid that I called the police (who didn’t know WHAT to do).
Here is part of that thread. This poor kid was harassed beyond belief and told repeatedly that nobody liked her (including her parents) and that she should do the world a favor and die.
I wrote a little bit more about this website yesterday, you can read that here.
If your child is on Instagram, I would bet that they’ve had at least some exposure to Ask.Fm. If you’re curious as to whether or not your kid is using the site, go to any computer or device where they use the internet. Type in “www.ask.fm” in the browser. If they’re using it, their profile will likely pop up. And of course, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section.
Did you ever read Lord of the Flies? It’s basically about a bunch of kids who get stuck on a deserted island together and resort to governing themselves, to disastrous results. I am reminded of this savage behavior when I see kids interact online.
I was interviewed this morning by a local television station about a site called Ask.FM. This is a site where people set up an account and then anyone – anywhere – can ask them anything. Anonymously. Most of the accounts I’ve seen on it are kids, ranging in age from 11-15 or so. Some of it is harmless, what’s your favorite color, your favorite band, etc. And some of it is disturbing: hold old were you when started your period? What size bra do you wear?? How far have “gone” with a boy?
Incredibly, the kids answer. I’ve seen a kid ganged up on and bullied relentlessly, to the point where people are begging her to kill herself. I’ve seen another where someone said to her “I had a dream last night that I raped you. And I want to do it in real life….” This anonymous person then went on to describe, in horrifying detail, how he or she would rape this child.
Why is this happening? Why are our children resorting to savage behavior online when they are reasonably well behaved in person? It’s because they are not being governed. They’re not parented online; we have become functionally illiterate in the world in which our children live. It’s not because we don’t care…of COURSE we care. But we have been so slow to embrace online media. This generation of parents in many cases is still adjusting and adapting to Facebook. First of all, Facebook is merely the tip of the iceberg in social media. Second of all, kids have been moving away from it and onto other platforms at warp speed. We aren’t keeping up.
When our kids were little, crossing the street was a BIG deal. We established rules:
- Hold my hand
- Look both ways
- Cross at the crosswalk
Then they were rewarded or punished for how they did, “Great job looking both ways!! I’m proud of you!” Or if your kid broke one of the rules you would immediately stop what you’re doing and talk to (or yell at) your kid, reinforcing the rules and why they are so important. This cycle was rinsed and repeated until you felt somewhat confident that your kid would be safe.
We don’t have that for social media. And we need it. BADLY.
Kids need to know that:
- if someone says something to them that’s inappropriate, they need to get help from an adult. If someone threatens to rape you, they’ve actually committed a crime called a terroristic threat (defined as a crime generally involving a threat to commit violence communicated with the intent to terrorize another.
- there is no true anonymity online. If you tell someone online to kill herself, and she does it, guess what? It’s YOUR fault. You can be held liable. And if you’re too young to go to jail you had better be ready for the lawsuit that will land on your parents for not properly raising you. Are you ready to lose your house and life savings?
- they should respect themselves enough to not answer the questions that are nobody elses business. Don’t be lured in by the Kardashian Currency of fame and infamy. It’s 99% smoke and mirrors and 1% emptiness and loneliness.
- they should be looking out for each other (and rewarded when they do so). I’ve seen it from time-to-time, “Hey! Leave her alone…I’ve reported you for cyber bullying….”
- if they see or hear someone threatening to hurt themselves or someone else, that they have an absolute obligation to step forward and say something, even if it has consequences (legal, social or otherwise).
There have been several suicides in the UK tied to ask.fm. We need to be proactive or I’m afraid of what might happen.
Those of you who know me personally know that I have worked on a few projects fighting CSEC (commercial sexual exploitation on children). This is a real problem that happens everywhere. In metro Atlanta underage girls are pimped an average of 350 times. PER MONTH. The average age of entry into this?? She’s about 12 years old. It is abhorrent but true.
Pimps are natural predators who are excellent at making these girls do whatever they want. And they are rolling with the times, which means that they are now using social media as a tool to get more girls. They look at these girls as possessions. The pimps take all of the money…and the more girls they have, the more money they make, pure and simple.
The pimps set up fake identities on social networks and pretended to be women (it’s less threatening to get a message from another girl). And girl after girl FELL for it. This message came from Facebook and was an exception:
Can you imagine being that kids mom??! She handled it a lot more gracefully than I would have. I think I would’ve been like “heck yeah I wanna do that! Come pick me up!” And then…go all Chuck Norris with a touch of Lorena Bobbit on them.
But enough about my “revenge on pimps” violent fantasies. The thing we need to talk about now is: what can you do to keep your kids safe? Fortunately, I have an answer. You might not like it, but that’s too bad.
Get plugged in. STAY plugged in. Know your kids friends, including the virtual ones. Find out what social platforms your kid is on and then get your own account. LEARN how to use it. Make sure that your kid has appropriate security settings. Turn the “map my photos” option off on Instagram. Make sure that only their friends can see their content on Facebook. Make sure that they have NO identifying information on Twitter that would make it easy for someone to find them in a crowd.
Teach your kids why they should never accept a Facebook friend request from someone they don’t know. Otherwise she could get one of these:
And if it happens to come on the wrong day, when her self esteem is low, she feels ugly, bored, angry at you, whatever, well…she could be ripe for the plucking by these bastards. So. Go get your learn on.
Here is a link to the article about pimps using social media. Reading it on a full stomach may lead to nausea…just a heads up.
Oh, and by the way, the pictures of the girls above are only meant to serve as a reminder of what a 12 year old girl looks like. In fact, to get it I googled “12 year old girl”. As far as I know none of them are involved in this kind of thing.
I have an aunt who likes to say “sh*t or get off of the pot.” I’ve heard her say it at least a thousand times. I had an interesting dealing with AT&T the other day that reminded me of this sentiment. Considering the size and scope of their organization, their social media efforts are lame. Either your company is committed to helping its’ customers via social media or it isn’t.
Take twitter, for example. Twitter is not like email. It is a series of conversations that happen in real time. So when I say,
I expect that there will be some sort of response from AT&T, relatively soon. Like a few minutes kind of soon.
But 45 minutes later (how long it took to get a response) I’ve already given up on you helping me via twitter and have finally talked to a “customer service” person who helped us resolve the issue. Additionally, since we had all of that time on our hands, we called your competitor (who assures us that there won’t be service interruptions like we’re experiencing with AT&T).
One of the responses I got was really frustrating:
It was from the username @ATTTeamSusan but “signed” from AnthonyG, who then gave me his schedule for when he worked. Like I care? I’m sure Anthony G is a totally awesome guy. But we’re not going to have any kind of relationship beyond the possibility that he might resolve my issue. It’s also sort of distracting to be looking at the image of ATTTeamSusan, knowing that it’s really someone called Anthony. I mean, where the hell is Susan?! Why don’t I know her schedule, too?? Is Susan better than Anthony??? Did she get canned for something and they are still using her name and image???
So…AT&T, I think that you need to decide if you’re going to commit to the social media space or not. You have a real opportunity here to shrink some expenses in your call centers while endearing yourselves to your customers. Your social media team can telecommute. They can also handle multiple events at the same time. You will save money in your call centers while maybe making some of your employees happy because they can work from home.
Happy employees. Satisfied customers. Save money. All good things.