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.
So I was busy today doing my usual creeping around on Facebook when I saw this post from the fiancé of a foreign exchange student who stayed with us…omg…like 20 years ago (am I really that old?!!!). Anyway, she said:
Ummmm…gesundheit?!! Considering I’m not even sure what language that is, I surely don’t know what it means. Then I noticed two beautiful words under her post: “See Translation”. Could it really be that easy??
Yes, it can be and is actually that easy. Turns out they’ve gotten married over the last 24 hours and she was overcome with gratitude for her friends and family.
What does this mean? Say what you will about Facebook; I think that it’s pretty cool that I’ve reconnected with the nice Swedish kid who crashed at my pad all of those years ago. And I love that Facebook has come up with a way for us to communicate even though we don’t speak the same language.
The world just got smaller in a pretty cool way.
Two blog posts in one week. Don just might do a cartwheel across the office.What can I say…it’s hard for me to write when I’m not inspired. But when I am…..
Those of you who know me well know that I’m very interested in a problem referred to as CSEC, the commercial sexual exploitation of children. My interest began when my little brother fell in love with and then married a wonderful Russian woman. We flew to Russia for the wedding (it was seriously off the chain…in a palace…copious amounts of caviar and vodka…wish you could have been there with us!). On the plane I read an article on human trafficking and was horrified at some of the stories of women and children (some as young as 5) being stolen and then sold into the sex trade. In addition to being horrified, I was left with the impression that I’m glad that I don’t live in a place where this is commonplace. I mean, really. IMAGINE.
So fast forward a couple of years and imagine my surprise when I learn that it’s very common in the USA as well. In fact, my beloved Atlanta is, in fact, a hub for this monstrosity. Minor girls are sold on average of 350 times each and every month in metro Atlanta. Do you think it doesn’t happen near you?? Well…guess again.
What are we going to do about this?? Slavery isn’t dead in our country, not by a long shot. We have to do something.
I noticed a group on Facebook called MN Girls Are Not For Sale who apparently feel the same way. They post fantastic content, discussing all types of issues related to CSEC. They recently posted an article about a man who was sentenced to probation in a child trafficking case. What interested me most about the article is that this guy went to a prostitute and asked her to find him an 8 year old girl so that he could have sex with her. The prostitute was so disgusted that she literally risked her life by flagging down a policeman and reporting this guy.
Most prostitutes are under the heavy hand of a pimp who beats her, takes her money, etc. I’m amazed at this woman’s bravery that set the right eyes onto a sexual predator. The police went to his house where they found (surprise) child porn. He lived across the street from an elementary school and he had binoculars sitting by the window (shudder). Based on the porn that was found only because of the prostitute, he’s in federal prison for seven and a half years. And he got an additional 20 years probation for trying to buy an 8 year old.
I love how social media plays such an important role in social problems. It allows me to be informed of a topic that I care deeply about…and it allows me to easily share the message.
What social causes do you follow on social media?
Want to know more about CSEC and what you can do to help? Check out these links:
Have you ever attended one of the SoCon events? The next one is coming up on February 3rd and 4th. From a networking party at SweetWater Brewing Company to an all day conference at KSU, there is something for everyone! I find that it’s a great way to stay on top of the constantly changing landscape of social media. It’s also great for networking.
Check out the break out sessions. How will I ever choose???
10:30 – 11:30am Break out session #1
• Always On: Will Traditional Computers Survive the Mobile Revolution
• Augmented Reality
• Lessons in Video PR
• Socializing Local Store Marketing (LSM)
• The Future is Now: Social TV and What Consumers Want
• The Great Unfollow Experiment
• The War On Stupid
• Educating (Dr.) Rita
• Social Service: Cultivating Responsible Fans
• The Value of Incorporating SEO-friendly Content into Web content
1:15 – 2:15 pm Break out session #2
• Be a Big Fish in a Small Pond: Growing Your Venture Overseas
• Connecting Georgia Greens – Real World Examples
• Creating and Leveraging Sustainable Social Media Communities
• Crowd Financing 101
• The Creative (not creepy) Use of Social Media Analytics
• Social Media for Advocacy: Using Next Generation Tools to Spread Awareness and Influence Policy
• Quit the Daily Grind: A Former Newspaper Reporter’s Social-Media Journey to Freelance Success
• The Social Journey
• Designing for the Mobile Age
2:30 – 3:30pm Break out session #3
• Create, Connect, Collaborate: Words that work online
• The Intersection of Social Media and Communicating Sustainability
• The World Has Gone Mobile: Use Your Basic Web Skills to Build iPhone and Android Apps
• Why Time Consuming Blogging, Twitter and Facebook Strategies May NOT Work for Your Business: Consider These Alternative Social Media Strategies
• Mine! No, Mine! : Who Owns Social Media?
• Would You Like A Badge With That? Event Organizing In A 2.0 World
• Building Web-Based Augmented Reality Experience
• She Said, He Said
• Crowdsourcing content: The social consumer as a source for content and dialogue
• Social Media Mistakes and how to handle them (Dealing with Online Reputation Management)
If you would like to join us, use discount code “CSJ15” by January 20th and get 15% off SoCon12’s already low price. Seriously…it’s a steal!!