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.
When I was a kid I never had a really cool Halloween costume. I favorited those cheap store bought ones. And my only non off-the-rack costume was a nightmare. When I was 11 or so…my mom had taken me to the YMCA as they had some sort of fundraiser where they would “lovingly” create a handmade costume for your kid. All of the girls before me were princesses with beautiful flowing robes and those cone hats with tuile flowing majestically behind them. I excitedly told the high school aged kid assigned to me that THAT’S exactly what I want. I couldn’t wait! I’m not exactly sure what happened or why, but she said that I couldn’t be a princess. No, I, for some reason, had to be a pumpkin. I had already entered puberty, was big for my age and was really sensitive about it. And I was being forced to wear a giant orange orb around my body and have my face painted green.
That night, as I waddled sadly through my neighborhood I thought that things couldn’t get much worse. I was a couple of blocks away from home when I realized that I was wrong. It DID get worse. Because…it began to rain. HARD. My green paint began dripping into my eyes, which felt fantastic. But the worst thing was that my giant pumpkin costume had been lovingly stuffed with a metric ton of wadded up newspaper by the chick at the Y. Once that started getting wet it became really heavy and fell towards the bottom of my costume, giving me that drooping pear shape that all young women are so desperate to have.
Cue the deluge. Lightning flashing, booming thunder and sheets of cold rain were tormenting me. I began to run…a ridiculous hot mess with my dripping face paint, misshapen pumpkin until finally – the coup de gras – I began expelling plops of soaked wads of newspaper from the lowest opening of the costume (between my legs). I still wonder about how crazy I must have looked, a deranged (and by now wailing) pumpkin that was pooping out its’ stuffing. Good times.
I am only grateful that this was before the digital age and that (to my knowledge) to pictures or video were taken of me.
Last year my husband said that he would make a Halloween costume for our 5 year son, Jax, who was enamored with Transformers. Don assured me he could make him a “pretty good” Bumblebee, which is a yellow and black race car that transforms into a walking robot. I was skeptical to say the least. But, they were both excited about the project and began hoarding duct tape and recycled materials (mostly empty cans and cardboard boxes). When I’m wrong I say it and I must say…I was TOTALLY wrong. It was an amazing costume that Jax adored. The pride on his face shone through my heart and warms my soul to this day. I shot a little video of it with my phone and posted it on Youtube to show out of town family what it looked like.
Imagine my surprise when I realized a couple of months ago when I glanced at my Youtube stats and noticed that the video had actually gone viral. To date we’ve had over 12,000 views.
Well done, Don!! I’m so proud of you and grateful that my kid had (essentially) the polar opposite Halloween experience as his mama!
What was your best (or worst) Halloween costume??
A question I get asked a lot is “What’s the next Big Thing in social media?” Right now that answer isn’t really even debatable. It’s Pinterest. If you’re unfamiliar, Pinterest is an invite-only (if you want an invite, leave me your email address in the comments section and I’ll hook you up) online cork board.
Online cork board? So what does that mean? Why is it important? How can you harness it to strengthen your brand? Here is an example of what a brand might pin on it’s board:
As you can see, Bergdorf has a board dedicated to an upcoming trend that they’ve termed “sunkissed”. It gives their followers information on what’s new and hot…and it also conveniently links back to their website so that if the consumer finds something she cannot live without (I’m looking at YOU, glorious yellow strappy sandals), she can easily order them from the store.
Pinterest is important because people like it. People are consumers. Consumers shop for stuff. If you can reach out to your consumer and engage with them in an authentic and non-annoying way in a space where they feel comfortable, then you are waaaaaaaaaay ahead of the curve.
Do you ever watch the Travel Channel? Check out how they are strengthening their brand on Pinterest.
There are lots of applications. And here are two glimpses of Whole Foods, another company doing cool stuff on Pinterest:
I love that Whole Foods uses Pinterest as a vehicle for their products, dinner ideas, non-profit, etc. They really utilize the boards to reinforce their brand and the things that support their corporate mission.
How are you using Pinterest with your branding?
Many companies find that outsourcing is an effective way to achieve objectives while keeping a sharp eye on their bottom line. But here is where a lot of them miss an opportunity to outsource more effectively: they don’t match up their outsourced staff with their demographic. And this leads to miscommunication.
Have you ever called a customer service line and find yourself speaking to someone with a heavy foreign accent (yet who also assures you that her name is “Sue”)? Right off the bat you have trouble understanding and being understood. This is a communications failure, which should be concerning to customer service managers across the planet. Yet the outsourcing continues.
Many outsourced jobs are also offshored, which means that they are jobs that are sent to people in other countries. Social Butterfly Marketing is an outsourcing option for social media. But we homeshore jobs, which simply means that we use American people to provide social media support to other American consumers. Further, we match up our Social Butterflies interests with those of the target demographic of our clients. We do this because we believe that makes them much more effective at understanding and communicating with our client’s audience.
For example, if you have a Parenting magazine and want to hire a social media person to engage with your audience, you probably wouldn’t want to hire a college kid who doesn’t have any kids because he won’t understand your target demographic. In those situations we find a “Butterfly” with parenting experience who also fits the target demographic (35-45 years old, certain socio-economic level, etc). Every time I call customer service and speak to “Sue” in Bangalore, it makes me wish that more companies put a little bit more thought into it.
In other news, I’m SO excited to be attending the SoCon12 conference at the Center for Sustainable Journalism at KSU this weekend!! You can follow along by monitoring the event hashtag, #SoCon12. There will be a lot to learn!!