Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ask.fm and Ask Again

By: Piper Graber, Age 14. Piper is the narrator of What Kids Are (Really) Doing Online. Cross-posted on iKeepSafe Blog.

Image is from home page of Ask.fm, account is public (user is not subject of this story).
Last month my mom wrote on this blog (see below) about an incident that happened in my 8th grade class surrounding Ask.fm, a website that lets users pose and answer questions anonymously:  

A student in our class was the recipient of a cruel post on Ask.fm. In this case, the victim was smart, and shared this information with a trusted adult. Their teacher turned this unfortunate situation into a terrific learning opportunity by addressing the situation in class, and also alerted the parents. The parents responded largely by advising one another to have their kids drop the site.

This post is a follow-up:

After spending a good part of my last week of school discussing a “bullying” situation that happened on Ask.fm, I was shocked when I saw a post on Instagram by the same girl who was bullied. She posted, “Ask me questions” with a link to her re-opened Ask.fm account.

After my initial disbelief, I decided to click on the link and see for myself if she really had reopened her account. Lo and behold, she had. I was angry and upset that she decided to ignore all the advice given by her teacher and classmates after three long days of discussing the incident. After all, we had all come to the conclusion that given her situation, it would be best for her to discontinue her account on Ask.fm. Her mom even sent emails around to all the parents of the class assuring everyone that her daughter would never use that site again (and suggesting that we shouldn’t use it either).  

So I decided to “ask” her this question:

“Why would you put yourself in the same situation after making such a big deal about being bullied the first time around?”

Thoroughly puzzled by her motives, I was anxious to see the answer she would give me, but the answer I received was not quite what I was looking for. Instead she responded eloquently: 

Go  (blank) a (male’s private parts).”

Now the thing I’d like to point out here, is that the device did not make her respond the way she did. In fact, it did not force her to respond at all. This was a result of her own thinking skills. So before you blame the tool, remember it’s not the phone’s job to raise your child. It’s yours.

And taking away the shoe isn’t going to stop your child from walking.

So my advice is this: When it  comes to digital tools and your kids, don’t just ask once, but ask and ask again. Here is a helpful list of things to ask your child:
  • If you can’t take the heat of a potentially cruel statement online, should you be using that app or website in the first place?
  • Do you ever post anything that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see?
  • If something cruel has happened to you before online, have you taken steps to make sure it won’t happen again (like blocking anonymous questions on Ask.fm)?
As a daughter, I would rather have my mom ask me these questions and even ask to look at my social network accounts with me, rather than going behind my back, or worse, not asking me anything at all. So remember, just ask, and ask again.

Unfortunately in this case my peer didn’t get a chance to be in the Cyber Civics classes in 6th and 7th grades where we talked about all this stuff. Too bad, because then she wouldn’t be asking for more trouble on ask.fm.