Wednesday, June 12, 2013
How Much Do You REALLY Know?
by Mikey Keating Smith, M.Ed
Many parents are familiar with Facebook, the ubiquitous social networking site, and some also know about twitter (although they might not understand exactly how it works). Unfortunately, when it comes to social networking, Facebook and twitter are just the tip of the iceberg. Tumblr, Instagram, Keek, Vine, ask.fm. . . Social networking sites are exploding, and while there are many wonderful uses for each one of them, there are also many pitfalls and opportunities for kids to become targets. How can we keep our kids safe on websites we don't even know exist?
*Leigh Stewart thought she had covered all her bases when it came to keeping her 11-year-old son safe online. Her son's emails were forwarded to her cell phone, and she knew he had several social networking accounts, including one with ask.fm. What she didn't know, however, is that ask.fm, a seemingly harmless website where users can post questions and answers, has no privacy settings. That means that anyone, anywhere, is free to comment on anyone else's account, with no filter. Anonymously. The site, which has more than 40 million users, has come under fire in England recently, where it has been blamed for the suicides of several students who were reportedly bullied mercilessly thanks to ask.fm's anonymity.
Because ask.fm emails users when posts are made to the account, Stewart was able to see responses to her son's questions. She was shocked to see the responses grow more and more inappropriate, and worse, obscene. Her son was hurt and humiliated by the anonymous bullying. "I went in my son's room and he was crying under the covers so I wouldn't hear him," she says. "He was embarrassed but he showed me all the other comments that he never replied to - thank goodness he was smart enough to not reply."