Should Your Child Have an Ask.fm Account?

Parental challenges today include many issues that parents from previous decades faced, and these include underage drinking, premarital sex, truancy and more. However, today’s parents also face added challenges imposed by social media.  The prevalence of social media has created issues related to cyber stalking, sexting and cyber bullying. While today’s teens use many social media sites and apps, perhaps one of the most talked about amongst parents is Ask.fm.

What Is Ask.fm?

With a private account set up on Ask.fm, both identified and anonymous uses can ask your teen questions. Your teen has the option to answer the question or delete it without responding. There is no end to the types of questions or comments that your teen may receive through the website. In addition, each user can customize his or her Ask page to include a photo, a tagline, a background and other information. If unknown users see your child’s page, that individual will see the photo that your teen has posted.

Stop Bullying
Stop Bullying

How Ask.fm Is Used

When used most innocently, this is a website that teens use to ask questions such as who the person likes, what their favorite sports team is and who their best friends are. They may pay anonymous compliments to your teen, such as stating how beautiful his or her eyes are. However, because the questions can be anonymous, many people unfortunately use Ask.fm to ask hateful or hurtful questions. These may be questions or comments that may never have been said to their face, such as those pertaining to a person’s height, weight, sexual orientation or sexual experience. In addition, they may be vulgar in nature. Because of this, cyberbullying and harassment are common.

Why the Site is Popular

Teens love Ask.fm because it provides them with a way to communicate with others anonymously. For example, someone  may not have the courage to say they have a crush on your teen in person, but he or she may feel comfortable doing so anonymously. Many parents, however, have forbidden their teens from having an Ask.fm account because of cyberbullying and other issues associated with the website.

How Parents May Use the Site

Commonly, parents wonder if their teen is being bullied at school, what other kids think about them or what is going on in their personal life. When an Ask.fm account is actively monitored by parents, parents can learn more about what peers may be thinking or saying about the teen. In fact, an Ask.fm app can be downloaded to the parent’s smartphone, and parents can see questions arrive in the teen’s Ask.fm account in real time. This minimizes the chance that teens may delete questions about hot topics, such as sex, drugs and more that may be asked of them before parents see them.

Important Safety Features

While each parent must decide whether to forbid or allow the use of different social media sites and apps, parents should be aware that Ask.fm does have safety features in place that can be utilized. For example, under the “Settings” page, the “Privacy” tab allows you to control if anonymous questions are asked or not. By only allowing questions from those who identify themselves, you may prevent anonymous cyber bullies from targeting your child. Likewise, you can disable your teen’s questions from being seen on the main Ask.fm feed. This minimizes the chance your teen’s page will receive unwanted visitors. Finally, you can also block users who are harassing your teen with mean , hurtful or vulgar questions. This can be done on a user-by-user basis as questions are asked. Blocking the user actually blocks the device that the user is on, so the person asking the questions could theoretically use a second or third device to ask questions. However, blocking all users who ask mean questions will eventually result in most or all of the hateful messages ceasing.

 

Ask.fm can yield wonderful, positive comments, but it can also yield hurtful and mean-spirited messages. It is fairly unreasonable to expect an Ask.fm account to never receive hateful messages or questions, but the accountholder does not need to respond to or post those. Furthermore, the accountholder can also block that user if necessary. While there are benefits to having an Ask.fm account as well, parents should consider monitoring the account and using privacy and security settings to protect their teen through Ask.fm.

 

Another good article

10 frightening facts about Ask.fm all parents should know

 

 

 

Now Big Brother Really Gets in Your Face

When it comes to new consumer technology, most of us go through four mental stages: interest, amazement, apprehension, and dread. Sometimes that dread turns to terror. Take the Internet: Back in the 90s, its instant, low-cost connectedness was both astonishing and thrilling. People’s imaginations ran wild trying to predict its possibilities. The first cell phones were equally exciting. The idea of having a wireless telephone in your pocket (even if it was the size and weight of a small brick) amazed most people. Time has taught us, however, that technology can be an intrusive double-edged sword.

 

Today, many people are apprehensive. They realize that cell phones are not just convenient ways to communicate with other people, but also relentless tracking devices; and that the Internet, though invaluable and indispensable, is the most closely scrutinized environment ever conceived. Online, we’re spied on by businesses trying to sell us things and by governments trying to discover if we’re criminals. For real criminals, the Internet is the new Wild West. Millions of them lurk unseen, poised to steal any valuables they can find. Our naïve carelessness makes their job easier, and firewalls, anti-hacking, and anti-virus tools fail to stop or even spot many of them.

 

The Internet and cell phones have torn holes in our veil of privacy, but a recently arrived new technology called facial recognition software is about to rip it to shreds. Facial recognition is more than a technology; it is a new paradigm that can instantly identify individual people’s faces from still pictures, video recordings, and even live video footage without the person’s knowledge or consent. The technology is impressive, but its implications are disturbing. Most places open to the public including streets, shops, clubs, railway stations, and airports, as well as many public transport vehicles are monitored by video cameras, ostensibly to protect and serve us. Most of us don’t know who is watching, how long they retain the recordings, whether they make copies, and who else can access them. Crucially, we don’t know whether those with access to this data use facial recognition technology to identify us. Apart from those obvious snoopers, most people now have camera phones and soon some will have devices like Google Glass that take pictures without anyone noticing.

 

The power of facial recognition software makes it both impressive and frightening. Shown two photographs of unfamiliar faces, a human can tell whether or not they are of the same person 97.53% of the time. According to MIT Technology Review, a facial recognition system called DeepFace, currently under development by Facebook, gets the answer right 97.25% of the time. Facebook researchers say that result is 25% better than achieved by previous systems. If that rate of improvement continues, computers will soon be better at recognizing us than our fellow humans. The implications are daunting. Systems with facial recognition capabilities will know who we are by comparing our image with pictures of us in databases and on the Internet. A camera installed in a public place will be able to quickly check our identity and the identity of anyone we meet. It will see where we are, where we go, and what we do.

 

Technology has dramatically improved most of our lives, but it knows few boundaries. Software that identifies just about everyone’s face undermines our inherent right to privacy. Digital records of minor embarrassing incidents can haunt people forever. Technology companies exist to make money and have little interest in restricting their own activities. So legislators and the courts need to clip their wings to protect the public. That may be starting to happen.

 

In May 2014, The European Court of Justice took a significant step in that direction. The court upheld what is known as “the right to be forgotten” by restricting the links that search engines (Google in this case) could display in search results in certain circumstances. The specific case involved a Spanish citizen whose house had been repossessed in 1998 to pay an outstanding debt. Lawyers for the Spanish data protection agency (which took the case to the European court on the man’s behalf) argued that it was unfair and served no public purpose that an Internet search of his name today should prominently display links to an online newspaper report of that old case, especially since the debt had long since been repaid. The court agreed.

 

Not everyone agrees with the court, especially advocates of free speech. Nevertheless, the judgment does draw attention to the fact that technology, whether used by companies to increase profits or governments to snoop, is relentlessly eroding our privacy and anonymity. If current trends continue, soon we may have neither. Big Brother may not be watching us, but his digital sibling certainly is.