The Dilemma of Anonymity and Dangers of Ask.fm

By on Aug 06, 2013

Anonymity affords a precarious, irresistible power to teens online. Ask.fm is one app that’s exploding in popularity by allowing users to ask and answer questions to one another anonymously.

While Ask.fm is used by many teens as a digital playground to flirt and just have fun (and confess crushes), the lack of a name or face, can (and often does) open the door to cyber bulling, sexual conversation, and direct hits to a child’s self esteem.

Ask.fm is exploding in popularity among youth is growing with more than 57 million users and a staggering 200,000 new users added daily. It is currently ranked number 8 on Apple’s most downloaded free app chart—in front of teen app sensations Instagram, YouTube and Kik Messenger.

The site is also popular because it’s a cyber hangout that is parent-free and lacks the basic safeguards of Facebook or even Instagram. Ask.fm has no privacy settings, and no reporting system for violations. It’s 100% anonymous, which means, zero consequences for bullying, threats, or sexual content. Because of its anonymity, Ask.fm has also been linked to countless cyber bullying cases and even suicides.

Here’s how the site warns users:Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 5.26.01 PM

“If you receive a question that makes you uncomfortable for any reason, do not respond to the question, tell a parent, guardian or other trusted adult and block the user who sent it so they can’t contact you again. If the person keeps bothering you, report abuse to us by pressing the Report button and to law enforcement.”

While the app creators encourage you to “press the ‘Report’ button” we could not find a “Report” button on their site.

So, should you let your child download the app? Well, every opinion will vary. However, we believe that when things get anonymous online, the security risks skyrocket as do the opportunities for social drama and even emotional disaster.

Think about it. What good can come from teen peers interacting anonymously (enough can go awry when avatars and real names are attached)? This mom sees Ask.fm as a toxic, emotional cocktail too easily made from mixing one part anonymity with one part raging hormones and one part maturity deficit.

There’s little if no good that comes from anonymity online. This is one app you need to put your foot down on and ‘just say no’ to.

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family.

About the Author

Toni Birdsong

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist for McAfee. She is an author, speaker, and cyber savvy mom of two teenagers (much to their dismay). As a family safety evangelist for McAfee, she focuses on online safety and often speaks to educators, parents, and teens about dodging the dangers online. She is the co-owner of ...

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  1. Everyone deserves a right to anonymity online, and your fears of negative interaction may occur in some cases, but not all. I think the level of comfort that such a site provides is a good thing if used for the right purpose. Maybe as a compromise allow your teens to use this site as a privilege, that is if they use it maturely and safely. Teens are not children, and could benefit and thrive from a little free range parenting. I think the problem is parents are so attached to them that they don’t give them the space to develop as their own person.

    And what’s this fear and hysteria about cyberbullying? And why does bullying need a new name, it’s happened in high schools long before the internet and long before you were born Toni. Young people need to be taught how to handle bullying better and not be treated like special snowflakes everywhere they go. Because of the anonymity online, people are generally more honest and open (I would not say all these things I am saying to you in person), and people could benefit from a little constructive criticism. Not saying I condone harassment in any sort of manner, but young people should be trained how to handle it and respond accordingly.

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