What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that you can't register for Ask.fm unless you're 13 -- or say you are during registration. But you can't go back and enter a new birth date once you’ve been denied. The site doesn't monitor content, which opens the door for content that's inappropriate -- and that's very, very easy to find. Bullying has been a major concern in the past; the British news website MailOnline reported that the site has been linked to the suicides of several teens. But Ask.fm has since launched a separate safety site to help teens understand how to adjust their profile settings for additional safety and have a more secure experience. Users, for example, follow each other anonymously. But kids also can be very visible, such as filming and posting video responses to user questions and sharing personal photos on the site. Users can report questions or answers that are violent or pornographic or that contain hate speech. But profiles, at present, cannot be reported. As with many social apps, some users keep things friendly and clean, while others post more offensive content. Both app and website versions of this title are available; our review references key points relevant to both.
What's it about?
Founded in 2010, with offices in Ireland, Riga, Latvia, and California, ASK.FM is a social media site where interactions are based on questions and answers. To use the site, you need to register and create a profile; you can then ask a question -- anonymously, if you'd like -- or view questions other users have posted. You can submit written answers or record a video response. Users also can find friends through the site or app or by syncing with Facebook, Twitter, or VK.com.
Is it any good?
While the concept of this site -- encouraging people to learn more about their friends and foster a curiosity in others -- is a good one, not all users embrace that line of thinking. There are friendly interactions on Ask.fm -- Q&As about favorite foods or crushes, for example -- but you can't guarantee what kind of response you'll get when you post a question. The social media site has made some moves recently to give users a safer experience, such as offering a site with online safety advice -- but it unfortunately hasn't been able to stop some users from posting negative, inappropriate, and downright mean comments. Kids can turn off anonymous answers and keep themselves out of the live stream, but syncing with Facebook or Twitter means that a much wider audience can see those Q&As, so kids and parents should be mindful of that, too.
The app is unmoderated, which makes it a Wild West-like environment. Within five minutes, we encountered hate speech, obscenities, people singing the praises of illegal drugs, and graphic nudity (with many sexual references). There doesn't appear to be a way to report users directly -- which was particularly disturbing when we found a user whose screen name and avatar image seemed to promote child pornography. We reported it to company officials -- who still did not remove the profile for several days and said they would not alert law enforcement authorities about the user. Though users can report questions and answers they find objectionable, there's also bullying in some answers. This isn’t an app kids should be allowed near.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about cyberbullying and how anonymity can encourage bad behavior. Do you act differently online when your real identity isn't revealed?
Review our Social Networking Tips and set guidelines for what's OK to post online and what's off-limits. Do you know why online limits are important?