A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Qooh.me is an "ask me anything" site that tweens and teens may use in less-than-constructive ways. Personally identifiable information abounds, kids mostly seem to know each other, and it's really difficult to find actively posting people who will respond to you anonymously. There isn't a lot of explicit content to be found on the site; most of the controversial items seem to be found in sporadic profanity in responses.
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What's it about?
The concept of QOOH.ME is simple: You have 260 characters to ask a question. The registration page says you'll be interacting with people you don't know, then proceeds to ask for and later displays your first and last name. Users find and respond to other user's questions or an intermittent question of the day. To find people to respond to, users enter a "friend's name or username" and/or a location or post their Qlink contact handle to their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Is it any good?
This user-based website/community was conceived by a young man in South Africa who probably had good intentions -- the next Facebook, perhaps? Give kids a space to ask each other questions anonymously, and good things will follow. But first of all, the site design is anything but anonymous: It asks you to find friends by posting your Qlink (like a Twitter handle) to other social media sites and displays your full name and location unless you actively change it. Despite innocent questions such as "What animal would you be?" and "Do you like Nutella?", some kids are answering questions such as "Where do you live?" and "What school do you go to?" Bottom line: Every single post includes user information by default with only the option to ask anonymously. Forget privacy; finding anyone to chat with is really hard. An extremely broad search for Qooh.me users ("John, California") brought up about 16 users total and hardly any current activity. Registration claims you will get a chance to find people you like, but the only information to go on is a name, possibly a location and profile photo, and, really, responses to questions. Finding threads isn't that hard with a mix of nasty and nice, but answers to the ever-popular "Who do you like?" show pretty clearly that most of these kids actually already know each other or at least go to the same school.
In concept Qooh.me is interesting, but to succeed users would need to be actually anonymous (no Qlink or other social media links!) and maybe even matched up randomly rather than self-selected. A personality profile and a menu of questions might help guide the conversation in a positive way. The question of the day apparently from the site itself shows the need to make a better effort at shaping a positive spin: "If you could delete one thing from this earth, what could it be?" got a response of "my ex." Most of the negative questions and answers seem to stem from the combination of kids already knowing each other at least vaguely and being given the illusion of potential anonymity. Thankfully, it's possible to lock your inbox and disable your account, which a great deal of original users have likely already done -- if not because of hateful trash-talking and prying personal questions, then for the lack of actual functionality. With polish and attention, Qooh.me could become a useful site, but right now, it's privacy and blatant content flaws ruin the user experience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about public vs. private communication. Why would you post something online that you wouldn't be willing to say to someone in person?
Explore the concept that "hating haters" is part of the cycle of hate. How do you combat people who just like to be mean online?
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