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New safety agreement for Ask.fm seeks to protect children, teens from harassment

Cyberbullying cbNew York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and the media company IAC Thursday announced an agreement aimed at curbing cyberbullying and harassment to protect members of Ask.fm, a social networking website recently purchased by IAC’s operating business Ask.com.

Ask.fm has recently become hugely popular among teenagers.  

Under the agreement, Ask.fm will change its safety policies and procedures, including creating a new online Safety Center, hiring a trust and safety officer to act as a primary safety contact, and establishing a Safety Advisory Board to oversee all safety issues.

Ask.fm will also review user complaints within 24 hours and remove users that have been the subject of three complaints. An independent safety and security examiner will be appointed to examine the changes and report on compliance to the Attorney General’s Office for three years.

“I applaud IAC’s leadership in working with our office to design a program that protects Ask.fm users from cyberbullying and other harmful content,” Schneiderman said.

Launched in 2010, Ask.fm has more than180 million monthly users around the world – 42 percent are under age 18.

Users can anonymously ask questions of other registered users without identifying who they are. While most teenage users trade harmless chatter, some have used the website to anonymously harass and insult classmates and neighbors, he said. 

Under IAC, Ask.fm has entered into a similar agreement with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office. 

Schneiderman recommends that parents know about their children’s activity online – especially on social networking sites – to ensure their safety as well as the safety of other users. Parents can follow these tips: 

  • Check your child’s browser history.
  • Review your child’s privacy settings, and show him or her how to activate the highest level of security.
  • Educate yourself about the sites.
  • Set strict rules for what is and isn’t appropriate for your child to post online.
  • Instruct your child to think before posting.
  • Be smart about the details your child reveals, such as never posting your address or personal information.  
  • Remind your child that anything created or communicated can be re-distributed and used to hurt your child or someone else.
  • Be aware of “anonymous” apps and social websites.
  • Teach your child about what cyberbullying is and discuss behaving civilly and respectfully online.
  • Talk to your child about the persistence of online content and how it can affect his or her reputation long term and potentially cause later impact. 
Copyright 2014, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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