ASKfm Safety Guide for Schools & Educators

Teacher Guide shutterstock_183832961

Guiding Today’s “Digitally Native” Students

Digital technologies are increasingly woven throughout the educational experience; digital media resources and technology are used daily to increase students’ access to information and help them learn about and interact with people from across the globe. These learning opportunities extend beyond the school building borders and continue long after the final school bell chimes in the afternoon. Educators are tasked with guiding these formal and informal exploration and communication exchanges and digital citizenship and safety is a key part of that guidance. The ASKfm School Safety Guide is one way the ASKfm team is working alongside school professionals to address these concerns.

ASKfm: Anonymity with Responsibility

ASKfm, a global social network now owned by Ask.com, is one of the world’s largest and most enduring Q&A brands. Today, ASKfm has 180 million monthly unique users across 150 different countries. The new leadership at ASKfm believes we have a responsibility to those users, many of whom are under 18 and attending high school. We are highly invested in making sure everyone, but particularly young adults, are familiar with all safety tools and features on ASKfm, and that they get the proper guidance in navigating their digital world in a way that is empathetic and kind. Teenage years are often a voyage of self-discovery. Platforms like ASKfm can make the journey easier by giving users the option of anonymity, which can foster uninhibited, truthful discussions, encourages opinions and allows teens to explore different points of view. It can and should be a platform for building self-confidence.

But we recognize the anonymous feature on ASKfm hasn’t always been used to foster positive experiences. That is why, since acquiring ASKfm in August of 2014, the Ask.com leadership team is working fast and furiously to enact a number of safety measures. ASKfm is dedicated to maintaining the option to ask questions anonymously on ASKfm, but with clear rules, policies and tools in place to allow users to control their experience and pay the consequences (including, account removal) should they choose to not adhere to our Terms of Use.

Bottom line: ASKfm today will not tolerate harmful, harassing and abusive behavior on the platform – be it done anonymously or otherwise. Our safety philosophy is firmly rooted in the concept of collaboration, that we all must work together – industry, educators, families, government, law enforcement and users themselves – to ensure consistent improvements in digital safety and swift action to make those not playing by the rules accountable. With 20,000 questions per minute, we will need to rely on this broader ecosystem to help.

ASKfm: What Is ASKfm?

ASKfm is an online social network that enables people to send questions to each other and answer them, when they want to. ASKfm is available as a smartphone application on iOS and Android devices as well as a desktop website.

How It Works

When a user asks a question, they are able to choose whether to ask it anonymously or reveal their name. Users have the ability to completely opt-out of receiving anonymous questions if they wish. All questions are received into a user’s profile Inbox. When a question is first asked, only the recipient of the question can see the question(s) in their profile Inbox until the question(s) are answered. As soon as someone answers a question, the question and answer will appear on that user’s profile. If the question(s) are not answered, they will not be published or made visible to others.

Everyone (even people who are not signed up to ASKfm) can see user profiles. This means that parents and educators can browse ASKfm without having to create an account. In addition, any content can be deleted from a user profile if a user decides they do not want that content on their profile page.

The following section will describe features and functions of ASKfm in some detail so that parents and educators can better understand the platform and better address any concerns they may have.

Questions

Users can see the question(s) people have asked them by clicking the “Questions” link on the top of their profile page. The number in brackets shows users how many unanswered questions they have. ASKfm sends users a “Question of the Day” and users can receive additional random questions at any time by clicking the “Get a random question” button. As soon as a user answers a question, the question and answer will appear on the user’s profile.

Users can ask a question by typing the question into the box on someone’s profile page. If they want a question to be anonymous, they can tick the box that says “ask anonymously”. If a user does not want someone to send them questions anymore, they can block them from asking them anything by clicking on “block”.

Profile

A user’s profile on ASKfm shows the user name, user bio and any answers that they post. They have complete control over their profile. They can add or delete any text, photos or videos when they wish to. A user can also tell ASKfm if they do not like something or how someone is behaving by using the report button on their profile or someone else’s profile.

Friends/Search

Users can search for their friends on ASKfm by entering their names, user names or email addresses. They can also find friends from other social network sites by linking their ASKfm account with those networks.

Make a Gift

Users can make a gift to another ASKfm users by clicking on the link “make a gift” where details are provided on how to give gifts and how to make payments.

Showing What Users Think of an Answer

If users see an answer they like, they are able to click on a “heart” icon showing that they have liked that answer. If users do not like what someone else has posted, they are able to use the “flag” icon to report it.

Protecting Students

Below are just a few examples of existing safety measures, along with some early steps we have taken to further enhance safety on ASKfm since coming under new ownership:

  • Preventing inappropriate content and illegal activity
  • Increasing ability to report abuse throughout the site
  • Preventing minors under the age of 13 from registering on the site
  • Empowering users on how to protect themselves including improving the ease with which users are able to opt-out of anonymous questions and block or “unfollow” other users
  • Working with law enforcement to handle reports of illegal activity
  • Partnering with safety experts and establishing a global advisory board consisting of experts in the areas of bullying, digital media, privacy and overall digital safety.

ASKfm Safety Controls: A Tutorial

Here is a deep dive into some specific safety features of the ASKfm service that are important to highlight for students on ASKfm:

ASKfm is a social network where people can post questions and comments to other people’s profiles, with the option to be anonymous or not. Because ASKfm aims to facilitate an environment in which users can communicate in a safe space, we provide users with Safety Controls and Privacy Settings and guidance on how to personalize your ASKfm experience.

If a user ever decides they only want to talk to people when they can see who they are, they can always choose not to receive anonymous questions by visiting the Settings page on the ASKfm website.

ASKfm provides users and visitors to the site with easy-to-understand tips on how to be safer while using ASKfm. Users are reminded that they do not have to ask questions if they do not feel comfortable or for any reason. In addition, these safety controls are available to ASKfm users.

  • Block Button

At any time, and for any reason, users can block other users from contacting them. The block button will stop users from asking questions (this applies to anonymous users as well). The block button is a traditional crossed circle icon.

  • Report Button

Users can use the report button to tell ASKfm, about someone who is being unkind, bullying or bothering other users. If users do not like what someone else has posted, they are able to use the “flag” icon to report it. ASKfm will look into these situations, and users are reminded that no one will know that they have reported anything or anyone except for ASKfm.

  • Privacy Settings

Users can turn off anonymous question asking in their Privacy Settings – this way no one will be able to ask questions unless they can see their profile.

Lastly, users are given direct access to more information and invited to read the ASKfm Privacy PolicyTerms of Use and our Safety Tools.

Where ASKfm is Headed

It’ still early days when it comes our safety plans, but we’re motivated by our progress so far, and are steadfastly committed to methodically tackling safety challenges, one-by-one. Under new leadership, ASKfm is committed to providing safety-related improvements to its technologies, policies and procedures, and eager to expand our partnerships and educational efforts to reach all stakeholders in the safety ecosystem. Schools and educators are key partners in our mission to create a safer and more positive ASKfm, and to empower and educate teens on the platform to make the safest and best possible choices for themselves while spending time on our site.

Contacting ASKfm

ASKfm values its relationship with school professionals and endeavors to work proactively with community members. We believe that by working together, we can all to help students make smarter, safer and kinder choices online. In order to report concerns, please click here.

ASKfm’s commitment to the safety of its teen users is an ongoing endeavor, and we understand that partnerships with school professionals play an essential role in the services and policies we implement to protect students online. We look forward to working closely with educators of all types in hopes of developing thoughtful safety solutions and implementing systems that encourage students to use ASKfm as it was intended—as a platform for self-discovery and truthful conversations in a safe, fun and engaging environment.