Popular Teen App Spotlight: Ask.fm
In elementary school, I remember being tapped on the shoulder and handed a note. The note had my name on it and had been passed anonymously from someone in the room. Opening it up it read something like this: “Do you like A) Christina, B) Sally or C) Jen?” I was to circle who I liked and then send the note back.
As I moved into middle and high school, the same style of anonymous questions continued. But now they were often asked by a peer who had been sent on a secret mission to figure out who I liked for their friend.
I remember two distinct feelings during these situations. First I would usually blush, get embarrassed and a little gitty inside thinking that someone may like me more than just a friend. My second feeling was that of uncertainty and fear. “What if I circled a name and it was not the person who sent the note? Would they be upset? Would they tell the person whose name I circled that I liked them?”
These experiences, although somewhat anxiety ridden, felt more like a childish game than anything else.
Times have changed since I was young. Youth’s ability to utilize technology and social networking sites causes these types of encounters to be more secretive (as far as who is asking the questions) and more public (who can see the questions and answers) through apps and websites.
A few years back, the website Formspring (now going by Spring.me) was all over the news. It is a website popular with teens that allowed users to ask each other anonymous questions. It quickly got on the radar of all parents and youth workers because of the harassment that was occurring on the site.
Now a new website and popular app called Ask.fm is gaining popularity with teens for the same reason. It allows users the ability to ask anonymous questions of each other. If this was available when I was a teen, I am sure I would have received the questions from those hand written notes in this advanced format.
Ask.fm is a question platform site and app that is highly integrated with Social Media where users can pose questions anonymously to other users through the site or on other social networks. Apps like this can be great fun with questions like, “What movies have you seen lately?” or “What did you do this summer?”
Ask.Fm allows teens to express their thoughts or share information without having to share who they are. This allows them the opportunity to ask questions without embarrassment or consequence; a potentially dangerous combination for teens.
When the site is abused it can lead to intentional harm and embarrassment to others. Based off of what I have heard from teens, bulling incidents, harassing and creating embarrassment for others is widespread.
It is also important to note that there are not many privacy settings on Ask.fm. Meaning, anyone can see what questions are being posed and how they are being answered; even if you are not a user of the site.
Parent and Youth Worker Tips:
- Engage your teen in a conversation about what sites they are using and how they and other teens use them. Ask them if they have used Ask.fm and what type of questions they see their peers asking and answering.
- Work with your teen to set up guidelines for their behavior online. Focus on what they will do if they encounter a situation that upsets them or makes them feel uncomfortable. Talk about what respecting others looks like online and what you expect from them. It is important to note that engaging your teen in coming up with these guideline will empower them to take ownership of their behavior and consequences. Every teen is different and you need to set guidelines based on your teen.
- Discuss what the consequences would be if they violate your agreement. Teens feel that if they alert an adult to something that occurs online, even if they did not do it, they will have their internet or technology privileges taken away. And that is the last thing they want. Be clear that reporting something to you will not get them in trouble.
Please share this with your co-workers, fellow parents and teachers. As we begin the school year I see the potential for drama created by this app to spill over into our schools and afterschool programs. There has already been at least one teen suicide linked to harassment that occurred on this site and we do not want any more.
Dave Blogs can be found at http://daverozman.com/ He has for the last 10 years been working for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (5 as Teen Director at a local Club and the last 5 for the National Organization focusing on teens)
There is no doubt we are in an entirely different era of life. Smartphones, iPads and iPhones are seen in almost every hand, pocket or purse. It’s nothing new to see kids texting at the table or hurrying through a meal to get back to their conversations online. But kids are not the only ones guilty of these relational faux pas. Parents are just as likely to be texting during times when connecting with their kids would be best. Whether it’s during “family time”, a sporting event or even church, adults and kids need to set some healthy boundaries for technology and relationships. May I offer a few do’s and don’ts for the school year and even life.
1) Designate a “tech free” time-out.
Technology is great for connecting with people who are distanced from us. However it can prevent us from connecting with people right in front of us! The tendency is to take the people closest to us for granted. Technology fools us into thinking that what’s happening somewhere else is more important or exciting than what’s going on right in front of us. Creating a tech free time-out for certain periods of the day can allow cultivation of personal familial relationships where each person can truly be focused. Setting aside morning times of 3o minutes for breakfast for quiet time, prayers, and connection with each other and God can be a wonderful way to start the day. Also, setting aside time at the dinner table, even if eating out, where technology is banned for the meal time can be a huge witness to others. Closing the day by requiring all phones and technology to be powered off by a certain time can also promote health within the family and allow for a good night’s sleep.
2) Designate a “tech free” zone.
These can be places like the kitchen table, church services, (I know some people have their Bibles on the technology but encourage old fashioned Bible carrying), and the car. All of these places are prime for connecting with each other in meaningful conversations. Technology can become a distraction if we are not careful and create spaces for people to cocoon and become lost for an entire journey “together”.
3) Determine to not allow technology to prevent connection.
If you are in a room with people you really want to connect with and they are using their phones of tablets, send a text from your phone and simply convey that thought. Use the direct path and communicate that you desire face to face, eye to eye connection at this time. Sometimes the best way to fight a fire is with fire. Sending a simple text, or making a phone call to the person right beside you can be the gentle reminder without condemning.
4) Be consistent with what you ask and what you practice.
If you are going to require your children to use technology in certain ways you have to do the same. You have to pay attention, connect and communicate clearly. Technology is something we as adults feel like we “deserve” or need to do business etc. However, many kids can also feel cheated of their parent’s attention due to technology. It is imperative for the adults to set the right tone and example.
5) Don’t make technology the “bad guy”.
We all know that technology allows us to do so many things we were never able to do years ago. Practicing healthy boundaries and guidelines will only benefit us all the way around. Talk with your kids about the dangers of technology and the importance of safely using their phones, tablets and computers. Construct a family tech covenant that all can sign and honor. By adopting such practices, families and individuals are able to serve God without becoming slaves to technology.
George Lockhart is a full-time missionary with Vision 2 Hear and serves as youth pastor at new Vision Church in Fayetteville, GA.
And the winners are Katiness and Peeta and The Hunger Games. Grossing an estimated $155 million The Hunger Games is the distinct winner this past weekend at the box office. With the movie breaking a few records with this milestone, Jennifer Lawrence helped rake in cash and scores of people who were certainly more than hungry for The Hunger Games.
Having not read the book nor being terribly familiar with the story or plot, aside from the trailer, I was happily pleased with the acting, overall story and directing of the film. I enjoyed the length of the movie and found the themes in the story to be relevant and thought-provoking. I enjoyed the movie once but I am not sure if this is in the category of a “must-see-again” movie for me. Maybe on DVD from Redbox but I am not sure if I will contribute to the estimated $350 million. How about you? Would you see this movie 2 or more times?
I was reading a blog I found on Youth Culture Report from Andy Blanks about dealing with culture and how to engage the battle for our students hearts and minds. There are many in ministry who settle for playing games with students and entertaining them for a couple hours each week but this is not what Christ intended! We have all been commissioned to make disciples! Disciples know and understand culture, how to interact within the culture and how to change their culture. Real life disciples don’t flee from culture into a nice, quaint sub-culture where everything is controlled and managed. To the contrary they engage culture and wisely live within that context making a difference however subtle. Jesus told his disciples : 16 “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16 Jesus did not seek to escape culture but rather he equipped His disciples to effectively engage it. How can we better do this?
Dissect The Culture. As with any scientific methodology, dissection and cross-section is a great way to not only understand but engage a species. Culture seems to change about every year to year-and-a-half making understanding it an epic challenge. As soon as you think you have a grasp someone flips the script and dramatically shifts the paradigm. Taking time with your students and parents on a regular basis to work through the lyrics of a song, album cover art, music videos and movie clips are great ways to study the culture and gauge where it is and where it is headed. Host media weekends or seminars to help parents know how to find resources and use technology. Allow the students to be the teachers! Now that’s a novel idea, right? Bring the outsiders in! We have to do a better job understanding culture instead of simply judging it!
We fear what we do not understand.
Dialogue About Culture. Talking about the mores and values of the society are vitally important. Many students and adults have a clouded understanding of why they do what they do and the reasons for which they feel strongly about certain beliefs or ways of living. Having dialogue and discussions are healthy and necessary to flesh out real belief and doctrine of scripture.If we never talk about these things in church how do we really expect our students to be equipped to address the issues in the real world? Dialogue is the bridge between generations and cultures. Conversations give birth to relationships and relationships change culture! When relationships with parents and families become stronger the culture becomes stronger. Churches should be the place where most dialogue about culture happens! Talk to God about the culture. Pray on behalf of the city, nations and world. Don’t just talk to your children or students but talk to God! Pray together as families at church. Pray together as the Body for the culture.
Disciple Into Culture. If we are to be successful in helping our students and their parents engage culture we have to disciple people correctly. This means we have to biblically train them and disciple them through God’s Word and by His Spirit. Jesus could not have been more clear about this than when he prayed:
14 I have given them Your word.
The world hated them
because they are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
15 I am not praying
that You take them out of the world
but that You protect them from the evil one.
16 They are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them by the truth;
Your word is truth.
18 As You sent Me into the world,
I also have sent them into the world.
19 I sanctify Myself for them,
so they also may be sanctified by the truth.
Jesus had prepared His disciples and made them fishers of men. He trained them by living with them and allowing them to peer into His life for three years. Can we do any less and anticipate success? Hardly! Yet many of today’s generation and culture at large are biblically illiterate, un-discipled, and lost and tossed about by every wind of doctrine because they do not have an established discipleship relationship with any kind of spiritual mentor or coach.
Many pastors, youth pastors and even lay leaders “preach” and teach but who is discipling? Who is investing days, months, and years into the lives of students on a regular basis? We need men and women, moms and dads who will step up and disciple their children, raising them to live godly within the context of a messed-up generation. If we expect our kids to be godly leaders we cannot neglect the fact that time together, living and breathing in close proximity, along with clear and definitive teaching and modeling is the only way to disciple! Without these things in concert and harmony the next generation will not only be self-absorbed but un-discipled as Christ-Followers. They might know about God but they will not glorify Him with their lives.
Changing the culture can only happen when people of the culture are changed from within. This only happens with relationship. Relationships with each other and God. It’s not about taking our kids out of the “mean, nasty, bad, and evil” culture but equipping them with every tool, value and resource available to withstand the cultural onslaught.
3 For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, 4because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. 5 And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5: 3-5
MTV, Wiz Khalifa or Lady Gaga are teaching our kids what to believe and they are buying it at a rate of 17 billion dollars a year! Someone new will be teaching them within a year or so… I hope it’s you! To effectively confront cultural norms we have to dissect the culture, dialogue with our kids about it and disciple them in the things of God and ways of Jesus. Otherwise, they will go the way of mainstream culture living obscured lives rooted in virtual obsolescence and irrelevance…not at all what God intended for any generation.
George Lockhart is a missionary with Vision 2 Hear and serves as the Youth Pastor at New Vision Church in Fayetteville, GA