- Schools across the country are sending out letters advising pupils not to use Ask.fm
- Site lets anyone see details of boys and girls as young as 13, then post comments or questions
- There is no way to report offensive comments
- Has become linked to a number of recent teen suicides
PUBLISHED: 21:03 EST, 12 January 2013
Pupils and parents are being warned by head teachers about the dangers of a rapidly growing social networking site that puts teenagers at risk of vicious anonymous abuse.
Schools across the country are sending out letters advising pupils not to use Ask.fm, which has more than 30 million users around the world and has been linked to suicides and serious bullying.
The website lets anyone see the names, photographs and personal details of boys and girls as young as 13, then post comments or questions on their profile pages that range from insults to sexual advances and threats of violence.
Unlike other services such as Facebook and Twitter, there is no way to report offensive comments, increase privacy settings or find out who is behind anonymous bullying.
The website is based in Latvia, making it even more difficult for police to take action, while its owners dismiss any problems with the site as the result of British and Irish children being more cruel than those from other countries.
Jim Gamble, head of security consultancy Ineqe, said: ‘Ask.fm has become associated with some of the worst forms of cyberbullying and has been linked to a number of recent teen suicides in Ireland and the US.
‘It is almost a stalker’s paradise. In cases like this young people need protection from those who exploit internet anonymity to intimidate, isolate and bully.’
Richard Piggin, deputy chief executive of the charity BeatBullying, said: ‘The tool that enables it to be anonymous can facilitate young people to say things that they might not say face to face or if their names were attached to it. So it releases their inhibitions, which can be very dangerous.
‘Sites like Ask.fm lack even the most basic child safety mechanisms or reporting protocols. They are of huge concern to us and the young people we work with.’
Founder Mark Terebin said: ‘We only have this situation in Ireland and the UK most of all. It seems that children are more cruel in these countries.’