Karen is a mum of mixed sex, 15-year-old twins. And knows it. Each week she shares with us what her teenage two have been up to.
'I was listening to Scott Mills on Radio 1 the other afternoon. He has this new slot called ‘loving the trolls' in which any abusive tweets or messages he's received over the last week get read out in a silly voice. Now, we all have presenters or programmes that make us rant at the telly. Jeremy Kyle drives me to distraction, but I bear the man no ill will and certainly wouldn't go online and subject him to a vicious barrage of abuse. But abusing people on social media sites does seem to be the way a disturbing number of people get their kicks, and it's affecting our young people too.
The other day I heard my twins talking about AskFm. From what I can work out, you sign up and then invite people via Facebook to ask you questions. In its harmless form it seems to be a vehicle for some humorous banter between friends. But, like all these things, there's a dark side to it which, as a parent, gives me cause for concern. Teenagers are posting the AskFm link on their Facebook and then saying ‘come on give me some hate'. Because the questions are asked anonymously it seems to give people licence to be as hurtful as they can. The questions asked are often cruel, personal, and sometimes quite sick:
‘Why don't you shave your moustache?'
‘I hear you're a slag. How much do you charge?'
‘Funny how your mum's got cancer.'
‘Why does no one like you?'
My 2 are rather harsh on the subject. They say that if you sign up to AskFm then you've only got yourself to blame, "Everyone knows it's going to happen. If you can't take it, don't sign up for it, and if you do sign up for it, don't moan about it."
I was a little shocked by their hard line attitude, but maybe they are just social media-savvy realists. The problem is that a lot of teenagers are desperate to know what people think about them. This, coupled with the fact that they're a bunch of sheep, means that for many, the temptation to open this particular Pandora's box is all too great.
I do worry that websites like this are likely to increase teenage anxieties and insecurities. I'm also troubled by the fact that so many of their peers seem to think it's fine to indulge in this sort of harassment. But, if I'm being honest, what worries me the most, is the way my 2 shrug off this sort of stuff as just a normal aspect of online life.'
Have your teens been the victim of abuse online? Tell us in our comments section below or on Facebook.
Karen's other blog posts...