Friday, October 4, 2013

The Power of Words

As a research-minded person, I am on the computer for several hours a day several days a week.  In my recent efforts to locate information about websites that are dangerous for adolescents and teenagers, I found a few that parents must be aware of in order to monitor the activity of their child(ren) on-line. These websites promote behavior that is not healthy for adults, let alone children, and promote unhealthy life habits.

These websites have been linked to multiple teenage suicides over the past few years. ASK fm was founded in 2010 and as of this past summer has 65 million users. FormSpring was launched in late 2009 and currently touts 29 million users. These social media sites allow users to relate their ideas and opinions on any topic and not take responsibility for their words. Users do have the ability to block people and disallow anonymous questions; however, most adolescents do not take advantage of this feature. Interesting as well is the fact that ASKfm does not seem to offer anything by way of parental controls including any tracking and reporting as other social media sites offer. A television news spot can be viewed about ASKfm at

This site has been used to communicate vile and abusive information and offers the open forum for people to say what they want, when they want, at the expense of whomever without taking responsibility. While I do not believe it was the sole responsibility of any one party for the deaths these sites were linked to, I do believe it is imperative that parents know what social sites kids are on and what the user agreement is for being a member of a particular website.  Our kids, especially our adolescents and teens, are not capable of making some of the decisions parents leave them to make for a variety of reasons, including physiological development of their brains and the ability to discern some harmful behaviors. Since most social media sites allow anonymity (I say most as I have not researched all of them) it is left to the user to know when to shut something down, especially if the site is being used as a venue to communicate vicious openness.

This site blew me away. It is a site for people over the age of 16 and refers to those users as adults. The subject of this site is coined a “fashion game” and allows users to create their own bimbo by purchasing fake breasts, a better attitude, and even provocative clothes. It also encourages users to give their doll diet pulls for crash diets to keep up a “target weight” in order to be considered hot and find that rich boyfriend. In the company’s terms and conditions the user is the sole person responsible for the control and management of the information, and Miss Bimbo is released of any and all liability. It does note in the terms/conditions under the category “exclusion/suspension” that a user’s privileges can be suspended for not sticking to a level of “good moral standards” or if someone posts something that “causes harm to a third party.” This site can totally impact the mind of a young girl. The opening “warning” indicates that users should turn back if they are “easily offended by jokes, banal humor, and political incorrectness.” This is an obvious sign that the site is not healthy for anyone, let alone our younger minds and hearts.

There is a final web topic that I would like to bring to the attention of parents. Pro-Ana and Pro Mia websites focus on the tragedy of the illness Anorexia and Bulimia (thus, Ana and Mia). One of the primary websites has been featured on the Dr. Oz show, and these videos can be seen at the Dr. Oz website or by linking to
The videos broke my heart. The glamorization of these two wicked eating disorders is criminal and sickening. The targets are not only young girls but also older women and even men. These websites actually promote the lifestyle of eating disorders and provide users photos of bony fashion models on a link called “thinspiration”. There are supportive websites that offer support for people who are trying to recover and get healthy from an eating disorder, but these particular sites glorify stick thin body structure and would not fall into the “support group” category as most of us know it.

While I am certain there are more websites that promote unhealthy behaviors than I can imagine these are just a few that could send messages to our young people that promote a way of thinking and subsequent behaviors that are not healthy. As parents and providers, we know most young people cannot manage such powerful messages on an ongoing basis, especially if they are vulnerable for a variety of other reasons; thus, the reference to suicide as a direct result of bullying (be that in person or in cyberspace).Websites that are available to our young people mean parents have to be vigilant and informed about the on-line activities of their kids. We may not be able to shut down the website because of someone’s constitutional right to speak in a specific forum, but we do have the right and responsibility to provide guidance for our children from being both the target and/or person who could cause harm to others.
Be involved. Be responsible. Be educated.



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