Under Fire for Possible Connection to Teen Suicide

Parents claim the popular social site facilitates cyberbullying.
4:46 | 08/21/13

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Transcript for Under Fire for Possible Connection to Teen Suicide
He'll be changing nappies. A new website that has parents concerned. Also some experts up in arms. Ask.Fm is a wildly popular social networks site that now has been reportedly linked to five suicides among teens. Abc's bianna golodryga has more than the site that critics say is facilitating online bullying. Reporter: Social media sites like facebook, instagram and twitter are ubiquitous favorites for teens, where they share photos, tips on homework or just plain gossip. Now, the latest place to share, ask.Fm. A site where teens can post anonymously without the prying eyes of parents. Holly remembers the day she first logged on. Oh, ask me questions on my request. Reporter: But quickly, those innocent questions turned into brutal verbal assaults. It got worse and worse. I would be sitting in my bed. And I would cry. Reporter: And she's not alone. In just the past year, some 6.3 million visitors, many of them young teens, have logged on to the site, as a way to bond with other teens. Also opening themselves up to anonymous bullying. Teens look at that as an opportunity to do things they would never otherwise feel comfortable doing. Reporter: The website, which is also popular in europe, has been mentioned in press reports in connection with at least four teen suicides in the u.K. And ireland. And here in the u.S., 16-year-old jessica lainie's best friend said jessica took her own life, after relentless online attacks. Ask.Fm users posting vicious messages like, drink bleach. Go get cancer. And go die. However, the local sheriff's office says neither they, her parents, boyfriend or school district were aware of any bullying in her life. This is a dangerous thing for some teenagers to go on these sites because they are met with such hostility and such ugly statements. Reporter: Outraged parents are pressuring ask.Fm for more accountability. And ask.Fm is listening. In an open letter, the company said, quote, we are committed to ensuring that our site is a safe environment. We have implemented various measures over the past month to continue to improve our user safety. For "good morning america," bianna golodryga, abc news, new york. And all of us here are talking about how scary it is as a parent. And we want to bring in now dr. Janet taylor, psychiatrist, to help us talk about bullying and specifically this website, ask.Fm. What are the worries for you? And what is the website doing to sort of -- they're implementing some measures? I mean, it's every teen's dream. It's anonymous. Most parents don't know about it. And it reminds us as parents, we have to look at our kids online behavior as safely and as in passing what they do what they do offline. We pay attention to their friends we can see physically. Be clear how this works. A lot of parents don't know about this. It's a simple, user generated site. You logon and can ask questions and answer them. If you don't know your child's on there, you're not necessarily going to look at it. But the questions range from silly to serious. But the reality is, as parents, we need to monitor what our kids are doing online. You're not going to know it's your kids. You can see a picture. But there's opportunities -- right. Exactly. The key is to say, listen. Our kids are going online. And it's that invisible space because we can't see it physically, we don't ask about. But take the opportunity to sit down and say, listen, I want to know what you're doing. Most of us are paying the electric bills. We're paying the cell phone bills. Some of the comments that do come from pictures and people commenting on what you have to say or ask. What we lose sight of is the fact that our kids pay attention to what we say. And parental support and warmth and being there is key. It's talking about, don't say anything, don't write anything about somebody else you don't want said about yourself. And leaving the door open, if ever they feel bothered by anything. There's guilt and shame when people write bad things. We have to be nonjudgmental. Clear that listening space and create an opportunity to talk about what's happening. This is a dialogue so important for every parent to have. It's new -- it's looking at what kids are doing when they're not with us, in a way that online creates. Dr. Janet taylor, thank you

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