Ask FM. What is it & why is it one of the most popular platforms for bullying?

Let’s start with a basic explanation of Ask FM. So what is it? is an anonymous question and answer platform website used regularly by lots of young people around the world. It allows anyone to post anonymous comments and questions to a person’s profile and is increasingly being used as a means to communicate abusive, bullying and sexualised content.screen320x480

Ask Fm is a great social media platform when used properly. unfortunetely the downside to Ask FM unfortunately is how easy it is to bully someone on the platform. A user can sign up anonymously and ask anonymous questions that show publicly on someone’s profile.

The example on the right shows the right way to use the platform but as you can imagine if a child is prone to bullying or other abuse… it can be bullying central.

Okay, so let’s talk about the dangers of Ask FM.

Here are not 1, but 7 stories of teen suicides involving the popular platform Ask fm: 

(Source: Suicide Story #1

A 14-year old girl was found hanged in her bedroom after receiving hate messages on her page where they told her to cut herself, drink bleach, and kill herself. In this social media platform, the users are allowed to ask questions while remaining anonymous. Although some of the bullies were identified and some even revealed themselves to say sorry, the teenager had already took her own life because of Ask Fm bullying. Suicide Story #2

Another young girl took her life after being bullied online. Only 12 years old, the girl jumped from the top of a factory located in Florida. She was found dead at the abandoned cement factory one early morning. According to investigations, she endured more than a year of being bullied online. Prior to her body being found, she changed her Ask Fm page to “That Dead Girl.” Suicide Story #3

A 15-year old boy also hanged himself, allegedly because of Ask Fm. He was found in a Lancashire Village at his family’s farmhouse, dead because of hurtful messages on his page. He was called a freak and was told several times that no one liked him. Some even said that he deserved to have sick things happen to him. Suicide Story #4

A 17-year old also hanged himself just last July. He was blackmailed by a person he thought was a girl and was having an online relationship with. Not only was he involved in an extortion scam but he also received harsh comments saying that he should kill himself. One message even said that he should let a blade meet his throat. Suicide Story #5

Another teenager from Florida hanged herself last year during the Thanksgiving weekend. The 16-year-old was asked by an anonymous user on the social media site about what she thought about suicide. She responded calmly and even posted some videos where she got some compliments. However, along with those praises came cruel messages telling her how ugly she was and even pried into her personal life. Ask Fm bullying claimed another victim. Suicide Story #6

In September 2012 a 15-year-old girl from Ireland also committed suicide because of devastating Ask Fm bullying. She was found in the woods near where she lived. Before she killed herself she even spoke to some of her about suicide since she was being bullied. She was told over and over that she was fat and that she had no respect for herself. Suicide Story #7

A girl of 13 also from Ireland killed herself and left a note about it where she mentioned being bullied and harassed on Ask Fm. What is even sadder is that her older sister who was 15 years old also committed suicide because she could not cope with living without her young sister. She also left a note for her mother where she said that negative things happen for good reasons and she hoped that they will see each other soon.

So as a parent you’re probably wondering what can you do to prevent this?

First look at the signs:


  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating.
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Unexpectedly stops using phone or computer
  • Appears nervous or jumpy when an Instant Message, text message, or Email appears
  • Appears to be angry, depressed, or frustrated after using phone or computer
  • Becomes abnormally withdrawn from usual friends and family members
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
  • Expresses reluctance or refuses to participate in activities previously enjoyed

These signs aren’t just linked to Ask Fm, these are typically general signs of bullying, online abuse and CSE. (Child Sexual Exploitation)


Now let’s talk about what can be done, here are a few things to try:

  • A break from social media is always good. If you find your child is getting stressed with their phone or computer this might be a suggestion to them
  • Explain to your child that bullies want a response, so the best way is to ignore them and report it. Retaliation will show the bully it bothers you.
  • If the harassment’s coming in the form of instant messages, texts, or profile comments you can block the person from ever contacting you.
  • Having as little personal information on your profile as possible is best when using social media.

If you have any questions or concerns about Ask Fm or any other social media platforms feel free to drop me an email:

new_logo_revisedAuthor: Jordan Simmonds
NWG Network
Date August 2016













Chatrooms, the Internet and more online safety issues revealed.

In July 2016 Police in Scotland carried out a 6 week investigation into the prevalence of online abuse and grooming. Operation “Latisse” uncovered an appalling catalogue of abusive behaviour directly aimed at children. 523 victims have been identified and over 392 charges have been laid against perpetrators and over 30 million abusive images have been recovered.

This just highlights the ongoing concerns about where our children” hang out ” on the internet. Previous on line safety advice was targeted at the distinction between the digital world and the real world, this is now no longer valid as both worlds have now merged and the so called digital divide is no longer present. Children now communicate over the internet via social media platforms on a daily basis, and in some cases on an hourly basis!download

The growth of mobile phone technology and sales has exacerbated the problem with many children and young people now accessing the internet whilst “mobile” laptops in bedrooms have been replaced by smart phones and tablets, access to WiFi is not restricted to the home environment.

Digital technology is a fast moving industry and it seems that many parents are slow in catching up with the latest developments or new social media platforms. In order to help our children protect themselves and we must help them to protect themselves we need to be able to understand the new social media platforms that our children are accessing i.e. snapchat, Ask fm, whatsapp, facebook, twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, omegle, chat roulette, kik, yik yak, vine, tinder, whisper.

How many of you out there have heard of all of these chatrooms and social media platforms? how many are your children currently using and would you be able to understand how they work and the potential dangers that they present? Jordan Simmonds our NWG Network assistant recently posted a blog article regarding snapchat from a parents perspective, the article was very well received with over 2600 downloads in a very short space of time. (View Article here)

The next blog Jordan will be posting will be regarding Ask FM and following this he will post blogs about more of these chat rooms.

The final message that we want to convey is for parents to talk to their children about the dangers that lurk out there on the internet especially during the summer holiday period where children have more time on their hands and boredom looming. We do not want to overly scare our children and make them worry too much but a healthy awareness of the risks and dangers that they can be exposed to is essential for them to be able to keep themselves safe. Stranger danger was a topic that I was taught about at school and in the new reality of the digital world that our children live in, with the increasing numbers of online friends that they have never met but communicate with on a daily basis keeping aware of their online habits is essentially good parenting . Watch out for Jordan’s latest blog coming soon !

Kevin Murphy

Education and Community Development Officer

NWG Network


Instagram have added a feature that’s almost identical to this very popular platform. Snapchat!

Instagram has brought out a brand new feature called Instagram Stories.

So what is a story?2
A story on Instagram is a slideshow of images that last 24 hours. The process is simple. A user clicks the button in the top left of the screen (See pic on the right) and takes a picture or video. From here the user can add a filter or draw on their photo or video. Once the user is happy with their photo/video, they can add it to their story ready for everyone to see.

Sound familiar?

Well yes it does. Instagram’s ‘New’ feature is basically a polished clone of ‘Snapchat Stories’ See the similarities below:


Instagram stories is arguably more user-friendly, they’ve definitely took an innovative approach when creating this feature.

If you are a parent, carer or professional who has any questions about social media platforms and online safety for kids. Feel free to contact us.

NWG Network


Share the story

VOICE; Voices for truth and dignity. Combating sexual violence in sport

With the imminent arrival of the Olympic games this weekend we should pause for a moment to think about victims of sexualized violence within sport.  There has been near hysteria in the media regarding the Russian Olympic team and constant allegations of doping and drug misuse. This level of attention on this single issue can often detract focus away from other issues which may be prevalent.  In April 2016 British Cycling was embroiled in a bullying and sexism scandal with cyclist Jess Varnish alleging that she was a victim of sexist comments and bullying by one of her coaches on a regular basis. If this kind of behaviour is occurring at such a high level how do we know what is occurring at other levels in sport? Parental pressure on their children to become successful sport stars of the future is immense, anyone doubting this should watch junior football matches at the weekend and observe parents on the touch line often berating their children for not scoring or bellowing at referees.  If children are witness to this behaviour on a regular basis then do they get the message that this behaviour is normal?

The culture within male sports also needs to be questioned, I remember from my days of playing sport of being told to “man up” if I got injured, “men don’t cry” and “we’ll sort it out in the changing room” and this was whilst I was at school! The concept of the changing room culture also needs to be challenged, how many times have we heard sports stars being pilloried for disclosing incidents that have occurred within the confines of the dressing room. Many sports pundits have said on national sport programmes that what goes on in the changing rooms is absolutely sacrosanct and should not be discussed elsewhere, its seen as an unwritten code of conduct. If this is the case are some of our sports coaches from an early age modelling our children’s behaviour and teaching them not to “tell” and if this is the case how can children disclose abuse if they have been conditioned by this culture?

The power of the “coach” should not be underestimated, Leahey quotes a victim of sexual abuse as saying  “to us at that time, his word was like gospel.” How can children resist or disclose an abuser with this level of power. Dreams of success such as an Olympic gold medal are powerful motivators to achieve and succeed but can also be strong inhibitors preventing disclosure, fear of not being selected or dropped from a team  can also influence children to “accommodate” their abuse/abuser.

The NWG Network are part of a project aiming to give victims of sexualised violence a platform to speak out about what happened to them, former  Spanish Olympic Gymnast Gloria Viseras, Irish swimmer Karen Leach and German footballer Ralf Zitzmann, all victims of sexual abuse by sports coaches have all given their support and voice to the project.

The VOICES for truth and dignity project is aiming to give victims of sexual violence, abuse and exploitation in sport an opportunity to speak out about what happened to them. The VOICE project will generate crucial research data for the European sports community by listening to the voices of those that have been affected by sexual violence in sport. The resulting evidence-base will provide a platform for powerful knowledge-exchange opportunities and educational resources. The objective is to enhance the sports community’s capacity to combat sexual violence and strengthen integrity in sport.

I would urge you all to look at the web site  to see more about this important Pan European project. Please look at the video’s from Gloria and Karen and post this important  message onto your social media networks so that any potential victims out there can share their stories and contribute to this important research project.


Kevin Murphy

Education and Community Development Officer

NWG Network 4th August 2016

A Parents complete guide to Snapchat, the dangers and impact! – 2016

Before my introduction, let’s start with some facts you may not know about teenagers use of social media:



Okay, so what is snapchat? Snapchat is a popular and seamless way of sending and receiving pictures with others. The platform is hugely popular and a relatively new kid on the block in the social media world. It allows users to send pictures with a time limit on them so when the user receives the pictures they only have so many seconds to view it (Up to 10 seconds depending on what is set before sending)

Why do you need to know as a parent? Well…

Girl of 15 killed herself after bullies posted nude shower video on Snapchat.


Hopefully that should highlight the importance of being aware of what your children’s online activity involves. Remember, once your child or one of their friends sends something… It’s out there forever! Most parents may have heard of snapchat, but do you really know how your child is using it? Most young people hide their activity from their parent’s and a lot of parents wouldn’t even know what snapchat is let alone what they are doing on it.pic

Don’t get me wrong Snapchat is a lot of fun and is a great way of visually communicating with friends:

This is someone receiving a ‘Snap’ off someone else. They have 4 seconds left to view it, in that 4 seconds it does allow you to screenshot the photo. Harmless.

There are many occurrences though where young people misuse the app for ‘Sexting’ or sending ‘Nude photos.’ This is where things can get out of hand. The reason so many young people are using snapchat for sexting is because it’s quick and easy to send a picture and it only lasts a few seconds… right? Well that’ true if the person you send it to doesn’t screenshot the photo. (Snapchat does tell the sender if the photo has been screenshotted)

There are many social & society based pressures that certainly ‘normalise’ sexting among young people. In the article mentioned in the introduction a 15-year-old took her life because a situation on snapchat got out of hand and she didn’t know what to do. She was overwhelmed with negative comments, which time & time again results in young people isolating themselves from others and trying to ‘deal’ with everything themselves.

As a result of ‘sexting’ there are so many events that can unfold: disconnection with family due to feeling shame and not wanting family members to find out, bullying leading to a complete disconnection from friends and school, self-harm due to not be able to cope, eating disorders can develop and there are so many more! In some cases, it can lead to depression, or even suicide. You may be thinking this is a bit extreme but in reality this can happen to absolutely anyone. All from one photo.

What to do if a crisis occurs?
At this point if your son or daughter has disclosed information about an indecent image it’s important that you remain calm and try not to judge, as a child it would be considered a very ‘brave’ yet shameful thing to say and therefore a huge thing for your child to tell you. This information is crucial and cannot be ignored, reassurance that everything will be okay is vital. There are many charities and organisations out there to help and your first point of contact will be CEOP – Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

The quicker and earlier you contact CEOP the more they will be able to help. CEOP works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account. They protect children from harm online and offline, directly through NCA led operations and in partnership with local and international agencies.

In conclusion Snapchat is a great way for young people to communicate with friends, and is ultimately very fun. A few things to try so you can get more of an insight into your child’s activity:pic

  • Build a good relationship with your child and try and create open conversation about social media without it coming across as a ‘lesson’ or ‘rant’
  • Allow your child to show you funny video’s and pictures online. Show that you enjoy them showing you different things.
  • Go home tonight and ask them to show you what ‘Snapchat filters’ are.

Author: Jordan Simmonds
NWG Network
Date July 2016new_logo_revised

Protect educate & inspire

School attendance and Schools Duties to Safeguard Children.

Education Blog 21st July 2016

School attendance and Schools Duties to Safeguard Children.

I promised to send you information regarding the law and education that was briefly touched on during a coordinators forum that I recently attended and by the response I received education clearly is an area which is causing many of you some serious concerns, i.e part-time timetables and school attendance etc. Please see below a brief I have written for you hopefully clarifying areas of the law that you may find helpful as many of you support some of our most vulnerable children.

Firstly I firmly believe in a rights based approach towards supporting children and as adults we should be ensuring that children’s rights to education are upheld by all and when required enforced. Education legislation was introduced in this country way back in 1870 to improve outcomes for children yet still we have high levels of absence from our schools and continual high numbers of exclusions, have we really learned nothing since 1870? So lets have a quick look at the history of Education in the country.

With regard to school attendance, it has been compulsory for children to attend school since the then Government passed the Elementary Education Act of 1880, although this level of compulsion was for children aged 5-10 it was a start to ensure that all children have access to free full time education. This Education Act also introduced School Attendance Officers (latterly they have became known as Education Welfare Officers, but alas they are dwindling in numbers due to austerity and the increase in schools converting to academies as many do not buy back LA services) to ensure that children attended school regularly as schools then did have competition from factories who wanted to employ cheap child labour. School Attendance Officers were responsible for prosecuting parents for failing to ensure that their children attend school. In 1916 non school attendance was the most prosecuted cases in the courts just behind “drunkenness in public places” so using the law to compel parents to send their children to school is nothing new in this country. The school leaving age was increased to 11 in 1888, then shortly after that to 13 and it was raised again to 14 in 1918. It wasn’t until the 1944 Education Act that the school leaving age was raised to 15, raising the age to 16 was proposed in 1964 and finally enacted in 1973. Finally as part of the Education and Skills Act 2008 (Raising Participation Age) young people now cannot leave education or training until they are 18( although no legislation has been passed to compel this).

At the recent forum many of the delegates asked questions about recent laws regarding school attendance and parent and local authorities specific duties. Firstly we need to look at the Education Act of 1996.

Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 states;

“it is the Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age. The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—

(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and

(b) to any special educational needs he may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise”

This has removed any doubt about parents responsibility for children to attend school. This act also ensured that every local authority has sufficient school places for children in their area.

Whilst the act puts a specific duty on parents Local Authorities also have the duty to monitor school attendance in their areas and take the appropriate supportive and enforcement action when required. Section 444 (1) and 444 (1)(a) allows local authorities to prosecute parents which they must consider when periods of non school attendance have been identified.

Groan I can hear from you! we know that children who are at risk of CSE or who are being exploited often find that attending school can be very problematic and also stressful, sometimes parents cannot get their children to go to school and if they do some children run out of school when they get their so why prosecute in these circumstances. In situations where CSE is identified the local authorities could use Education Supervision Orders(ESO’s) under section 447 of the 1996 Act or Section 36 Children Act 1989. These will allow a dedicated officer to work intensively with the child and family and school to help improve school attendance, these orders are not widely used as they can be labour intensive, Local Authorities also have to give the courts reasons as to why an ESO is not being considered instead of a prosecution, however with our vulnerable children this type of order may be an option to explore to potentially get the child and family some extra support. So ask the question of you local EWS !!!

Schools also have a specific duty to protect children. Section 175 of The Education Act 2002 compels schools to;

A, Safeguard children and,

B, promote their well being.

This Act covers ALL educational institutions including academies , free schools and Independent Schools (section 157 of the same Act applies to Independent Schools). Therefore if children are not attending school or academy the institutions must do something about this and take the appropriate steps to support the child. So when schools suggest a part time timetable , incidentally there is NO basis in law for such a request, how can this be in the child’s best interest( a fundamental element of the Children Act 1989) and also simply putting children into alternative educational placements is not always the best answer either as many of these facilities do not offer full time placements.

Full time compulsory education ( aged 5-16) means 190 days of education and in general the school week should be between 25 to 27.5 hours per week, although in the last budget the Chancellor made funds available to extend the school day for secondary schools. Children’s rights to education are also enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998, Article 2 of Protocol 1 No one can be denied the right to education. This encompasses a right:

* to an effective education (that is adequate and appropriate);

* to access to existing educational institutions;

* to be educated in the national language; and

* to obtain official recognition when studies have been completed

The right to Education is also enshrined within the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child in Article 28 Rights to Education and Article 29 Goals of Education. The UK Government ratified this legislation in 1991.

With these rights to education be mindful of the child’s right to” effective education” ( that is adequate and appropriate) and to challenge schools regarding part time timetables and alternative education that is not full time and does not meet a child’s needs or aspirations.

If you have any queries or questions regarding this blog then please do not hesitate to contact me directly

Kev Murphy

Education and Community Development Officer

NWG Network