Next Teen Online Trend: Formspring.me

I just talked about how ChatRoulette is the hottest site for teens, a close second is Formspring.me.  This is a website where users can create a profile (either with their true identity or a false one) and other users can come and ask them any question they want.

For example, I just went to a random page after searching the name “Sarah”. On this girls page (she looks like a teenager).  She has been asked two questions. She might have been asked more, but she cane remove perverse ones or questions she does not want to answer. The two questions on this page are pretty harmless and rather interesting.  I have no idea if Sarah knows the people who posted them or if they were posted by strangers.

1. If you were offered the job of the U.S. president would you take the job?

Her answer: ‘no way’

2. Who inspires you most?

Her answer: ‘Coach Gray’

Her answer makes me think that perhaps she knows the person asking the question, since Coach Gray is an answer only people from her high school would know.  But who knows?

What Should Parents Know about Formspring.me:

1. Why Teens Use FormSpring.me:

I think that this is actually a symptom of a larger trend going on for this generation.  They want to have real discussions.  They want to express themselves in more ways than just silly chats and profile pictures.  When I interviewed some of our teen interns on this, they said that they loved the idea of being able to respond and express deep answers about themselves.  The deep part seemed particularly important.  I do not know how deep you can be on a profile on Formspring, but they are trying.

2. Make Sure Anonymity is Key

I would highly recommend parents set the privacy settings on this network, remove any pictures, full names or answers that give away your child’s identity.

3. They Will Get Perverse Answers

Just like you will see a naked man on Chatroulette, you most likely will get a perverse question on your page if you post one.  Parents need to be aware of this.

4. Formspring Users Can Be Mean

Because cyberbullying is such a huge issue right now, I think we should consider how sites like Formspring.me play into this.  Because users are anonymous they will often post incredibly mean comments on each other’s pictures and answers.  This can be hard for a teenager to take. This is a type of digital self-harm. Like cutting, submitting questions to these websites is a way of inflicting pain on oneself.

Overall, I like our parent readers to be aware of the new websites teens are using and know the effects.

4 thoughts on “Next Teen Online Trend: Formspring.me”

  1. I’ve always liked the idea of checks and balances within social media. If someone posts something mean or disruptive, it can usually be traced back to the person. The anonymity of the posters on the site formspring takes away those checks and balances. Here is a like from Rachel Simmons about formspring that highlights some of the concerns.

    http://www.rachelsimmons.com/2010/03/what-every-parent-should-know-about-formspring-the-new-cyberscourge-for-teens/

    @MarjieKnudsen (twitter)

  2. I’d like to shed some light on this formspring.me business. As a teen and an ex-formspringer, I would say that the reason why people use it so much is NOT because of the “deep” answers they can give. I’m not saying that it’s not true, because I’ve seen others who have posted long replies, but the REAL reason most teens use formspring is to feed their insecurity. Formspring isn’t a site to ask about a person. 90% of the people who post questions WILL be there to insult you or ask invasive questions. They are not interested with your favorite singer or your college plans. They want to know the nitty gritty parts about your life they can’t ask in person, and that’s where anonymity comes into play. It’s easier to hurt someone when you have the luxury of saying it behind a screen. I was harassed on MY formspring by “anonymous users” and after a certain point I figured it was stupid, and I stopped logging on. Formspring stopped being innocent and just turned into an excuse to bash people.

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