Qooh.me is a social site that is very popular with children in the younger grades at school who use it to get to know one another.
Unfortunately, it’s also a site that allows users to ask other Qooh.me users anonymous questions. Add that alarming fact to other things like no age restriction, no privacy settings, no ability to block offensive users (other than by ignoring their questions) and you immediately have a melting pot that’s rife with cyberbullying and a platform for spreading hate and hurt.
A vehicle for anonymous probing
As a parent, it’s essential you understand how Qooh.me works and how to protect your child from the type of abuse it allows. As a Qooh.me user your child is open to other users asking them anonymous questions under the pretext of getting to know your child better. These questions are often very unpleasant and when your child replies, their answer will appear on their public profile, opening them up to further hurtful engagement. Even Qooh.me acknowledges that they have noticed “a lot of haters on the site” and advise users to delete all offensive questions.
No age restriction
Qooh.me has no age restriction, which means your child’s profile will sit alongside adult profiles leaving them open to leading questions by these adults. Added to this, no login is required to ask a question – all your child will know is the person’s username. This type of ‘free’, unmonitored platform leaves children wide open to situations where adults can take advantage of them and where hate can easily be fostered.
Parents need to be aware
Despite all the concerns around Qooh.me, it has seen explosive growth and today has over 17 000 members. Cyberbullying impacts at least one out of every five primary and high school students and many who experience it don’t tell anyone.
Sharon Knowles and Dr Coen Louw, the two co-founders of the Da Vinci Foundation, whose aim is to teach children to be safe online, have grave concerns about Qooh.me and its growing popularity.
“Any unrestricted, unmonitored digital platform like Qooh.me, where users, including adults, can remain anonymous while interacting with children creates a potential environment where abuse and cyberbullying can flourish. Parents need to be educated and inform their children about the dangers of using sites like Qooh.me”, said Knowles.
How to protect your child
The first thing to do is strongly encourage your child not to interact or use Qooh.me until they have sorted out their privacy issues. However, forbidding your child from accessing the site might not work as they can access it away from home using any friend’s mobile device. Rather use these tips to help them stay safe while using Qooh.me:
1. Have a chat with your child about Qooh.me and explain your concerns about it.
2. Explain how anonymous, unrestricted platforms like Qooh.me leave your child wide-open to cyberbullying and potential abuse
3. Strongly advise your child to ignore all questions that make them feel uncomfortable, rather than respond – a mistake many children make when they’re feeling defensive or angry
4. Emphasise to your child that as soon as they respond to a question, their reply will immediately appear on their public profile – leaving them open to further unpleasant questions and comments
For more information about how to protect your child from cyberbullying, contact davincifoundation.org.za