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Cyberbullying expert helps make popular teen app safer

Dr. Justin Patchin, an internationally known cyberbullying expert and professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, is working with a team of other experts to help improve the safety of a popular but controversial app that's popular with teens.

In recent months, Ask.com has taken over the app Ask.FM, and the new owner has tried to clean up practices around the app, which has more than 150 million monthly users. The app is used heavily by teens around the world, who can anonymously ask people questions. In the past, the app gained attention from the media and law enforcement after teen suicides were said to be linked to bullying from users of the app.

In an effort to make the app safer, the new owners increased oversight of the questions that are posted, hired a Chief Trust and Safety Officer, and formed a safety advisory board. The board includes five anti-bullying experts, including UW-Eau Claire's Dr. Justin Patchin, who is co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center.

Quote from Dr. Justin Patchin:

"Ask.com recently acquired Ask.fm and is genuinely interested in turning the beleaguered social media site around. They contacted me to help assist them in making Ask.fm a safer and more positive environment. I'll direct them to best practices in preventing and responding to inappropriate online behaviors and advise them about effective policies and procedures for ensuring Ask.fm administrators are responsive to community concerns. I'll also contribute short articles for users about safe social networking and cyberbullying prevention that will be posted in the new Ask.fm Safety Center. With over 180 million active users, the Ask.fm community will benefit greatly from several significant changes that have already been implemented along with additional efforts that are planned for the near future. I'm happy to serve alongside other respected digital safety authorities from around the world on the new Ask.fm Safety Board."

Justin Patchin Bio:

Co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, Dr. Justin Patchin is a professor of criminal justice in the political science department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. For more than a decade he has been exploring the intersection of teens and technology, with particular focus on cyberbullying, social networking, and sexting. He has appeared on NPR, BBC, CNN and in The New York Times and has presented at the White House. He regularly travels throughout the United States and abroad training parents, educators, law enforcement officers, and teens themselves about how to use technology safely and responsibly. His 2008 book, Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying (co-authored with Sameer Hinduja), examines the ways adolescents use technology to cause harm to their peers (and what adults can do about it). It was named Educator Book of the Year by ForeWord Reviews. Also edited with Hinduja, Cyberbullying Prevention and Response: Expert Perspectives (2011), includes strategies by leading cyberbullying and Internet safety experts from across the United States. School Climate 2.0: Preventing Cyberbullying and Sexting One Classroom at a Time (2012) describes the school's role in preventing problematic online behaviors of adolescents. Words Wound: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral, published in December 2013, is the first book that has been specifically written for teens to help them confront cyberbullying

Contact information:

Dr. Justin Patchin is available to talk about his work with Ask.FM or other issues related to his research. You can reach him at patchinj@uwec.edu.