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Kidnap victim Hannah Anderson's reported online chat raises alarms

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No, say experts on teen psychology and Internet safety consulted by the Monitor – particularly on anonymous sites such as ask.fm. Many teens don’t think about the negative motives that may exist among the wide audience of their public posts, which they may envision as being viewed mainly by peers, nor do they usually understand the potential consequences, these experts say.

“This girl needs time to reflect upon things before she makes things public, and she may be very sorry about what she’s posting,” says Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with teens in Fairfield County, Conn.

She should be “setting up a support group, finding a safe place where she can talk with people,” Dr. Greenberg says. “And it concerns me that if she’s going onto this site that many millions of people may see, that maybe she doesn’t have someone to talk to yet…. The earlier you treat trauma and loss … the better the prognosis.”

The mother of a friend of Hannah’s confirmed to reporters that the posts were hers and said that her son had urged Hannah to take some of them down. But law enforcement officials and the website itself have not confirmed or denied the origin of the posts. As of late Wednesday morning, the account attributed to her in media reports – Hannahbanana722 – did not turn up on a search of ask.fm.

It’s not uncommon for teens to think of the Internet as a diary, or as a way to communicate with people about difficult subjects without having to face them in person, so the posts might have been a way of “getting attention that she thinks is healing, but in the end, it’s not,” says Parry Aftab, a New Jersey-based lawyer, cyberbullying expert, and founder of the WiredSafety charity.

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