I know a lot of kids who love the app Musical.ly. My younger daughter used to be a huge fan (and lip-sync star in her own mind). Now? Not so much. And I'm plenty OK with that.
The social media platform lets users share 15-second videos of themselves lip-syncing to popular songs. Like on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, users can post videos, follow others and comment on their posts.
Sounds cute, right? It can be (ask my 13-year-old and 400 of her closest friends). But even if your kids are using the app responsibly, there are users on the platform who are up to no good.
Brenda Jennings recently shared on Facebook a disturbing screen shot of messages her daughter received from a stranger on Musical.ly trolling her child for photos under a "model call" pretense.
“I’m eating some parenting-flavored crow today and reversing my stance on musical.ly,” Brenda wrote. “It wasn’t the hand gestures or obnoxious song loops or even the swears Anna would always report to me that ended her video career, it was finding that she switched her account to public, had deleted comments, and then this, which I found in her ‘people you don’t know’ mailbox.”
Even though Jennings had been careful to monitor her daughter's online activities and discuss internet danger with her regularly, her daughter went ahead and changed the security settings on her own — a step that allowed the questionable messages through.
“Honestly, my worries were around trolls and bullies,” Jennings said. “I knew I’d be checking up on her activity on the regular. I set rules for her: no identifying info, not even her real first name, no swearing, even in lip sync, private account only, and she had to let me review anyone asking to friend her.”
"I take the blame for not more directly warning her about creeps like this," she continued. "Honestly, I struggle with finding the appropriate way to warn her about predators without crushing her innocence or causing my already anxious kid even more angst. I absolutely want to teach her safety, but don’t want her living in fear.”
That's a desire expressed by most parents we know. But how do we manage, as parents, to teach them about the creeps and the pervs out there without freaking them out at the same time?
Jennings isn't alone in her fears about the app — one father discovered messages to his 8-year-old daughter on Musical.ly, purportedly from another 8-year-old, saying his daughter was "Way too pretty to be single" and "You got me feeling naughty."
And parents, take note: Even if your kid's account on Musical.ly is private, they can still use the app's search feature... and easily find accounts on the platform featuring all kinds of sexual content.
Jennings deleted the app and it's now in the no-fly zone for her daughter — who didn't put up a fuss, interestingly. “Because technically she’d broken other rules of app use (setting her account to public—which is not anything parental controls can prevent—and deleting comments) she didn’t even argue,” Jennings says.
And they're still talking about it. “You know kids always want the why of everything, and at her age, ‘People can be shady’ wasn’t going to cut it. We have more talking to do, but I told her that some people on the internet will try to trick little kids, that they manipulate them for bad reasons.”