June 20, 2017

What you should know about popular app Musical.ly

Thanks to our friends at Protect Young Minds for making us aware of the dangers of the super popular (and pretty fun) app, Musical.ly. This lip-syncing app has become very popular among preteens and teens. But, as with all social media, it comes with its share of dangers.

DANGER #1 on Musically:

It is common to come across pornographic content as users frequently upload nude and semi-nude videos of themselves. If one is just perusing the videos uploaded by all users, it’s highly likely you’ll see one of these videos. One news site in Australia noted that within 30 minutes, they saw dozens of pornographic videos and even after 10 days of flagging them, they remained on the site. When I checked out the app myself, I saw it too.

Suggestions on what to do:

  • You could forbid the use of the app until the app-makers develop a better system for cleaning these up or only allow use on your device when you are monitoring. (Please send the developers a strong-worded complaint! Their emails are here.)
  • You could explain to your child that they are not to explore the videos uploaded by everyone, and instead only look at videos uploaded by people they actually know in person or trusted celebrities (or maybe you have to approve everyone on their “friend” list). This is leaving it up to them to follow the rules.
  • You can have a talk, actually many talks, about pornography and what to do when they see it and how to make sense of it. I suggest you do this one for sure! For more tools on having these talks check out our Parents Resources page and head over to Protect Young Minds for constant updates.

DANGER #2 on Musically:

Predators know this is a top app among young teenagers and they are setting up shop here. There are many reports of strangers sending unwanted messages, many sexual in nature, to innocent users. I’ve heard stories of predators striking up a friendship with one of their targets on Musically and over time as they become friendlier, enticing the children for explicit videos (this process is called grooming and is a common tactic taking place on many social networking sites).

Suggestions on what to do:

  • Turn on the privacy settings so that strangers are unable to see content posted by you or your child and cannot contact you.
  • Consider a rule that your teen can only connect with people they know in real life and with users who you approve of, such as a favorite celebrity or another Musical.ly user you have vetted yourself.
  • Talk about online dangers with your teen regularly. This should include tactics used by predators to groom children online.

Be Where Your Kids Are

As a side note, I often recommend to parents that they use the same social media sites as their kids. It is a way to understand how the technology is used and to recognize the dangers for yourself. But, perhaps even better, it is a great way to connect with your child right where they are, experiencing life through their lens. Grandparents should do it, too! I have found that making goofy videos with my teenage sister on Musical.ly is VERY FUN and it brings us closer together, despite our age difference and living in different states. It also makes it easier for me to talk to her about the dangers I see there. I’m not trying to be a spy into her life, but it does also help me see what she’s up to.

Know what your kids are doing online and join them when you can!

Dawn Hawkins

Chief Executive Officer

Dawn Hawkins is CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the leading organization exposing the connections between all forms of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and child sexual abuse. Dawn’s energy, creativity and mobilization skills are deployed to build a world free from sexual violence, with freedom and human dignity for all.

Dawn is deeply committed to bipartisan political solutions at the federal and state level. Her issue expertise, visionary initiatives, and innovative strategy have led to groundbreaking change in the legislative arena and in multimillion-dollar corporate policies.

Dawn has been instrumental in re-imaging the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has centered the need to address buyer demand for commercial sex, called out corporate entities facilitating exploitation through the annual Dirty Dozen List, fostered an international movement, and constantly: advocates for survivors. Her work has sparked change at Google, Hilton Worldwide, Comcast, Walmart, the Department of Defense, Instagram, TikTok, and other influential firms. Dawn has appeared on many television programs, including CNN, Fox & Friends, and Good Morning America. She regularly authors articles and speaks around the country addressing the public health harms of pornography, curbing demand for sex trafficking, protecting children and families in our digital world, and more.

Further Reading