Good Digital Parenting
Blog | April 11, 2017

What Parents Need to Know About Musical.ly

Just when you thought all social media sites were created and no one could possibly have a unique idea for another site, a company called Musical.ly Inc. has created an app aimed towards teens.

This social media app allows users to create videos that can be shared and commented on through their network of followers. This app allows users to create 15-second videos, with a music sound clip to go along with it and share it to their page. Users, also known as “Musers,” can follow their friends as well as celebrities and strangers. While the majority of the site is harmless and full of fun for kids, it has some aspects that parents should be aware of before allowing their kids to roam the app freely.

The first thing parents should be concerned about with Musical.ly is the age requirement. In the company’s Privacy Policy section, they mention only briefly about an age restriction to the app. This policy will prevent in theory, pre-teens or kids using the app without parental consent. This takes the liability out of the company’s hands and places responsibility on the parents to watch what their kid is using on their devices. However, like most social media sites and applications, it is extremely easy to get around this rule. 

Musical.ly is easier than most apps to create a profile without meeting the age requirement. When creating an account, all you have to do is put in an email address, phone number or connect to Facebook. There’s no question about the person’s birth year or a box to check stating the user must be 13 or older to use the app. Due to this, pre-teens and those as young as first-graders can become “Musers” as well. Kids in this day and age get devices at very young ages and learn how to work them extremely quickly,

The young users are able to post any type of video they would like as well as come into contact with strangers. Many young users may not know what is and isn’t appropriate to post on social media. With that, they may publicly post their phone numbers or home addresses to a friend’s comment wall, which could lead to a stranger gaining that information. Anyone can see these comments especially if the video you comment on has no privacy settings applied to it.

In South Wales an incident occurred where a young 8-year-old girl was messaged by a “boy” via the Musical.ly app. The boy claimed to be the same age as the girl, but was saying things like “You’re way too pretty to be single, I like your body too,” “I wish I was your brother,” “You got me feeling naughty,” and “When can I see under covers lol.” That 

Another thing parents should be aware of is the content within the app. The videos created by “Musers” are thought to be an expression of themselves and can be of whatever they would like. Most tend to dance or lip sync to popular songs. Again, sounds like it is all fun. However, the songs that are within the app are not always appropriate. There are songs that talk about sex, smoking, drinking, and partying. Some songs swear or allude to illegal substances as well. While this content would be more appropriate for the actual crowd the app is trying to attract, it isn’t appropriate for the audience that actually uses the it. 

I was completely flabbergasted when I opened my phone one day to a video from my 10- year-old sister. She was sharing with me one of her many funny Musical.ly videos that I normally find amusing. However, I didn’t find this video as entertaining because the song she chose in the background was a female apologizing to a male for saying and doing things she didn’t mean to do because she drank too much tequila. The worst part about the whole thing is that the dance moves she was doing fit perfectly with the song lyrics, so everyone who watched the video knew she was comprehending exactly what it was saying even though she is only 10. That is just one example of the many songs that anyone under the age of 13 should not be dancing to or posting about. There is no real solution to this problem other than to not allow young user on the app which is completely in the hands of parents. 

However, when parents do monitor the app or teach their kids how to be safe online, Musical.ly has many functions to weed out the extra young and the malicious characters from the app. One way to do so is to report content or a person. If a comment seems inappropriate a user can report it and the website will have it taken down within 15 minutes. If a user reports a person they believe is under 13 or malicious predators, the company will investigate the issue and see if it is needed to shut the account down. Another thing people can do is block other users from seeing any of their content or their name in the app. Musical.ly offers a lot of support bases and resources for parents and kids to use if bullying or predatory circumstances come up.

So how do parents prevent this from being a problem? Monitor your child’s use of the application. Make sure first and foremost that their privacy settings are on and that the only people that can follow them are the ones they accept. Next, talk to your kid about privacy. No one can control anyone else’s privacy settings, so it is important that you tell your children that commenting personal information such as phone numbers and addresses is not appropriate. Lastly, make sure you tell them to only accept people they know and are friends with because in the end they still have the power to accept strangers as followers.  

While Musical.ly is very fun and keeps kids and teens up to date on the latest trends and interesting things that their friends are doing, it is also a hotspot for cyber crimes, bullying, and inappropriate behaviors that parents should look out for. It is important to talk with your kids about the appropriate use of the internet, what to share online, who to talk to, and measures they should take should something bad happen online. If you create a space where your kids feel open to talking with you about problems, then online usage shouldn’t be a problem.