Musical.ly is one of the latest “must have” apps for young people to pester us about getting on their mobile phone or device and it’s important to understand a bit more about this new platform until you let your kids download and use it.
Musical.ly is the world’s fastest growing social network around music and lifestyle and is a social networking music video sharing app. that allows users to “make and share 15 second music videos of themselves singing their favourite songs in a totally new social space” www.teenvogue.com. It is very creative and easy to use because the “muser” (musical.ly user) can combine video effects and Instagram like filters to make something new. Like Facebook and Instagram it operates with likes and notifications of when someone views or appreciates the video that has been shared. Musers can share videos with friends and can see their friends videos and comment about them.
Sounds great, right, and it actually is very cleverly designed and marketed to its target audience of kids, tweens and teenagers (and Mums) who love to sing and make video clips. However like anything on the internet there is the inevitable downside, and it’s seems from the many parent comments I have seen the downside is rather significant. The website Common Sense Media has a comments section reviewing the app and below I have included a number of quotes from that site which give you a clear insight into some of the issues to be aware of if your children are using this app:
“Definitely started off sweet and innocent, then due to these unsavoury lyrics, went down a bad path when I wasn’t watching”.
“The features are neat, and this is a great social media platform but there are many 5-8 graders who are singing about sexual things and don’t realize”.
“I can see why this app is immensely popular amongst the tween set, because it’s an easy way for them to start communicating/sharing with members of the opposite sex, but it’s too hard to monitor”.
“I love this app. Okay, so, you’ve heard of stalkers. Guess what? On musical.ly, you can create a private account so that you get to make sure nobody bad is following you. Plus, only the people following you can watch your videos if you have a private one. There is a bit of swearing in the songs, but you can always choose a different song”.
” I found my 10 year old lip syncing to suggestive lyrics she didn’t even understand. And dancing and gesturing the way a rock diva does- not the way I want her spending her free time. What’s worse is that the rating system becomes addictive (see the reviews by the kids) She and her friends kept pushing the envelope to see how many “likes” they could get. What originally was supposed to be a private account became public for the thrill of getting the approval of strangers”.
“The BIG problem is that a lot of the available music and sound bites contain all the very adult language and innuendo you hear on the radio. So when left to her own devices, I found my 10 year old lip syncing to suggestive lyrics she didn’t even understand. And dancing and gesturing the way a rock diva does- not the way I want her spending her free time”.
“This is not an App that parents can fully supervise. Very disappointing”.
“If your child searches the hashtags, they WILL find pornographic videos. It took me less than a minute after I installed the app to find it. The hashtag that brought it up was #adult.”
“My 11 year old son downloaded this app and within 2 days we made a decision to delete it. I think a kid version would be a great way for kids to be creative and sing and dance to, let’s say, Disney or Kidzbop songs, but THIS version is anything goes! What we have here is unlimited access to explicit lyric songs, and tweens copying all the highly suggestive dance moves that accompany these unedited videos. Pair all this with hashtag “ratings” below each video that lead to even more explicit material, and your tween could really see some eye popping material!!”
“I was horrified to have my 13 year old daughter show me a video she came across of a man masturbating under a dancing hashtag she searched. After clicking that persons account I saw there were hundreds of similar and worse pornographic videos of underage children, women and men including some sexual acts. I was horrified”.
But you can just go Private right, won’t that solve the problem…?
“Yes you can make a private profile but that only allows your child not to be seen by others without permission. It still allows them to see anything they want on there”.
“Also, when you join you are immediately public. No big deal right? BIG DEAL. As I had my account public I would get follows for accounts with nude profile pictures, or usernames. There is NO WAY to get the user to unfollow you unless you block them”.
Musical.ly is actually a very clever, technically advanced, fun and creative app that will be very appealing to the creative child who loves music, dancing, acting, and making up performances. Unfortunately like anything on the internet it is not long before it gets flooded with inappropriate content. Partly this is because sordid opportunistic types target these apps that a popular with teenagers and tweens to get them to see their own content.
Another reason is that inappropriate content whether we like it or not gets the most likes. The more likes something gets then the more likely it is to be reproduced by others to also get likes. As a parent you need to decide whether you are able to monitor the content enough for it to stay safe and appropriate for your child to be using. Your kids will be pressured into using them if all of their friends are and peer pressure can lead to poor judgement and decision making especially if it makes them popular with others.