It’s been called the “youngest social network we’ve ever seen”: An app that millions of children use daily to chat, send videos and discover new music.
Musical.ly is one of the fastest growing social media apps, and it’s being used almost exclusively by children. It’s not by accident, either: The site markets itself by featuring musical artists appealing to young people, like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez.
And while instances are rare, some predators have used the app to target children for sexual abuse. According to News Corp Australia, a man posing as Bieber on the app asked an 8-year-old girl for nude photos.
So, how can parents be sure there children are safely using the app? Below is everything parents need to know about the app.
What is Musical.ly?
The app is similar Twitter’s former video network, Vine, in the sense that users post and view short, looping, homemade videos. However, Musical.ly also includes a large library of music to include in videos. Users often post sing-a-long videos or develop dance routines to their favorite songs.
Others use Musical.ly to produce short comedy skits or produce creative, artistic videos.
Users can also follow friends or “featured artists” — Musical.ly users that have developed a large following. They can also “heart” or post a comment on videos.
Finally, users can send “Direct.ly” messages, or private one-on-one video or text messages.
What kind of content is on the app?
Content on the app rangers from short comedy skits to lip-syncing and dance videos.
The music users can access is unedited. Because the app leans heavily popular music, some lyrics contain swear words, drug references and sexually specific content.
Kids Privacy also points out that while Musical.ly does not allow nudity or explicit content on its platform, it does not pre-screen videos — meaning there is a chance users could stumble on explicit content before the app has a chance to delete it.
It’s unclear whether the app monitors content in direct messages.
Who can use Musical.ly?
The app allows new users to sign up with their Facebook page, as well as with a valid email address.
The app claims it only accepts users older than 13 years old, and only allows users between the ages of 13-18 to join with parental permission. However, the app does not ask for an age when setting up an account.
According to the New York Times, the company claims the majority of its 100 million users are in the 12-20 age bracket.
Who can view my child’s videos?
New users to Musical.ly are automatically given a public profile, meaning anyone with a Musical.ly account can view or comment that person’s videos. Any Musical.ly user can view the videos of a person with a public profile or send that person a direct message.
How do I make an account private?
Users can make their account private by going to their profile page (the icon on far right of the lower tool bar), clicking the “gear” logo in the top right and accessing “settings.” Users can also choose to only receive direct messages from friends and hide their account info (name, location, bio).
How do I delete an account?
It’s currently not possible to delete a Musical.ly account. The company claims it is working on a feature that would allow users to totally delete their accounts.
However, it is possible to individually delete Musical.ly videos. To do this, go to the profile page, select a video, look for the “three dot” icon on the right hand side and select “delete.”
What if my child is being bullied on the app?
Muscial.ly does allow users to block other users and report abuse. To do that, go to the profile of the person you wish to block, and click the “three dot” icon in the upper right corner. When a user blocks another person, the two can no longer view each other’s profiles or send direct messages. Kids Privacy also suggests taking a screenshot of the offending video or comment and sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.