Is Musical.ly Safe?
A Complete App Profile for Parents
NOTE: On August 2, 2o18, Musical.ly became TikTok. Please visit our TikTok Definitive Guide for Parents.
This eye-catching image was first used on a retired blog post where we first wrote about Musical.ly. I still really like it, which is why we carried it over to our app write up!
What is the Musical.ly App?
Description: Musical.ly is a video community that allows you to create, share, and discover short music videos. Videos can be up to 15 seconds with a layer of popular music. It’s just a ton of fun. In June 2018, they rolled their Live.ly live-streaming service directly into Musical.ly.
Category: Social Media
APP Store rating: 12+ (“infrequent/mild alcohol, tobacco, drug, mature/suggestive themes, profanity or crude humor, sexual content and nudity,” etc.), although users are supposed to be at least 13 years old in order to comply with the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which applies to websites and online services that collect personal information.
What Do Parents Need to Know About Musical.ly?
A news segment done with Denver 7 News
Live streaming is now possible. On June 13, 2018, Musical.ly announced that it was shuddering its live-streaming app Live.ly and adding live-streaming capabilities to Musical.ly. This only makes the Musical.ly app more dangerous for kids. Young people just don’t need the temptation and permanence that comes with live-streaming any part of their life. Their still-developing brains just don’t need to be placed into additional, unmonitored, “can’t take it back” situations.
It’s a race to the bottom regarding its content. And, it’s not just pornography. Musical.ly has followed a predictable social media trend where over time, their content seems to have become darker and darker. Unless the platform has hired a significant number of people that pour over content and reject harmful, illegal, or inappropriate content, then there’s always going to be too much junk. And in the case of Musical.ly, these are just little, little kids. Anastasia Bell recently wrote a very difficult-to-read
blog post about Musical.ly that explored some of these dark and twisted corners of the app.
There are some parental controls (but not enough). Similar to Instagram, users can set their profile to “private” in the settings, which allows them to approve those people he/she allows to see their created videos. The three settings circled in red in the image below should be toggled on. There is also a block list and “musers” can report inappropriate profiles to Musical.ly. Toggling on the three settings below prevents a child’s content from being seen by others, but there’s no way to prevent the child from going out to search for other content.
Porn can be found. Like other social media, Musical.ly allows users to upload their own content. Because of this, the nature of the content always eventually gives way to an abundance of pornographic material (just like Twitter, and Instagram).
For example: we received a message at Protect Young Eyes from a concerned mother whose daughter had done an innocent search in Musical.ly for “dancing” videos and discovered instead a video of a man masturbating. Fortunately, the girl went to mom immediately.
News segment done with Wood TV 8 in Grand Rapids.
Too many youngsters are using this app (children who are much younger than 13). Stereotypically, this is an app used by elementary and early middle school-aged girls. And, if you spend any time browsing the app, you’ll find this to be true. This means there’s also an abundance of predators lurking. We say, “wherever the kids are is also where the predators are” (supported by the Denver 7 News segment above).
Hashtags are always a mess. Musical.ly allows users to use hashtags to categorize videos. Musical.ly does have certain inappropriate words blocked in the tag search, i.e., you can’t search for “sex”.
Songs can have explicit lyrics. Kids can create their Musical.ly’s using any of thousands of popular songs. There’s no way to control this.
Musical.ly Bottom Line – Is it Safe for Your Kids?
COPPA would say that kids need to be at least 13 to use this app (since it’s classified as social media), but even then, the risks feel too high. Our findings cause us to give this app a strong “no” when it comes to allowing kids to use it and the recent Medium article by Anastasia Basil seems to fully support this conclusion.
Now What? Do this in the next 24 hours!
Are you interested in having greater insight into the social media platforms that your kids are using? Bark is one of the best platforms we’ve tested. They’re constantly looking for ways to dig further into apps like TikTok, to alert parents. We trust them and we think you should, too!
*There are affiliate links throughout this post because we’ve tested and trusted a small list of parental controls. Our work saves you time! If you decide that you agree with us, then we may earn a small commission, which does nothing to your price. Enjoy!
I love life. Seriously! Each. Day. A. Gift. Former CPA, business advisor, youth pastor, development director. Manage marketing efforts for Covenant Eyes and CEO of PYE. God shares wild ideas with me about life while I run. I have a relentless drive to help families use technology well.