Predators Follow Thousands of Children on Musical.ly
Creeper App of the Week
While Musical.ly looks like a safe app for children, and many kids use it safely, it’s filled with adult content and too many adults who troll for underage sex partners. Child sex-crime investigators cite this app as one of the newest hunting grounds for sexual predators.
In a recent 15-minute search of this app we identified multiple profiles of adult men following thousands kids aged 15 and younger. Some people post sexual content on the app, too, and your children may stumble on it or search out of curiosity. But the real threat is from people like this:
This Musical.ly member is following 471 others — and most of them are children.
Here are a few others:
Parents: here’s what you can do
- Delete the app, or
- Keep the app, talk to your child about it, and take precautionary steps. Child psychologists say mobile-phone ownership requires a balance of the child’s needs and their desires — especially when your children are tweens or younger teens. They need safety; they want complete social freedom. So tell your child you’ll balance their need for freedom with your need to keep them safe. Then, if you’re okay with your child finding Musical.ly’s occasionally-pornographic content, and you want them to keep the app, follow these steps to keep predators away:
- Open the Musical.ly app and press user profile icon (the human head icon) in the lower right-hand corner.
- Next, press the settings icon (gear icon) in the top right corner. When your options scroll onto the screen, choose “settings.” Scroll down to the “privacy” section and turn all three options to the “ON” position:
- Then check your child’s phone regularly, to make sure the app’s settings are as you specified them.
What else can you do?
- Know who your children are following (and are followed by) on Musical.ly. If your child doesn’t know them personally offline, they shouldn’t interact with them virtually. Regularly check the list. Children often agree to these limits but then quickly disregard them in practice.
- Do not allow your children to post their contact information in their profiles (or anywhere). Even if the account is private, the profile itself is public.
- Share this post on social media so other parents can safeguard their children too. Start conversations around this topic, so you and the parents of your child’s friends can share ideas and news, and maybe align strategies.
- Watch this space: we’ll regularly post about other apps like this, which, as a group, enabled many of the 8.3 million online child sex crimes reported in the U.S. last year.
- Know which apps your child downloads. To that end, please consider downloading our app, SaferKid, which, among other things, screens your child’s device for potentially-dangerous or offensive apps and sends you alerts. You can get it from the App Store, Google Play or our web site.
- Want to be an activist around this? If you give money to your college, ask the alumni fund if they invest in online technologies like Musical.ly and others that enable child sex crimes. Ask your pension fund manager the same. Many invest in venture capital firms that subsequently back these apps. Then contact your state legislators and ask them to support legislation that enforces online age verification. Until then, young kids and adults will always mix in places they shouldn’t.