Musical.ly is a relative newcomer to the social app scene, and seems to be particularly popular with young teens and perhaps even younger kids. The way it works is that users can take a clip from a song or other media that they own, and then create a 15 second video with that clip as the soundtrack. Lip syncing and comedic sketches dominate the feed.
It sounds like fun, and according to an article at Business Insider Musical.ly had 70 million users as of last month, Is it safe for 12-year olds, or younger users? Let’s take a look.
For starters, the age limit is 13, or possibly 18, and that’s not a joke. Once you download the app, you are never asked your age, so maybe they don’t care all that much. According to the app’s Terms of Service:
“IF YOU ARE UNDER 13 YEARS OF AGE, YOU MUST NOT USE OR ACCESS THE SERVICE AT ANY TIME OR IN ANY MATTER. Furthermore, by using the service, you affirm that you are at least 18 years of age.”
We’re guessing that the 18-year old reference is a mistake and the app’s age limit is really intended to be 13. Incidentally, it is rated 12+ in the app store. In any case, if your child is under 13 and wants to use the app, you should know that she is breaking the rules.
Are the rules – in this case the age limit – important? If you child is under 13 they are. Under 13s are protected by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which is you and your child’s primary means of protecting her personal information. Make no mistake, Musical.ly does collect your personal information, and might use it, even if/after she deletes her account.
When it comes to whether your child will encounter adult content on the app, the Terms of Service appear to be quite strict. Musical.ly does not allow users to post material that is “abusive, bullying, defamatory, harassing, harmful, hateful, inaccurate, infringing, libelous, objectionable, obscene, offensive, pornographic, shocking, threatening, unlawful, violent, vulgar or promoting bigotry, discrimination, hatred, violence, or inciting violence.”
In terms of nudity, sexual and other adult content, our take is that the language above is quite vague. While obscene content and pornography specifically are prohibited, it depends on how they define it and how they monitor for it. Furthermore, one might assume that some nudity is allowed. While browsing the app this week, we didn’t see any nudity but profanity was easy to find.
Hashtags are widely used on the app, and it has a search function, but we were happy to see that searches for many adult-oriented hashtags is disabled (#boobs, #sexy etc.).
As with most social apps, predator risk is an issue. If you want to keep your child safe, we recommend setting the account to private, hiding location info and only allowing direct messages from friends. All of those controls are accessible from the settings menu.
In summary, Musical.ly is not more unsafe than most other social apps, and it probably has less adult content than many. However, since a vast number of users appear to be girls well under the age of 18, it could over time become a favorite of predators. We would still caution parents against allowing users 12 and under to download Musical.ly, and use caution with older teens.
If you want to read more about what other parents have to say, there are a lot of parent reviews posted at Common Sense Media.
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