A mum has issued a warning to other parents after finding worrying messages sent to her daughter on a music app primarily marketed towards children and teenagers.
Brenda Jennings took to Facebook to share her shock after someone contacted her daughter Anna via the app Musical.ly and asked her to send them photographs of herself.
The user, who in the screenshots of the conversation is called Summer, poses as a young girl whose ‘mom works at a modelling agency,’ and asked Anna if she wants to speak to ‘her’.
‘Hi, are you interested in modelling?’ asks Summer’s ‘mom’. ‘You don’t have to go anywhere, you can take the pictures yourself.’
Thankfully, Anna was savvy enough to decline the user’s advances, but mum Brenda was horrified to come across the exchange on a platform she had gone to every length to protect her daughter on.
‘I’m eating some parenting-flavored crow today and reversing my stance on musical.ly,’ she wrote. ‘I enjoyed the creative, funny videos Anna would make with her friends.’
‘It wasn’t the hand gestures or obnoxious song loops or even the swears, it was finding that she switched her account to public, had deleted comments, and then this, which I found in her ‘people you don’t know’ mailbox.’
In a sobering last warning, she writes, ‘I trust your judgement with your own kids, but remind you to be diligent in monitoring their activity.’
Initially praised as a good idea for inspiring creativity and being a productive alternative to watching the TV, the app allows users to create 15-second lip syncing videos with friends or on their own, share with a community and comment on other peoples’ videos.
But many parents have since expressed concern about features that they believe are inappropriate for the audience the programme is geared towards. In Brenda’s case, despite laying down rules like having a private profile (new accounts are automatically set to public, which is a concern for many parents) and letting mum review any friend requests, the unknown user was able to contact Anna after she changed her message settings back to public.
Brenda isn’t the only parent to have had a troubling experience on the app; the general consensus on review website commonsensemedia.com is that the app has not taken appropriate measure to protect its young users from harmful content.
‘If your child searches the hashtags, they WILL find pornographic videos,’ wrote one concerned dad. ‘It took me less than a minute after I installed the app to find it. The hashtag that brought it up was #adult’.
Another added: ‘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.’