musical.ly is an app for creating and sharing short videos. First introduced in 2014, musical.ly has become popular with the tween and teen set in their never-ending pursuit of popularity and fame, social likes and validation. Plus, it’s fun. Here’s what parents should know about musical.ly.
musical.ly users, referred to as “musers”, use the app to create short videos. Usually these are lip-sync videos with popular songs in the background. Some also feature short musical performances, singing, comedy or dancing. There are filters and other video effects available such as adjusting the speed.
Social sharing encouraged
musical.ly is very much a social app, with the ability to like, follow and comment on each other’s video creations which are called “musicals”. There are challenges and contents, where a given song or theme is introduced and you make a video that relates to it – then tag it with a hashtag for all to see.
The social sharing goes beyond musical.ly, with easy sharing tools for sharing to Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Twitter, WhatsApp and more. A YouTube search for musical.ly videos had about 22,600,000 results. On Instagram, where teens are apt to be hanging, there are over a million hashtags for musical.ly. So even those teens not using the app (for example, my teen) have probably seen some of these videos. Go ahead, ask your teen if they know who Baby Ariel is (she’s a famous muser who recently appeared on Good Morning America. Now you can astound your teen with your newfound knowledge!)
Privacy settings in musical.ly
You can have a private account on musical.ly, but when you first create an account is it public unless you change it. When this setting is turned on, you must approve anyone who wants to follow you and see your videos (okay, fine, I’ll call them musicals).
To make your musical.ly account private, click the person icon in the lower right, then the Settings (gear) icon in the upper right. Scroll down to “private account” and move the slider to the “green” position to make your account private.
As for privacy, even with a private account there is information in your Bio that is public, including your name and username. Also you can easily – TOO EASILY – find teenagers’ Instagram accounts, Snapchat usernames, Kik usernames and other personal information in their profiles. In fact, the app comes right out and asks for your Instagram ID when setting up a profile.
So parents, if you check your teen’s phone and find musical.ly, you might want to find out what they are sharing, not only in the profile but also in any videos they’ve created.
Turn off location settings
Most of the younger faces I encountered were on the “my city” screen.
musical.ly is not intended for the under-13 set
musical.ly’s Privacy statement states: “We do not knowingly collect information from children under 13 and we do not want it. We will take steps to delete it if we learn we have collected it.”
“If you learn that your child has provided us with Personal Information without your consent, then you may alert us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we learn that we have collected any Personal Information from children under 13, then we will promptly take steps to delete such information and terminate the child’s account.” This information is shown (in greyed out text) on the signup screen, although users are not asked to enter a birth date.
In my time perusing the app, I saw countless tweens, and younger. One profile was clearly created by parents for an 8-year old.
Explicit language and content on musical.ly
Even with a private account, you can still watch any other musicals and follow others with public accounts. There are musers who are designated on the “Featured” screen, which is where you land when you first open the app. Many songs have explicit lyrics. When choosing songs to use, you can choose from an online library, or your own music. In the online library, there are plenty of categories to choose from. From what I experienced, the Popular category is…well, very popular with musers and the music reflects what is popular on the radio these days. I won’t get started with a diatribe against the modern music industry here, but suffice it to say if you have a younger tween there may be some songs you’d prefer they weren’t listening to at this age.
As far as explicit content – if you go looking for, you will find it. Although it goes against their terms and guidelines, it didn’t take me long to find a video of a man masturbating (age could not be determined as this was from the waist down), a young woman in a bra trying to look sultry and stroking her self, and a young man smoking pot. One video was there just for the purpose of asking for nudes. (I’ll spare you the screenshots!)
musical.ly is rated 12+ in the Apple store, and “Teen” in Google Play for Android. Overall I can definitely see the appeal, and I’d give the same words of warning here as I’ve done for other video sharing apps such as Vine and Keek, and live streaming apps like YouNow and Periscope. Due to the explicit content and potential for private information to be easily shared both inside and app and to other social platforms, I would proceed with caution for tweens and younger teens.
Here’s some more about musical.ly:
What do you think? Have your kids asked to use musical.ly, or do you have a teen who is using it? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!