Internet pervs ruin everything
While you might trust your kids to use technology appropriately, that doesn’t mean everyone else in the world will do the same. Brenna Jennings of Suburban Snapshots shared a sobering screenshot of messages her daughter received while using the popular app musical.ly.
“I’m eating some parenting-flavored crow today and reversing my stance on musical.ly,” she writes. “It wasn’t the hand gestures or obnoxious song loops or even the swears Anna would always report to me that ended her video career, 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.”
Musical.ly is a social media platform designed for creating and sharing 15 second videos of yourself performing songs. You can post your own videos, follow others and comment on posts. Think Lip Sync Battle meets Instagram. The app is intended for users age 13 and up. Whether you’re 13, 18, or 38, messages like this one trolling for photos are obviously disgusting.
Jennings knew it was important to be aware of her daughter’s online presence. She took steps to try and keep her daughter safe. “Honestly, my worries were around trolls and bullies,” she tells Scary Mommy. “I knew I’d be checking up on her activity on the regular. I set rules for her: no identifying info, not even her real first name, no swearing, even in lip sync, private account only, and she had to let me review anyone asking to friend her.” Jennings also made it a rule that her daughter wasn’t allowed to use the live broadcast feature.
But rules and kids don’t always mix. Jennings’ daughter altered the security settings on her own which allowed the disturbing messages through, though she says her daughter is typically good about telling her mom when she comes across something inappropriate on the app. “Ultimately I found the message, but she has come to me with lots of ‘Mom! She said the F word!’, explains Jennings. “I take the blame for not more directly warning her about creeps like this.”
Like many parents, she’s trying to find the balance between making her daughter aware of the dangers that are out there and scaring her. “Honestly, I struggle with finding the appropriate way to warn her about predators without crushing her innocence or causing my already anxious kid even more angst. I absolutely want to teach her safety, but don’t want her living in fear.”
Jennings isn’t the only parent who’s child has been approached like this on musical.ly. On dad found messages to his eight-year-old daughter allegedly from an eight-year-old boy, saying she was “Way too pretty to be single” and “You got me feeling naughty.”
Other parents caution that even if a child’s account is private, that doesn’t stop them from using the app’s search feature. Not only could kids come across videos with explicit lyrics this way, but there are also accounts featuring nudity and sexual content they could stumble onto.
Jennings notes there’s risk anytime you allow your child access to social media. “My daughter is a comedian and a performer, so when I saw the app and that her close-in-age cousin had it, I did some research, knowing (as a web and social media professional/enthusiast) that no social media was going to be guaranteed safe.” For the most part, she was happy with the app. “She started off making pretty funny little clips and I liked that at least if she wanted to be online, she was being creative.”
She’s deleted the app from her daughter’s phone for now, without any resistance. “Because technically she’d broken other rules of app use (setting her account to public — which is not anything parental controls can prevent — and deleting comments) she didn’t even argue,” Jennings says. While they’ve started talking about what happened, the discussion is far from over. “You know kids always want the why of everything, and at her age, ‘People can be shady’ wasn’t going to cut it. We have more talking to do, but I told her that some people on the internet will try to trick little kids, that they manipulate them for bad reasons.”
It’s a shitty reality that we have to worry about things like this happening when our kids are just trying to have fun with their friends. Jennings says it all comes down to knowing your kids, and keeping an eye on what they’re doing online. “I trust your judgement with your own kids, but remind you to be diligent in monitoring their activity.”