This Mom, Brenna Jennings of Suburban Snapshots shared a scary screenshot of messages her daughter received while using a popular app called 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 app which is designed for creating and sharing 15 second videos of yourself performing songs. Your own videos can be posted, you can follow others and comment on posts.
The app is intended for teens aged 13 and up.
Jennings knew that it was important to be aware of her daughter’s online presence so she took steps to try and keep her daughter safe. “Honestly, my worries were around trolls and bullies,” she said. “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 didn’t allow her daughter to use the live broadcast feature.
Jennings’ daughter however altered the security settings on her own which allowed the disturbing messages to come 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!’, Jennings says. “I take the blame for not more directly warning her about creeps like this.”
“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” she said.
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.” She was happy with the app. Most of the time. She started off making pretty funny little clips and I liked that at least if she wanted to be online, she was being creative.”
The app has been deleted 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. The Mom said “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.”
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