Call it a generational shift, but an innocuous-looking video app has become the latest preying ground for paedophiles. musical.ly app is a social media app that lets you not only create but also share short video clips. With 60 million users, it has become popular among the teens worldwide. The users can create 15-second ‘musical’—video clips of lip-syncing a song, singing and dancing. They can also share or discover these musicals. It’s back-linked to several other social media websites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Parents were appalled to find private messages within the app asking their kids to send their naked pics.
Two cases in UK have been filed concerning potential child grooming on the app by anonymous users. In one of the cases, a 13-year old was asked to send her naked pics in an anonymous private message. In another instance, an 8-year old was being followed by an anonymous user who used to message his pics and asked the child’s pics in response. The mother claimed that the sender was also following and liking other young girls on the app.
What’s child grooming?
Child grooming is being friendly with a child to make an emotional connection. The offender’s objective is to gain the child’s trust for potential sexual abuse. The abuse could be in the form of child trafficking, prostitution or child pornography.
Grooming can happen in real life by a stranger, an acquaintance or even a relative. It can also happen online. The offender/groomer can be a male or female of any age. Usually, the victim is unaware of being groomed or might not know that they are being abused.
Sexual grooming has risen in the online world where the groomer pretends to be of the same age as the child. It’s most common in 13-17 year age group. The children are influenced to send their sexually-explicit pictures or videos and/or engage in sexual texting online.
How to protect your child?
- Importantly, discuss online safety with your child. Inform the child about the potential dangers/problems and how to deal with them. Keep the conversation open-ended.
- Be mindful of the social media access that you provide to your child. Check and adhere to the minimum age pre-requisite for any app that you allow your child to use. Set appropriate privacy settings in the apps that your child uses. musical.ly is rated 12+ and has suitable privacy settings in place. An account on it can be set as private and have its followers approved.
- Filter the content on your child’s device by using its parental control feature. Disable download on it. Also install parental control applications on it.
- Take hold of your child’s device and in their presence, go through their texts, browsing history and social media pictures to check for any inappropriate content.
- Keep yourself informed about the latest social media apps and their potential dangers, if any.
Recently, a pic of a carpet hiding a mobile phone in it went viral on the internet. Garnering 143k likes and 20k shares, it drove people crazy as it wasn’t easy to spot the mobile. Similarly, there is a hard-to-detect animal hiding amongst these zebra, or this brick wall kept everyone baffled…