Ever seen your kids lip-sync in front of their smartphone? It’s a good chance they’re on Musical.ly.
The social network lets users create their own videos – often to music – and share them on their profile.
Having tried Musical.ly briefly, I came away with two thoughts. First, I’m very old. Second, I still get why kids and teens love this.
Videos are easy to make, but if you put time into it, you can create really clever clips. It reminds me of Vine – you could easily pull together smart videos in only six seconds. Only with Musical.ly, there are more tools.
Plus, it’s a chance to become a star, whether it’s on a stage with just close family and friends, or something bigger.
But there’s also the social networking aspect of it. In theory, it can be locked down into a private network. That, of course, requires diligence on the part of the parent.
There also have been some recent reports about strangers sending kids suggestive messages, raising concerns about safety. (Musical.ly discourages anyone under 13 from having an account).
All that said, it’s super popular. Don’t know what Musical.ly is? Not sure why your kid is so crazy about it? Here’s what you need to know:
WHAT IS MUSICAL.LY?
Its creators describe it as the “world’s largest creative platform”, where users create videos on either an iOS or Android device using a combination of music, special effects like time lapses, and filters to share with others.
Videos are posted to different categories, such as comedy, talent, sports, and style. Your profile is where you view your personal Musical.ly videos, plus there’s a discover section to view videos by category, trending tag, or song choice. There’s also a leaderboard highlighting the top “musers.”
HOW POPULAR IS MUSICAL.LY?
The app claims more than 100 million users, according to the app’s About page on Tumblr. Musical.ly says since launching in 2014, it has reached the top spot on Apple’s App Store in 20 countries, including the U.S.
It’s among the top 10 photo and video apps on Apple’s App Store, hovering between the top 50 and top 100 overall over the past 12 months, according to analytics firm App Annie. On Android, Musical.ly sits around the top 25 apps downloaded on Google Play.
WHY IS IT SO POPULAR?
In most cases, it lets users create and star in their own personal music videos. A review of the top videos on the apps show most users lip-syncing to popular songs.
A few times a week, 11-year-old Leila Adnane performs for a worldwide audience, lip-syncing to pop hits while performing intricate choreography in sometimes elaborate makeup.
Leila say it’s a way to showcase their creativity and bond with friends over a shared passion.
“I like that you can do any music in the world, and that you can (manipulate) it and do different kinds of things,” she said. “I think that’s really cool.”
But some parents have grown wary of the app. They say it encourages an unhealthy obsession with popularity, allows children to engage with objectionable content and puts them at risk of exploitation.
“It turned into this monster,” said Kim Weber, who had to have a sit-down with other mums after her 8-year-old daughter and her friends used to app to snipe at each other. “It’s supposed to be a fun thing, but just like any other social media, it took a negative turn.”
For many users – or “musers”, in the app’s parlance – Musical.ly is a positive experience. Natalie Leone, whose 10-year-old daughter Sicily is a devoted muser, said it reminds her of how she entertained herself when she was a child.
“I remember staring in the mirror and dancing and singing to myself,” she said. “I see (Musical.ly) as a hand held mirror.”
SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT MY KIDS USING IT?
Recent reports have surfaced of alarmed parents discovering inappropriate content sent by strangers to their kids.
One report details the account of a mother in Australia who learned her 8-year-old daughter received messages from someone pretending to be Justin Bieber.
Like many social media apps, Musical.ly profiles are public by default, which can open up users to inappropriate messages.
In a section for parents, Musical.ly discourages any users under 13 from creating an account, and offers resources on Internet privacy and cyberbullying. “We encourage you to take an active role in your teens’ Internet experience,” reads an excerpt.
The app’s makers couldn’t be reached for comment on this story.
HOW CAN I PROTECT THEM?
One key option Musical.ly offers is setting your accounts to private. This lets users screen who wants to follow them and either accept or decline.
It also prevents anyone from directly sending messages unless you have approved them as fans (Musical.ly’s version of followers). If your profile is public, you can still opt to only allow friends to send messages.
Musical.ly notes even with private accounts, information such as profile picture, username, and a short bio are visible to everyone. The app advises parents to talk to kids about not revealing “personal information, such as age, address, or phone number in his/her profile.”
Musical.ly also offers options to block users and report them for abuse.