Children getting sent sexually explicit chat on live.ly and musical.ly

live.ly

An 8 day investigation was recently carried out by revealed children as young as 9 are ‘bombarded with sexually explicit messages on popular social media app Musical.ly and streaming site live.ly

Channel 4 news viewed 45 hours of live streams on lively.ly of which nearly ‘half of the streams viewed contained inappropriate content, directed to girls as young as nine’. The article also highlighted that ‘On 50 occasions, children were asked to show or remove their clothing, or change into sexy outfits. There were more than 25 sexual references to body parts and almost 30 occasions where children received sexual questions or requests, some of which were extremely explicit’.

What is musical.ly?

With 100 million users worldwide and 2.5.million in the UK, musical.ly has become really popular with teens and young people – many as young as 7-8 years old. The idea behind the app is that it allows users to create lip-syncing videos to their favorite songs or use music from their own device. Videos are typically 15 seconds long. You can add lens like on Snapchat, filters, time lapse, slow motion, and other effects.

Users of musical.ly are known as Musers and like other social networking platforms you can like and comment on videos from other ‘musers’ – as well as share videos you come across. The app also has a ‘Duet’ feature which creates a combined video featuring your video integrated with another muser’s video. Fun eh.

The app has been around for a while, but there are concerns relating to inappropriate content and also offensive language used in the lip-syncing videos. Not surprisingly given the examples out there from some established artists.

If you’ve a child or teenager using musical.ly it’s worth mentioning to them that inappropriate lip-syncing videos they create can impact their online reputation.

As a user of the app you can set your account to Private. When you create a musical.ly video your profile will be Public unless you change it to Private. Setting it to Private is useful as you must approve anyone who wants to follow you and see your videos. The app also asks users for their Instagram ID to add to their profile making it easier for someone to find other accounts they have. Ask them to consider how much they want to share with strangers. You are also encouraged to share your lip-syncing videos on other social media platforms such as Instagram.

Whats is lively.ly

Released back in May of this year – lively.ly is the live streaming video app from musical.ly. With musical.ly having it’s core focus on users lip-syncing videos to their favourite songs or using music from their own device live.ly gives musers the opportunity to broadcast live and allows them to communicate with fans in real time.

Users can choose a variety of categories, including makeup, life, sing, dance, etc, to tag in their live videos which can be searched for within the app.

Concerns

To sign up for the app is pretty straight forward. You just need to enter your Date of Birth followed then by signing up with either:

  • Your Phone Number
  • musical.ly account information
  • Facebook Login

Unlike with muscial.ly where users have an option to manage their privacy which include making an account private, there is no option to make your profile private on lively.ly – so any broadcast can be seen by any user. There is an option to manage live comments. ‘Who can add live comments’ is set by default to ‘everyone’ but does allow the following options”

  • Everyone
  • People I follow
  • None

lively.ly does use the same privacy policy and terms of service as muscial.ly in which it states that ‘The service is not for persons under the age of 13’. Of course, there is no age verification so much younger users are using it. We saw users as young as 7 years old.

Many of the streams featuring young users are being streamed from sensitive locations from within the home such as children’s bedrooms. Comments often include sexual questions or requests. If a user was to come across any inappropriate content via a stream it’s not overly easy to find a way to report it. They do have an option tucked away at the bottom right-hand side of the screen and once tapped this gives an option to ‘report abuse’. Users then have the following options:

  • I just don’t like it
  • Hate Speech
  • Pornography
  • Bully and Harassment
  • Harmful or Dangerous
  • Others

There does not seem to be any option to report individual comments or users on a live stream but more of a report on the overall stream ie, not the actual offending comment or request. When you join a live stream the system does generate the following 2 comments:

‘Be nice! Show your love by giving tons of hearts to the broadcaster’
‘Do not expose personal information such as your phone number’

There is also a worrying trend on the app, of users who clearly look under 13, with many aged around 7-8 years old with large numbers of followers and viewers, some of them in the thousands.

Emoji Alert

Users are frequently asking young children to ‘play the Emoji Game’ and recently a spokesperson at Musical.ly recently said they had taken further safeguarding measures of ‘banning a number of emojis that may have a higher likelihood of being used inappropriately.”

The app does offer ‘in app’ purchase in which users can purchase coins to buy gifts ranging from 100 to 10,000 with 100 coins costings £0.99p and 10000 £99.99. Users can also collect free coins by watching commercial video ads.

While Parent’s & Guardians may feel alarmed it’s important to remember to continue to have regular conversations with Children about Online Safety & that Children know how to report inappropriate or abusive behaviors which they experience when using social media platforms and apps.

Take Care Online

Wayne

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