STUDIO CITY (CBSLA) — A popular app meant to provide a musical diversion for teens is finding itself under scrutiny after questionable activity was spotted on its feeds.
Most of what you’ll find on Musical.ly is looping video of innocent fun involving people lip-syncing and dancing.
However, it didn’t take long to find videos so risque, CBS2 News reporter Cristy Fajardo couldn’t watch them.
Videos show pre-teens — children — licking their lips provocatively in an attempt to draw followers and get “hearts.” They also included pole dancers, drug use, explicit lyrics and nudity.
A comment on a photo of young girl with her shirt hiked up said, “[F]ollow me and dm me pls for feature.”
Local mom and blogger Anastasia Basil came across even more disturbing videos when her daughter begged her to download it.
“What I found was much darker,” Basil told CBS2. “There was cutting, ‘hashtag’ #triggerwarning and kids talking about suicide.”
She posted an article on Medium titled “Porn Is Not The Worst Thing on Musical.ly” to bring attention to the issue. Under the headline is a screen-grab of a thin girl with the comment “I wish I could look like that.”
The Musical.ly site has a section for parents outlining the minimum age requirement of 13 years, the recommendation to keep accounts private and how to flag inappropriate content.
However, those restrictions do little to deter users in the age of social media.
“We’ve had a problem with this app for a long time,” said Chris McKenna with Protect Young Eyes, a group that helps parents navigate the digital age.
“It’s an app that is predominately used, not exclusively, but predominately used by elementary school girls,” warned McKenna. He said Musical.ly does actively monitor the site, but kids’ ever-changing hashtags are almost impossible to police.
“I just want to encourage parents to be parents, because sometimes in the digital age, many times in the digital age, ‘no’ is the most loving answer they can give,” said McKenna.
CBS2 reached out to Musical.ly but did not get a response. In the past, however, a company spokesperson said they take children’s safety very seriously and are constantly monitoring for secret hashtags.
Some of the upsetting videos encountered by CBS2 have since been taken down.
Parents can go to Protect Young Eyes for more information on how to keep children safe online.