My daughter is 10. She wants me to download the Musical.ly app on my phone so she can make funny lip-sync videos. Everyone has it, she whines, even the kid whose mum is an FBI agent/social worker/paediatrician/nun.
Wow. Well. In that case…
I download the app while she’s at school but it won’t let me explore without an account. I create a profile under Chardonaynay47, only to delete that and opt for something less mumish — gummibear9.
One word sums up my experience: Nowayismykidgettingthisapp.
Musical.ly looks innocent — just kids making music videos, and it is that, but more so it’s this: user uploaded content by millions of people who can also live stream, which is how I first encountered porn on Musical.ly. A very helpful naked man live-streamed his live stream (if you know what I mean).
Kids are going to see it eventually, right? Might as well let them see it now. Might as well get them drunk while we’re at it. And high. Can’t keep them bubble-wrapped forever. Eight-year-olds have been nappy-free for five years; if you can pee in a potty, you can hold your own online. Amiright?
Friends who worry I’m over-reacting suggest I make the account private to keep pedophiles at bay, but pedophiles are not my main concern. Here’s why: Pretend you can turn your kid invisible. Pretend you drop your invisible kid off at a warehouse in downtown LA. You have no idea who’s inside — fingers crossed it’s packed with Nobel Peace Prize winners, board certified paediatricians, and J.K. Rowling. Pray it is not packed with the worst of humanity. No one can see your kid, but your kid can see everyone and hear everything.
Would you do it?
Of course you wouldn’t. Most parents are careful about who and what their child is exposed to. Setting your child’s account to private may make him invisible, but he’s still there, fully present, taking it all in.
“Excuse me, where can I find a vampire copulating with a cartoon bear?”
“Aisle 19, section B, left side of infinite content.”
“No problem. My name is Social Media. Feel free to browse the personal photos, videos, and mouth diarrhoea — I mean comments — of my two billion users.”
Social media is the Costco of human imagination. Remember that song from Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory? “Come with me / and you’ll be / in a world of pure imagination…” Sounds lovely. Until you consider whose imagination your kid is stepping into.
Ahh. But my child can’t Google naked people or watch violent videos on YouTube because I’ve enabled parental controls.
Good for you. Unfortunately, parental controls couldn’t keep 12-year-old Gabbie Green from suiciding after being cyber-bullied by kids on several social media platforms and messaging apps. There are no “parental controls” for Snapchat, Instagram, Musical.ly, Facebook, Kik, nor do they exist on messaging apps like Marco Polo, or Yellow, or SayAt.me, or Monkey. The list goes on and on. And no, you can’t always review what your kid says (or what’s said to your kid) because most of it can be deleted or deletes itself directly after transmission.