"I know I said I loved the Musical.ly app for kids. But today I deleted it."

Time flies on the Internet. Just two months ago I was here raving about the new app that had swept every tween girl into a frenzy: Musical.ly

Today, I deleted it from all the devices in our house and effectively banned her from it. And I recommend you do the same if your kid is younger than, say 13. I’ll explain why in a sec.

Nobody could have predicted how fast Musical.ly became a thing back when we first heard about it a few months ago.

Think Pokemon Go but for girls (mostly) in primary school (mostly). It went from nothing to everything in the space of a few days and parents almost gave themselves whiplash trying to understand this new ‘thing’ that had consumed our daughters.

At first I was gung-ho (we did an entire bonus episode of our family-life podcast This Glorious Mess where I spoke about how great I thought it was).

Wait, that's not true. At first I was cautious. Anything that involves your kid recording videos of themselves and posting them is obviously going to set off alarm bells.

Mine rang loudly. So did other people's. We published this warning post from cyber-safety expert, Susan McLean.

But I looked at the functionality closely, weighed up the risks vs benefits, implemented some rules - no makeup, no sexy dance moves, no inappropriate lyrics, only friends with people you know, only follow people you know, privacy settings turned up to max, I have the app downloaded on my phone too so I can see all the videos, you must show me the vids before you post them, no school uniform.



Mamamia's warning post from Susan McLean.

But then things slip, don't they? I stopped looking at every video. I stopped approving every friend request. Instead, I dropped in and out to check everything whenever I remembered. I noticed there were clips in school uniform and I talked to my daughter about it. "But Mum, everyone does that because we just make them after school." I looked at her friends' videos and she was right. "Oh well," I thought. "At least the emphasis isn't on clothes. That's got to be good, right?"

And so on.

I also baulked when I realised the social media application. The likes. The comments. I had a hardline ban on social media for my daughter. No way. Not until high school. No Facebook. No Instagram.

Somehow, annoyingly, Musical.ly slipped under my radar and I think it was the same for a lot of parents. Because it was new, it wasn't immediately apparent that it was social media.

Quickly, my daughter started to talk about how many likes she had.


LISTEN: Listen to Mia's daughter Coco explain why she and her friends love Musical.ly, on This Glorious Mess, the podcast for imperfect parents.

"You are not your likes," I shrieked inside my head while trying to modify my tone a little before the words came of my mouth and into her ears.

There were some things I really liked about the app, though. I liked that it was creative - as opposed to the static nature of selfies so prevalent on apps like Instagram.


A couple of weeks ago, I heard that a few schools had started to ban Musical.ly. How does that even work, some wondered. How can a school ban something that happens outside school?

Well, when kids are doing something in their school uniform, it's the school's business. And at our school, the girls and parents had to sign some kind of Internet use agreement this year that dealt with everything from online bullying to the appropriate use of social media.

Still, I held out and hoped for the best. I know the Internet, I thought. I've got this.


Musical.ly in the iTunes app store. Source: iTunes

But then on Friday night, I received an email from my daughter's school saying it too had decided to ban Musical.ly. I bristled at first.

Co-incidentally, I was at a dinner that night with another school principal who had also banned the app at her school and I quizzed her about it.

Something I hadn't realised? Musical.ly has a sister app called Live.ly, which is like Facebook Live. It's automatically downloaded onto any device that has Musical.ly.

And it's a live-streaming app that allows you to broadcast anything from anywhere in the world for anyone with a Musical.ly account.

Think about that for a moment. Live streaming is impossible to police. On an app populated with kids, mostly young girls.

There have already been instances of girls broadcasting disturbing episodes of self-harm. I knew none of this. And the Internet is my job!

Children enjoying musical.ly with their parents. Post continues... 

Video via Tiffany Nice

The other concerning aspect of the app is that it's impossible to delete your account. Actually impossible. The app doesn't allow it. You can remove the app from your device but your account remains. How can that even be legal?

That's something else I didn't know.

So over the weekend, my daughter and all her friends recorded farewell videos on Musical.ly. About Musical.ly.

How meta is that.

And now we have deleted the app. No matter how mature your kid, no matter how you think you can be across it, 10 years old is just too young to distinguish your self-worth from the number of likes or views or comments or followers you have.

I should have known better. And now I do.

That's not to say I will never let my daughter be on social media. In 2016 that's like saying no travelling in a car or no eating sugar or no watching TV.

Part of parenting is teaching your kid how to do things safely. And that's something I will continue to do with the Internet. But I was surprised at how little she pushed back when I told her we were deleting Musical.ly.

Frankly, I think it was a relief.