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Musical.ly: a parent's guide

What is it?

Musical.ly is a free to download social media app centering around the sharing of both recorded and live video.

Users record videos, known as “musicallys”, which can be anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute in length and then upload them onto the app for other users to like and interact with. Musical.ly provides users, also known as “Musers”, a bank of sound tracks to use with their videos as well as an array of post-production features including the ability to change playback speed and use special effects. “Musers” are also able to browse hashtags, watch trending content and follow the most popular creators on the app.

With the closure of its sister app, Livel.ly, live-streaming functionality has now been incorporated into Musical.ly’s offering.

How popular is Musical.ly?

With over 60 million active monthly users and a reported 13 million videos uploaded to the app every day, there is no doubting the popularity of Musical.ly.

What is ‘Gifting’?

Gifting is one of the main attractions for both users and creators to Musical.ly. The app offers viewers the ability to send gifts to content creators as they interact with their content. These gifts come in the form of animated cartoons, which are bought by users using coins, Musical.ly’s virtual currency.

Coins are bought in bundles which are priced from £1 up to £100. Coins are then used to buy gifts, with the creator, who receives the gift, sharing a portion of the proceeds of the gift when it is sent to them. The cartoons are colourful and elaborate, clearly targeted at children, with more elaborate cartoons worth more coins. The cartoons range in value from a few pence all the way up to almost £50.

 

Creators often ask their viewers to send them gifts, then shouting out those viewers who do so. Viewers can also compete to be the creator’s top fan, with leader boards displaying the users who have gifted the most to an individual creator.

The virtual gifting system on Musical.ly is clearly designed to incentive young people into spending more and more money. Parents ought to be aware of this and help their children understand this sort of business model.

However, that is not to say that content creators, much of whose content is available for free on other platforms such as YouTube, are not deserving of remuneration for their work. Rather, it is best if virtual gifting is carried out in a responsible way. For, besides supporting the creative industry, allowing children to support their favourite streamers with their own pocket money can be a great way of giving them a greater sense of independence.

Try to ensure that your child appreciates the value of the gift they are giving, understands what they are receiving in return and check that you are happy that the content the creator is producing is worth your child’s pocket money. In addition, for children who are keen to gift creators in this way, it is worth bearing in mind that Apple and Alphabet, the companies behind iOS and Android respectively, both take a 30% cut on any in-app purchase, even before Musical.ly has taken its own cut, reportedly 20%. Therefore, the value of any donation or tip, that the creator actually receives, will be significantly less than the cost of the gift bought by a child.

It is also worth noting that Musical.ly does not offer refunds on any purchased gifts. So, make sure that your child does not have access to your credit card details without your permission.

What are the privacy settings like?

Privacy

There are two privacy options available on Musical.ly, public or private. If a user sets their account to public, the default, any other user signed into the app will be able to see the user’s public videos and follow them on the app. However, only users approved by the account holder will be able to message them.

If a user chooses to set their account to private, they will be able to approve or deny followers and restrict their videos and incoming messages to followers only.

All users are able to set a video they have published on the app to private so that no other user may view it.

Whether or not an account is set to private, a user’s profile information, which includes their profile picture, username and biography, will be available to view for all other users.

Default Privacy Settings:

Blocking

All users are able to block others from contacting them at any time.

Reporting

Musical.ly allows users to report videos and users to their moderation team, if they believe them to be in violation of Musical.ly’s terms of service with regard to objectionable content. However, they state that “the Company has no obligation to remove or take any other action with respect to any Objectionable Content on the Service that you report to us.”

What do parents need to know?

Minimum age restrictions

Musical.ly’s terms of service state that the app is not to be used by anyone under the age of 13 or by those previously suspended or removed from the app. Anyone using the app between the age of 13-18 should only be doing so if they have been authorized to do so by their parent or guardian who is at least 18 years of age.

In practice, there will be many young people, including those younger than 13, using the app regularly without the prior knowledge of their parents.

Inappropriate Content

As with all social media apps, there are concerns with the sharing of inappropriate content on Musical.ly; whether this be swearing in popular music videos that are covered by Musical.ly’s biggest stars, the distribution of pornographic material or interactions between young people and adults who may be using the app.

Musical.ly asserts that it moderates content on the app. However, concerns over  the effectiveness of this moderation have been raised, especially with regard to the sharing of content promoting self-harm.

 

If you have any concerns about grooming, sexual abuse or exploitation on Musical.ly or on any other app or site, you can report to CEOP. 

For more information on live-streaming, read our parent guide here.