What Parents Need to Know about Popular Video, Audio Apps

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 6.30.06 AMIf you hear laughing, dancing, goofiness, and a lead choreographer barking commands coming from the next room, chances are your kids and their friends are using either  Musical.ly or Dubsmash, two apps now popular with tweens and teens.

With mobile use skyrocketing kids are turning to video inspired by apps such as Vine to be able to express themselves in creative, unique, and artistic ways. The result: hilarity, creativity, new friends, and hours of laughter. Oh, and always, the red flags that tend to come with any tech trend.

Here are the features of the two apps along with the danger zones to address with your kids.

Musical.lyScreen Shot 2016-02-10 at 4.57.44 PM

Thanks to technology and easy-to-use apps like musical.ly, kids are becoming producers, content creators, videographers, and choreographers. Musical.ly allows users to share user-generated music videos to either a private circle of friends of a wider circle, based on settings. Kids can upload their content or choose from a library of music (and video effects) and lip sync over it, creating a funny video. To check out what a musical.ly app looks like, go to the app’s Instagram feed and view user posts.

Musical.ly Red Flags

From a safety angle, any app that is not specifically designed for kids will have adult content buried within its search feature. Parents need to review privacy settings since a public account may open kids up to cyberbullying, unsolicited sexual content, or inappropriate comments. Song lyrics may also be a concern for parents since some do contain crude, sexual lyrics. Also, if an account isn’t private, anyone can view a users videos, and anyone can follow, which can include some accounts with adult content. There’s even a geolocation tab called My City that allows users to connect with others in their area.

Hashtags listed at the bottom of videos can lead to questionable content depending on the hashtag. If a tween or teen were looking for adult content the search bar on the top of the app would take them there. While every family is different and trust levels vary by age and maturity, we encourage parents to monitor this app closely.

DubsmashScreen Shot 2016-02-10 at 7.00.39 PM

Similar to Musical.ly, Dubsmash is an app that catalogs a zillion sound files that can be shared publically within the app or outside of the app on social networks. Users can and do create their voice sound files and upload them hoping they will be funny enough to be shared over and over again. And many are, which is a real boost to kids.

The sound files created by users can be shared publically or kept private or only shared with select friends.

Dubsmash Red Flags

A few safety notes: The sound files in Dubsmash’s library include topics and language parents may find inappropriate for many tweens and teens. Dubsmash is rated 12+ for mature themes, alcohol, and drug references, mild sexual content and nudity as well as profanity and crude humor.

Language and audio content can’t always be trusted. There’s not a clean filter within the app or a version of the app that is specifically for younger kids. So, if you allow your tween or teen to use the app, discuss this with them or monitor the content they share or create to be shared.


Dubsmash App

Remember: While most apps start out technically advanced, creative, and fun, it doesn’t take long for a handful of users to populate the app with inappropriate content. If you have an artistic, creative child who gravitates to music, dance, comedy, or writing, they will naturally want to use the effects and functionality of these apps. That’s fine and even encouraged — if and only if — you as the parent take the time to monitor and talk to your kids about the adult content that may come their way and how to handle that content. Another reminder: As these video apps take off, so too does peer pressure; your kids are constantly under pressure to be funny, be more creative, and to get more attention. This new digital peer pressure can easily take over a child’s better judgment and lead to poor decisions. No child is immune from mistakes.

Set ground rules. One might be that you must approve any content before it’s shared publically. Also, don’t forget: Download the apps your kids love and don’t hesitate to have some fun on your own and understand what they are doing online. 

What are your kids’ favorite apps these days? Please share!



Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family.

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