BOISE - Parents are being advised about a popular app that's geared for children and teens. On the surface, Musical.ly seems fun and harmless, but hidden in its content is some very disturbing material.
Muscial.ly currently has around 200 million users, mostly children and tweens. It's designed to create and share videos of lip-syncing. The front page is bright and fun, filled with videos of people across the world lip-syncing their favorite songs.
However, if you type in certain code words, videos too shocking and disturbing for television appear on the user's screen.
There are reports of videos of children stripping and flashing the camera, with other users egging it on with comments and "likes."
Other videos found by typing certain code words are dedicated to promoting anorexia, suicide, and self harm.
The code words are invented by users and are ever-changing to skirt the app's moderators.
"Those children should not have access to those devices," one parent said. "They should not have unrestricted access to be communicating with people across the internet."
Even more disturbing, there's a chat feature, too. One father in North Carolina posted screenshots of messages he found on his seven-year-old daughter's Musical.ly account.
"Send me pics without your t shirt," the Musical.ly user urged the seven-year-old. "Without clothes" and "Between us only."
David Gomez, a Meridian school resource officer who teaches an internet safety class, said it's vitally important that parents not only know what their kids are doing online, but to also tell their kids they are watching.
"As a parent if you show your kid that you are checking on them and that you do care and that you're going to be watching out for their best interest, a lot of times that will help shape their decisions when you're not around," Gomez said.
Parents can use parental controls to block the Musical.ly app altogether.
Gomez suggests parents check any app their child wants to use or already has on their phone. He also recommends parents research any app you're not familiar with. In this case, you're likely to find a very dark, disturbing side of Musical.ly.
A Musical.ly spokesperson has said they're always trying to stay on top of the secret hashtags and remove disturbing content.
For more internet safety tips and information, follow Officer Gomez's Facebook page, and check out his video on internet safety that he suggests all parent watch with their children, 10 years and older.