Dad warns of potential privacy dangers for children in popular app
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — An Illinois father is speaking out and warning other parents about the potential privacy risks of the popular app Musical.ly, after he says a stranger asked his 7-year-old daughter to send shirtless pictures of herself through the app’s messaging feature.
“She came to us and let us know that there was someone asking her to remove clothing for pictures, and she knew it wasn’t right,” Brad Frakes told ABC News of the interaction that he says his daughter, Madison, experienced while using the app, which lets users create their own music videos.
Frakes said that his daughter used the app to play with her cousins, and that he “never thought in a million years that we would receive anything other than family fun with this app.”
“She likes to sing and dance, and that was a perfect format for her; it’s also a great way to let her communicate with family and friends, and just have a little bit of fun competition amongst family members,” Frakes said.
Frakes added that his daughter does not have her own phone or tablet, and only used the app through his phone. He said he did not know that strangers could message his daughter through the app, let alone solicit inappropriate photos.
“The account was just at the default settings, we weren’t aware of any public or private settings that were available to us,” Frakes said.
On their website, Musical.ly outlines in their “For Parents” page that it “prohibits use of the app by anyone under the age of 13.”
They also outline how to activate enhanced privacy settings, stating, “If you’d like to make sure that only approved followers can see your teen’s videos, we recommend setting his/her profile to private by electing ‘private account’ in the settings page on the App. If you’d like to make sure that only approved followers can send messages via direct.ly, we recommend enabling the ‘only friends can direct.ly me’ on the settings page.”
App users can also report abusive behavior or block users.
Frakes posted screenshots of the exchange between the stranger, who identified only as “Jessy” on the app, and his daughter, on his Facebook page in an attempt to warn other parents. In the messages, “Jessy” asks his daughter to send photos of herself without her T-shirt on, and asks her to keep it “a secret between us only.”
Frakes filed a complaint with his local police department following the incident. Detective Michelle Langston of the Batavia Police Department in Batavia, Illinois, told ABC News that adults will often pose as children online in an attempt to engage in a conversation with young people.
“It could be another child on the other end of the conversation or it could be an adult,” Langston said, adding that if children believe it is another child, they are more likely to share “personal information.”
Frakes said he went public with his story so that other parents can learn to be more cautious with children and technology.
“I wasn’t as protective as I should have been, and I take full responsibility for that,” Frakes said. “I don’t claim to be a perfect parent whatsoever, but I have learned from it, and that is a huge reason why I went public with our post was to let others learn from our mistakes and let them not repeat them. We need to protect our kids.”
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