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Musical.ly App Attracting Young Children on Social Media Brings Up Concerns of Safety and Set Backs in Learning

The Musical.ly app is now serving an age demographic far less than the 13-20 intended range.
While the Shanghai-based company that created the free app Musical.ly has over 100 million users, most within the 13-20 age group, the app is now attracting many younger viewers.While the app doesn't track or expose the age of users, the profile of top users appear to be starting as young as first grade.

Using this app, children sing and dance along side their favorite singers such as Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande. The videos of these lips syncs are posted in Instagram-like clips online.  As the youngest social network, Musical.ly is at the forefront of exploring the this new aspect of childhood.




Children under the age of nine do not have the capacity to engage in internet activity and social media in a safe and beneficial way.
When asked the age one gains the full capacity of decision making, we think of people in their mid-twenties. The reason for this is based in the logic behind moving the drinking age to 21. The brain is fully developed around 25, so young adults in their twenties are considered responsible decision makers. Therefore, one would be hard- pressed to make the argument that children, particularly under the age of nine, can be responsible for safe and beneficial social media presences.

 This is confirmed by research in 2013 that established there was no evidence that this age group could securely socialize online on media outlets intended for teens and adults. (i.e. facebook, Youtube)

Further, the study found that children most frequently navigated to video sharing sites that allowed them to access potential inappropriate content with ease. What is more concerning then children viewing this content is their ability to post it.

With so little experience behind them and their whole lives ahead, having so many outlets leaves room for so many mistakes they may come to regret. This includes posting personal information, accidental insensitive messages, pictures, and other media.

While Musical.ly is making the public reevaluate these issues, the Shanghai app's criticism stems from the videos young boys and girls can post of themselves for anyone to see. These media outputs open children up to online predators and criticism of their actions and character. They will not be prepared for any potential backlash, and in this way, most kids don't understand the gravity of public posting and its longevity.


Not all apps are bad for young children: educational apps improve literacy and speech
     Studies show that apps can optimize or impede learning. In particular, a study of children and apps use showed that kids who used a literacy app made more significant steps in phonological awareness than those who used a generic app. Besides the type of app used, the income/class level of the children played a role in downloading apps. Apps can be beneficial for learning, especially accelerating reading, but they can also be main points of distraction. The question now is if social apps can be harmful to these children at a crucial age of development.

   The existence of both pros and cons are backed up by the data showing children spend most of their times on apps. This is contrary to the opinions of parents showing they believe children diversify their attention with multiple outlets of media. Learning more about their child's habits can help them choose the best way to stay safe and stay connected.

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