BATAVIA, Ill. — An Illinois father is warning other parents after his 7-year-old daughter was targeted on a popular music app.
The app is called Musical.ly. Brad Frakes says his 7-year-old daughter was using the app to make music videos and connect online with her cousins in Wisconsin.
“They make goofy little videos with goofy faces,” he says. “It was just a very fun thing before this happened.”
While the app, described as the “world’s largest creative platform,” says it isn’t intended for kids younger than 13, Frakes says his daughter was using it on his wife’s phone and was closely monitored.
But someone who claimed to be 9-years-old messaged his daughter and asked her to send photos without her clothes on. When she said no, whoever was behind the screen told her to go in the bathroom and just take some.
“It is something that you can’t prepare yourself for,” Frakes says. “We taught her that if anyone asked her to show herself in ways that she was uncomfortable with, that she come to us and let us know and that’s exactly what she did.”
Her dad posted the exchange on Facebook hoping to warn other parents about the app.
“We weren’t made aware as parents that they could chat and do this,” Frakes says. ‘And predators can reach our kids through this app. We thought when we downloaded this app that it was a kid friendly app.”
His post has now been shared nearly 100 thousand times – perhaps an indication of just how desperate parents are to keep their kids safe online.
A spokesperson for Musical.ly. says they are constantly working on always adding to and improving their security measures. The app has a 12+ rating in the app store because parents should be using device-based parental controls to supervise their children while they use the app. Musical.ly. also says it has age dating software. If you are not 13-years-old, and you sign up through Facebook, you won’t be able to access the app or login.
The Frakes family says they started talking to their daughter when she was just 5-years-old about the dangers she could face on the internet. And they are so glad they did.
“She is our little hero,” Frakes says. “It goes to show that she does listen. Her room remains a mess – I tell everyone – but for this she actually paid attention and we believe she’s probably saved a lot of kids lives.”
The Batavia Police Dept is investigating. They are in the very early stages of collecting evidence.
They have issued the following safety tips:
1) Parental Control
• Know all passwords to all electronics, apps, accounts (emails, social media, etc).
• Check your child’s accounts at random to see what the public can view and the activity your child is taking part in. Make sure accounts are set to private.
• Don’t allow them to have strangers as friends/followers.
• Make sure your children know not to share photographs with themselves in them.
• Control the amount of time and time of day your child is on the internet and limit the locations where they are using the device (i.e use only in common areas).
2) Be familiar with trending apps
• Check the authenticity of apps – Some apps may appear to be a program that is benign, however, if the right key presses are used, the app could unlock other hidden apps, photos, videos, chats, phone numbers and more.
3) Talk to your child about internet safety and that they can come and talk to you.
• Don’t share personal information.
• Have a username that does not indicate any personal information.
• Don’t share your address, school, age, grade, phone number, parent’s profession/work schedule or other personal information about themselves or their family.
• Never meet a stranger face-to-face that you met online, you never know who you are truly talking to on the other end.
• Never open and email or download files from someone you don’t know.
• Read the rules of websites, social media accounts, etc.
• Explain the dangers of internet bullies.
4) Know when your child is at risk
• Using the internet at odd hours
• Switching screens or becoming defensive when you enter the room
• Check your internet history logs on all devices regularly, and don’t allow your child to browse in privacy mode.
• Your child is receiving phone calls from strangers, gifts or money in the mail from a stranger to you.
• Your child is withdrawing from friends and loved ones
5) Consult the police if you are concerned about your child’s activities online or that they have become a victim.
• Keep any evidence. Don’t delete any files, messages, or photos – no matter how offensive or embarrassing.
• Digital evidence is time-sensitive; don’t delay in making a report to authorities if suspicious activity is discovered.