Musical.ly: the new smash hit for teens that raises controversy and fears for parents

Musical.ly: the new smash hit for teens that raises controversy and fears for parents

"On the website Musical.ly, sexual videos are hidden in the background, others even focusing on self-harm or, even more seriously, with explicit references to suicide." This is the powerful criticism by a mom, published as a post on Medium, a very popular web magazine in the United States. The mother, before surrendering to the application for registration of her 10-year-old daughter, decided to browse a bit on the platform, discovering that on Musical.ly there is an incredible amount of videos labeled with hashtags of an improper nature, such as #proana (anorexia), #cutting, #mutilation and #selfhate.

What is Musical.ly

Created in 2014, Musical.ly is the social media site teens love the most. Within a few years its popularity shot up beyond 200 million members, most of them being teenagers who enjoy sharing videos where they sing some famous songs in playback, through a video-sharing app available for iOS and Android.

It’s not so much what the site does that should be a red flag to parents, but rather its content because inside you can also find videos not suitable for minors.

The dangerous content of Musical.ly

Musical.ly has announced the arrival of the new function to help removing the most dangerous hashtags. A sort of help window, as Instagram did as a result of numerous complaints.

According to many parents, the app would only feed the excessive obsession with popularity, also allowing the even younger ones to run into dubious content: "Many think it's just an application to have fun - remarks the mother of an eight year old girl who ended up caught in the vortex of a ruthless competition between girlfriends - but like all other social networks it has taken on a negative connotation."

With a simple search, in fact, you can find thousands of results for each of these hashtags.

Following the complaint, Musical.ly quickly blocked the search for these improper keywords, explaining how "the process by which the searchable terms are eliminated is constantly evolving."

But the problem remains, the hashtags are themselves evolving too, and it is not so easy to immediately identify them and then block them.

Even just a small change in the hashtag is enough to continue to spread dangerous content. Moreover, some hashtags are used for good causes, since some people use the same hashtag to reach a wider audience to warn it. For example, hashtags such as #proana (anorexia) or #mutilation are used to alert and inform the public on sensitive issues for helping those who have eating disorders or who want to understand the problem of female mutilations. By blocking that specific hashtag and not checking for inappropriate content, you risk preventing the spread of positive messages.

Will it be enough, as announced by Musical.ly, the pop up that warns of the danger of certain content and behaviors?

The importance of educating within the family

The impossibility, at the moment, to check and block all the content generated by users, raises a big question about the security of content and the ability of users, mostly teenagers, who are exposed to violent messages or can be triggered by them.

This is why it is essential that parents exercise prudent surveillance on the apps their children use, whether it be Musical.ly or other social media.

Social media is giving more and more importance and relevance to videos, to live streaming, to exhibitionism and showing off, and, consequently, social narcissism is growing. As the development psychologist John Santrock has well defined: "The peer group conditioning is a ubiquitous force, which can be observed in every dimension of adolescent behavior, such as the decision of how to dress, what music to listen, what language to adopt, what values to adhere to, how to manage free time." If the social and virtual network amplifies these behaviors, what effects can it have on adolescents?

In order to support the creative and relational skills of adolescents , adults should maintain a proper distance: be there without hastily expressing critical devaluing judgments. Between adolescents and adults there can be a positive mutual relationship, and Internet can bring generations togetherAdult culture, being able to maintain a good relationship with young people, becomes more open to changes and innovations; youth culture, if supported by adults, can develop in a creative direction while maintaining a stronger bond with reality.

The attentive and collaborative presence of adults who are able to support adolescents allows them to modify their own projects in a creative sense and to develop their personal identity in a harmonious way.

Self-centeredness and competition: when social networks make you weak

Musical.ly has received many criticisms also for the essence itself that drives it. Many parents consider it a dangerous app because it feeds feelings of competition and showing off difficult to manage by youth.

Although competitiveness is seen as positive in our society, from a recent study by York St. John University, published in the Psychological Bulletin, an alarming fact emerges: young people are becoming ever more perfectionists and their mental health is at risk.

In fact, adolescents are no longer able to recognize and experience failure as something that is part of life, which therefore has to be tackled and managed. It seems that we are growing a generation of insecure people, not used to competition, but used to winning and when things do not go as planned, panic attacks, anxiety, even suicide attempts come up.

"Today's youth are competing with one another to satisfy societal pressures of being successful, and they feel that perfectionism is necessary to feel secure, socially connected, and valuable," explained Thomas Curran, lead author of the study.

From the data collected, it would seem that social media also influences general dissatisfaction. No one likes to share his own anxiety or fears, but mostly to show the best part of one’s life, increasing the dissatisfaction of those who live in isolation or cannot afford a life full of fun. This comparison renders people more isolated, inasmuch that they are literally 'alone' in experiencing confrontation with others.

School, work, family and even social media, invite competition, but the boomerang effect can be worse than expected and bring people down instead of improving and trying to win the competition itself.

The psychologists' warning and the research of the York St. John University have the great merit of having highlighted the crisis of the model of technocratic society that we let prevail: An idea of man and society that pushes young people to extreme perfection, together with many other factors, is driving people towards depression or even the desire to commit suicide. At the bottom, there is a mechanistic and utilitarian idea of man and humanity, without soul, spirit and heart: a humanity that, if reduced to this, it could be better replaced by the robot society foreshadowed by the supporters of transhumanism.

Certainly, this is a warning. If we want our society to not take on the contours of absurdity, it is necessary to change and help, especially the youngest, to live better by supporting them in the delicate phase of development and growth of adolescence. We must stand by and support the children of today to ensure that they can grow up calmly in order to become stable and mature adults.