SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A warning from law enforcement about a smartphone app popular among children. Authorities say the app is also being used by some people looking to prey on children.
It's called the world's largest creative platform. The app Musical.ly allows users to create music videos and share it with their friends, followers or even strangers.
“She’s in her own house recording this on her own cell phone. If I wanted to comment on her I can send her a comment,” said Sgt. Brian Spears with the Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children.
Spears says he has been monitoring criminal activity on Musical.ly for two years.
It wasn't until an Illinois father's recent Facebook post went viral, that more parents became aware of the dangers associated with the app. He shared the story of his 7-year-old daughter's encounter with a potential predator soliciting nude photos. Cases like that are popping up all over the Bay Area.
“A parent was concerned after finding her 10-year-old daughter featured on the music video with her shirt off,” said Spears.
Spears demonstrated for KTVU how easy it is for predators to create fictitious accounts and engage sexually with a minor.
“Now I can comment on what she's wearing and she'll get this direct message directly to her phone. Most parents have no idea,” said Spears.
He also showed us the comments these children under the age of 12 are receiving.
“It's an absolute nightmare. This is happening in your home where you think your child is secure. Something you think is so innocent truly is not,” he said.
Parents we spoke with never heard of the app.
“I don't think I would want my kids to use that app if that was the purpose for other people to view them dancing, I would absolutely say no,” said Sarah Miller of Milpitas.
“My husband and I are very aware of those kind of things and it definitely makes a difference into our decision on whether or not they have a phone,” said Megan Smith of Los Gatos.
Spears says being aware of what your child downloads is crucial to protecting them.
“Parents have to be involved. Let us help you learn about these devices let us educate you. Reach out on our website, email us that's what we're here for,” he said.
If your child has the Musical.ly app, go to their profile and click on the settings icon in the upper right hand corner of the app. While in settings, scroll down to “privacy” and make sure “Only friends can direct.ly me” is on, as well as “private account”.
If you would like information, or further help understanding various apps, contact the Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children taskforce in San Jose. Here is the link to their website: http://www.svicac.org/