Father Warns Parents About Popular App After His 7-Year-Old Daughter Is Asked to Send Suggestive Photos
When Brad Summer’s 7-year-old daughter, Madison, was asked by a stranger to send nude pictures of herself through a popular music app, he knew he had to warn other parents about the dangers of social media.
“I never thought of someone pretending to be 9 to gain access to my child,” Summer, of Illinois, wrote in a Facebook post on August 11 that showed his daughter’s exchange with the individual. “We live and learn and I continue to do so every day as a parent.”
The exchange happened in an app called Musical.ly, a popular music video service that allows its 215 million users to make lip-synching videos and post them to their profiles. According to Summer, Madison uses the app on his smartphone to make “goofy duets” to send to her cousins and close friends, and he reviewed who was accepted to her profile.
But a stranger posing as a 9-year-old named Jessy, who Summer thought was his daughter’s friend, messaged Madison through the app. Shortly after contacting her, the stranger asked for a photo. Madison sent a selfie to the person posing as “Jessy,” who then asked her to send another picture, but this time, without a shirt.
Madison innocently sent another photo with a close-up of her face, which cut off the view of her shirt. But the person messaged back, “I like to see your body without t-shirt.”
The individual then suggested that she go to the bathroom to take the picture even after Madison made it clear that she wouldn’t. Madison stopped responding, but even with the silence, the person continued to ask for pictures and say they would be a “secret.” During that time, Summer was alerted to the situation, and he contacted authorities.
“I know many will blame us parents for this happening,” Summer wrote in the post. “But we never thought like predators, and I guess we were naive in thinking that our daughter was safe on what we thought to be a kid-friendly app. We have learned the hard way. I ask that you not judge us (many still will) but let our experience teach us all.”
Summer said many parents have reached out to him to voice their support, and his post has since been shared more than 81,000 times.
Musical.ly said that the company was aware of what happened to Madison. “Protecting users and promoting a safe and positive app environment, is our top priority,” a Musical.ly spokesperson tells PEOPLE. “We are constantly adding and enhancing measures in the app to help protect against misuse.”
The app is for users aged 13 and over, the company says, and by using the app, users agree they are of age. Musical.ly encourages parents to have an open dialogue with their teens about being responsible and safe online. The company has set up a page where parents can get tips on how to handle their child’s use of social media. Musical.ly also offers parents an option to shut down an account if they suspect their child is using the app and they are below the age of 13.
“I say that doing nothing, accomplishes nothing,” Summer wrote at the end of his post. “Doing something, at a minimum gives us hope.”