A year ago, I spent months undercover on the popular video-making app, Musical.ly. (It’s since been renamed. Nice try, but we see you hiding your lame-app self behind TikTok.) My commitment to using the app as an engrossed child, and not a mildly interested adult, led me on a distressing journey into a social network where kids as young as eight sexually objectify themselves. I found hundreds of self-harm videos that showed suicide options — bathtubs filling, images of blades, a child’s voice saying she didn’t want to live anymore. It only got worse from there.

Nearly every kid in my daughter’s fifth grade class was using Musical.ly to film themselves or each other. Parents insisted the app was harmless fun. (And it can be — initially.) I was prepared for my findings to be met with silence. No one will ever read this, I said to my husband as I published the resulting article, it’s way too long. Parents don’t have time to dive into this sewage. I went to bed that night acutely aware that I’d spent the last few months pushing a Sisyphean boulder up a mountain only to, probably, discover it sitting at the bottom again come morning.

Wow. Was I ever wrong. Not only did parents dive into the sewage with me, they continue to sort through it even now, bringing to light things I missed a year ago. The article has now been read and shared by over a million people across the globe. The lesson I learned? Don’t do nothing just because you can’t do everything.

Since publication, the question I’m most often asked is: Did you buckle under pressure and give your daughter a smartphone for middle school, or did you strap some old soup cans to her body and tell her to shake wildly if she needs to reach you? The answer: I bought her a Gizmo Gadget watch. And it’s been great! I call her, she calls me. I can text and send reminders from my smartphone to her watch, for which I pay a monthly fee of $5. She can text back limited characters. She can also leave me voice messages, which she sometimes does in whisper-screams from school: “You packed me apples again! Everyone else gets Doritos. This needs to STOP!”

Read the full article at on Medium, Human Parts, by Anastasia Basil

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