Is this ‘paedophile’s paradise’ app on your kid's phone?
A video creation app aimed at children which doesn't allow the user to set their account to private has been labelled a "paedophiles paradise" by child safety experts.
Likee, an app created in Singapore that allows users to create and edit their own videos and post them to a worldwide audience, is being used by children as young as nine whose innocent videos are attracting unsavoury comments like "damn you're hot" and "pull your shirt up."
Likee does not allow the user to set their account to private and also posts the geographic location of the video creator. Other concerning features include the fact you can search for users who are near to you and you can search by gender making this platform akin to a dating app.
While the social media app is listed as appropriate for users 17 years and over, there is no verification of a user's age during the quick and easy account set-up process - a scroll of posters shows the majority are pre-teens.
Leading Australian child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said the app was dangerous.
"This app should be a big concern to parents," Carr-Gregg said. "This is a paedophiles paradise. Predators are not stupid, they know exactly where the kids are and how to find them. And unfortunately we are in an age where we have to teach kids that there are people online that mean to do them very real harm."
In the UK, the mother of a nine-year-old girl said her daughter was tricked into sending nude photos of herself to a man who was posing as a teenage boy on Likee earlier in the year. The man got the young girl to comply by threatening he would "find her and take her away from her mummy" if she did not send the photos.
Independent US website Common Sense which rates and reviews anything children watch from movies and TV shows to games and apps called Likee a "Tik Tok rival with racy content and ineffectual parent controls" referring to the platform's competitor, which is the most downloaded app.
Parent reviews on Common Sense warn parents not to let their children use the Likee app and that it is a "pedo playground."
One parent reviewer states: "I just spent the last five hours at the police station after discovering that my minor child had been harassed by some freak pervert and manipulated into taking nude photos of herself and sending them to him. She's 10!"
Another claims "A man sent a photo of his penis to my 10-year-old."
Former Australia police officer and leading cyber safety expert, Susan McLean said anything that encourages live streaming and appeals to children will also appeal to child predators. She said the only way to keep children safe online is to keep them off these social media apps altogether.
"You cannot teach little kids to be safe in an unsafe environment," McLean said. "Nowhere else do we knowingly put our children at risk the way we do on social media. Paedophiles are not dumb; any site, app, game or platform that is full of children openly communicating will also be full of Paedophiles.
"They know younger and younger kids are being allowed on them. It's akin to child abuse to allow little kids to go into known areas of risk. Even though I am not a cop anymore, I still receive multiple cases of child grooming a week from desperate parents.
"When a child is under the age the app says they should be to use it, they should not be on that app, plain and simple."
Carr-Gregg said that to expect kids to stay off social media apps altogether is an unrealistic approach.
"That boat has sailed," he said. "It doesn't seem to matter what parents say or do, lots of primary school kids have these sophisticated phones and can open accounts themselves easily."
CEO of SafeOnSocial.com, Kirra Pendergast, says the concern is not only who is watching your children, but what your children are being exposed toon apps like Tik Tok and Likee, which often disseminate violent, suggestive and sexual content.
"I've seen pornography on Tik Tok," she said. "I'm not anti any app in particular but what I am anti is unrestricted use of these apps by children. The parental controls (on Likee) are a smokescreen and ineffective, they have done just enough to be seen to comply with the Child Online Protection Act (COPA)."
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said parents need to be on guard for new apps designed to attract and engage young people.
"Many of these apps, particularly those with chat and social interaction features, may also attract predators," she said. "Parental controls are useful tools to help monitor and limit what your child does online, but they are not foolproof. Technological tools should always be supplemented with parental oversight and engagement in a child's online activities."
The Daily Telegraph reached out to Likee's creators for a response but did not get one.