mother talking to son cartoon

Welcome to the final installment of our how-to series on talking to your kids about using Bark as a monitoring service. We know it’s a cliche, but man, kids really do grow so fast. Their ability to comprehend what the use of technology means for them as a young child, tween, and now teen is vastly different. Today we focus on how to talk to teens, ages 14-17 years old, about what Bark is and why your family chooses to use it. If you haven’t already signed up for Bark, head here and get set up in under 5 minutes.

As kids get older, parents often give teens more responsibility over their lives, including their digital lives. However, accountability is key to helping your teens learn how to manage their online presence. Additionally, reviewing cell phone and internet expectations help keep the lines of communication open. Creating or updating your technology contract as your kids age and become teenagers is a good springboard for such conversations. It also engages them in the process of discussing online issues like cyberbullying and sexting.

Start With A Real Life Example

Start with a real life example you’ve read about. “Hey sweetie, I’ve been reading about cyberbullying and how serious it is. Sometimes these types of messages make kids feel depressed or suicidal, like Megan Meier.” Then move into open ended questions that can spark a deeper conversation. “Have you heard of her? Have you seen any of your friends cyberbullied?” Questions engage your teen and you can find out a lot by listening to their answers. Then explain, “I’d like to make sure you stay safe when you’re online, so I want to work with you to add a protection service. It is called Bark and only alerts me to real issues so I can help keep you safe from cyberbullying.” Discuss with them the reasons for using Bark, how it allows them a great deal of privacy, and you won’t see their non-problematic messaging.

Reinforce It’s Your Job To Keep Them Safe

Let your teen know that you consider keeping them safe online part of your parenting responsibilities, but you trust them and also want to give them privacy and accountability for their actions. You can say something like, “The reason I want to use Bark is because it will let me know when an issue is happening, but I don’t have to read every text, email, or social media message that you send. I really don’t want to read every time you ask your friends what’s up, but I do want to know if someone is cyberbullying you or sending you inappropriate pictures.” Their daily chatter remains private unless a potential issue is detected and then you’re alerted so that you can work with them to address it together.

You Trust Them, But Not Everyone Else

Take a moment to help them understand that you do trust them, but that you can’t blindly trust everyone else that they may know through school or with whom they might happen to come into contact with on the internet. You can begin with an analogy, “You know how when you first got your driver’s permit you had to have someone driving with you to help you watch out for other dangerous drivers? Well that’s kind of how Bark works. It helps me watch out for bad drivers on social media who put you in danger.” This conversation reinforces that you are your teen’s safety net and trusted adult when it comes to addressing online issues. 

Actions to Take

Give Us Feedback

Our job is to keep your children safer online. We are your partner in this digital parenting space! Please always let us know how we can help by emailing us: help@bark.us

mother talking to son cartoon

Welcome to part 2 of our our 3-part series on how to talk to tweens about using Bark’s monitoring service. We hope you find these talking points, example conversation starters, and actions to take based on your kid’s age helpful. Today we cover how to talk to tweens, ages 10 to 13 years old, about what Bark is and why your family chooses to use it. If you haven’t already signed up for Bark, head here and get set up in under 5 minutes.

Providing guidelines and rules for how to use technology will help your children know how to navigate their online lives. Setting up a technology contract is a great way to do this, as it helps keep the conversation fresh and aids you and your kids in putting together a very real document of expectations and consequences for your family’s technology rules. A crucial part of the technology contract should outline the fact that if they are going to have the privilege of using a device that you provide them, certain safety measures will be implemented. The most relevant being the use of a monitoring service called Bark that lets you know when issues arise on their social media, texting, or email accounts, but allows them to maintain a decent level of privacy because you are not reading through all of their messages.

Start a With a Real Life Example

Heard the term finsta? It’s a fake Instagram account. While some kids may use a finsta that they limit the number of people who see it and post less than “Instagram Worthy” pictures on, some kids create fake Instagram accounts to cyberbully other kids.

Start off the conversation by stating you heard about something new and want to get their take on it. You can say, “I heard a new term today called “finsta.’ Do you know what a finsta is?” After listening to their experience with finstas, you can explain that the use of a finsta, or fake Instagram account, may seem harmless but some people are using them to cyberbully other kids. You can then say, “So, I want to work with you to create (or update) our technology contract with a service called Bark which will help me keep you safe from cyberbullying and other people online who do not use the internet in a positive way.”

Reinforce It’s Your Job To Keep Them Safe

Let your tween know that you consider keeping them safe online part of your parenting responsibilities, but you trust them and also want to give them privacy and accountability for their actions. Say something like, “The reason I chose Bark is because I don’t want to read every message you write or receive. Bark only alerts me to the messages that are problematic. This is a step forward for you to become more responsible for the decisions that you make online and with messaging your friends, but with a safety net in place so that we can discuss and decide how to respond to online issues together. I don’t care about the million messages you send your friend Jenny asking what she is doing, but I do care if you get messages that are cyberbullying or include inappropriate pictures.”

You Trust Them, But Not Everyone Else

Help them understand that you do trust them, but that you can’t blindly trust everyone else that they may know through school or with whom they might happen to come into contact with on the internet. You can begin with an analogy, “You know when you started having sleepovers at other people’s houses and we have rules for how that happens? Well, there are family rules for how we use technology. One of those rules is using Bark so we get alerts about issues that we can then discuss and address as a family.” This reinforces that you are their safety net when they deal with online issues and helps build trust with your tween.

Actions to Take

Give Us Feedback

Our job is to keep your children safer online. We are your partner in this digital parenting space! Please always let us know how we can help by emailing us: help@bark.us

2 children using a phone

Welcome to part 1 of our three-part series on how to talk to your kids about Bark (and using a monitoring service in general). In this series you’ll find talking points, example conversation starters, and actions to take based on your child’s age. Today our focus is on how to talk to younger children, ages 6 to 9 years old, about what Bark is and why your family chooses to use it. If you haven’t already signed up for Bark, head here and get set up in under 5 minutes.

Most children receive devices and access to the internet between the ages of 6 and 9. It is important to emphasize the positive aspects of using online resources, but also let them know that there are “tricky people” online. Your goal is to serve as a trusted resource for them in navigating this exciting, techy new world. Explain that you are always there to talk to them about anything they encounter, no matter how troublesome or confusing it may be, and your number one job in life is to keep them safe – both IRL (in real life) and online. We urge you to not underestimate the importance of having these repeated conversations with your children about both the benefits and drawbacks of technology. You will not regret sitting down to talk to your kids about the dangers that exist online. 

Start With An Example That Is Relatable

You can say something like, “Hey, so, I was reading about a creepy dude who was pretending to be a kid and message other kids online. But he was really a grown-up trying to be tricky. Can you believe that?” or “I heard a story about a group of children teasing a fellow classmate online. It made him feel really bad and he ended up not going back to that school. Have you ever heard of anything like that?” Opening up the conversation to real-life experiences helps your children feel like they are in a safe space for discussion. Bottom line to convey: Some kids have tricky people who are mean to them online. I want to keep you safe, so I am going to use an app on your device that lets me know when people are being tricky.

Reinforce It’s Your Job To Keep Them Safe

Explain that one of the ways you are keeping them safe from tricky people online is using a tool that alerts you when a problem happens. Let them know that when you get an alert you will discuss it with them and figure out how to respond to the issue together. By working together with your child, you empower them to become responsible digital natives and build trust so they come to you with any issues they experience on the internet.

An example conversation starter would be, “I want you to have a fun time using your phone and the computer, but I also know that there are things online that you may come across that are not fun. Sometimes tricky people send messages that may make you feel scared or weird. When that happens come tell me right away. I am also going to use an app called Bark that lets me know when people are being tricky. You are not in trouble, I need to know these things so we can talk about them and work together on how to respond.”

You Trust Them, But Not Everyone Else

Let them know that you trust them, but you do not trust the “tricky people” on the internet. You can begin with an analogy, “You know how you are not to go to the playground by yourself because there are tricky people at playgrounds who are not nice? There are also tricky people on the internet who are not nice to kids. I’m going to use Bark to help me know when there are tricky people online.” This reinforces that you are their safety net when they deal with tricky people in real life and online, and helps build trust with your child. In combination, you + your child + Bark are a force to be reckoned with.

Actions To Take

Give Us Feedback

Our job is to keep your children safer online. We are your partner in this digital parenting space! Please always let us know how we can help by emailing us: help@bark.us.

Teens on their phones

How much screen time is healthy for a teenager? It’s the question parents ask themselves constantly as they mentor their kids about the appropriate use of technology and social media. Every family’s decision around how much screen time is too much will vary, but key components are the same – all successful screen time management initiatives set clear expectations and establish consequences for failing to follow the family rules.

The best way to embark on that journey with your family is to set up a technology contract, and then use a screen time management program like Bark’s to help support those efforts. To help you navigate the ins and outs of screen time management, we’ve also put together this helpful list of resources. Check them all out, and then open a conversation with your child about digital safety.

How Much Screen Time Is Healthy For Teenagers: What The Experts Say

screen time

screen time

screen addiction

Setting healthy limits around when and how kids can use their devices has become an important aspect of parenting in the digital age. Bark always encourages parents and kids to work together to agree on acceptable use policies that will help them stay safe both online and in real life.

phone with map pulled up

**This blog post was updated on April 9, 2021.**

Check-Ins are an easy way for families to get peace of mind when their kids are out and about. Rather than sending a “Did you get there?” or “Where are you?” text, you can rely on a GPS-based location confirmation from your children to verify that they’ve safely arrived at their destinations. It can even give you step-by-step directions via Google Maps so you can meet them where they are if necessary.

Why Check-Ins?

There are times when your kids go to the mall, a friend’s house, or out to the park when you want to make sure they’ve arrived safely. With a single click, your child can check in at their location to let you know they’ve arrived safely.

Check-Ins are also a great way to get your child’s location when they need to be picked up. Have your child check in and use Bark’s directions link to calculate the best route to your child.

What Do I Need to Do?

If you are not already, sign up for Bark’s monitoring service. Then download the Bark for Kids companion app on your teen or tween’s device. This feature is available for the Android child app, Bark for Kids, and the iOS child app, Bark Kids.

 

Happy mother and son teenager wearing a checkered shirt and sunglasses in city over orange background

As parents we walk a fine line between offering our children freedom to good choices and responsibly monitoring their activity. In the digital parenting space, we fear that our teens and tweens are going to get hurt. We fear they are going to mix with the wrong crowd or unknowingly get involved in reputation damaging or even illegal behavior.  

I learned a few things about trust when tracking my teen online I’d like to impart to you. I learned things about both about myself and my son, when I employed a phone tracker and social media monitor.

I’ve learned he’s a good kid

We all want to believe our kids are making good choices for themselves. Once I started monitoring his social activity, there were moments I felt disheartened when I’d get notified that he crossed a boundary or said something hurtful. Additionally, there’s also a moment of embarrassment that other parents are seeing the behavior and judging. But, some things you just have to let roll.

Overall, my favorite thing I learned along the way is that he’s actually hearing my advice, and leaning toward the better decisions . . . most of the time. I get reassured often that he’s developing into a kind, responsible young man.

I’ve learned he’s not an adult

Yep, he’s got a long way to go. Immature, snarky, silly, defensive, knows it all.  Just what should be expected as a teenager. I have to laugh when I hear parents say “act your age” to a 13 year-old behaving rambunctiously or being inappropriate. Newsflash: They actually are acting their 13-year-young age.  They aren’t adults and although he may be taller than me and look like a man, he’s not. I had to adjust my expectations after realizing that’s him all the time. 

I’ve learned text messaging makes us closer

And it isn’t that I’m discouraging face-to-face communication, it’s just that he feels comfortable in the blue or green text message bubbles. I find we communicate more about social things – share jokes, send emojis, discuss fun weekend plans. On the contrast, a lot of our verbal communication is about business – did you do your homework, wake-up, put the phone down, turn off the TV, brush your teeth, why do your armpits still stink after you showered . . . you know the drill.

I’ve learned my job is bigger than it seems

I really just want to make sure he’s safe. You know, that he doesn’t die or make decision that will negatively impact him for life. It seems like that’s my biggest job as a parent, but it’s different in the teenager phase than as a toddler. Being safe doesn’t just mean putting training wheels on his bicycle, or wearing a life vest, or applying sunscreen. If I wasn’t responsibly involved in his digital life now as a teen I’d feel like I wasn’t sure he was buckled in the back seat. It’s pretty much the same thing, but less physical and way more emotional.

I originally battled with should I or shouldn’t I monitor his digital social life or use a phone tracker. Now I know it was a good decision and that it isn’t at all about trust. It’s about being a responsible parent – advising where necessary and knowing when to let him learn his lessons. That’s really hard to do when you’re in the dark.

Using a service like Bark gives you just the information you need, instead of information overload, to empower you to use the knowledge for teachable moments and round out all aspects of their lives. Give it a try. I’m relieved I did.

xxx on yellow background

**This post was updated on April 19, 2021.**

There’s one app that can strike fear into the hearts of many parents: Snapchat. Unsurprisingly, the app has been a kid-favorite since it debuted in 2011 because of its edgy reputation, disappearing messages, and interactive AR filters. Today, more than 75% of Gen Z are on the platform, and its popularity shows no sign of slowing down. Snapchat sexting is also incredibly common and presents a whole host of potential dangers to kids. In this post, we’ll explain everything parents need to know about it — and what they can do to help protect their kids. 

Why Snapchat Concerns Parents

There’s a common saying for this generation that “sexting is the new first base.” This means that sexting — the act of sending nudes or explicit messages — has become something that happens quickly, easily, and without much forethought. Because it’s become expected, kids can be pressured to provide photos they wouldn’t normally send. Regardless of whether a kid ever actually wants to send nudes, they’re going to be judged or compared for their decision. This is incredibly stressful (and unfair). 

For parents, the main fear is that kids will send images that could harm them for years to come. There’s also the worry that kids could be exposed to inappropriate content beyond their maturity level, or even be contacted by online predators. 

Snapchat Sexting Has Never Been Safe

Since its beginning, Snapchat has been known as the go-to sexting app because of its disappearing messages, which vanish in a few quick seconds after you open them. However, there have always been ways for users to get around this restriction. If you’re quick, you can take screenshots. Even though an alert is sent to the sender when this happens, it doesn’t stop you from doing it. 

Another way to capture a “disappearing message” is to take a photo from another phone or tablet — and this way it won’t send a screenshot alert. Both of these hacks enable you to keep the image, and share, spread, or send to as many people as you like. Today, that means it can reach thousands of people in just a few seconds. 

Signs Your Teen Might Be Sexting

Most parents think “not my kid” when it comes to the idea of them ever sexting. However, according to our data from 2020, 70.9% of tweens and 87.9% of teens have encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature while online. If you’re worried your child may be sexting, pay attention to these warning signs, especially if they:

How to Talk to Your Kid About Sexting

Whether you’ve learned that your child is sexting on Snapchat or you just want to be ready in case it happens, you can guess it’s a pretty complicated issue to deal with. We have an in-depth blog post about what to do if your child is sending nudes that can help you out with some conversation starters. Here are a few other things you can do to help your child learn about the dangers of sexting:

Before you get into the dangers, though, it may be helpful to start a discussion about age-appropriate sexual curiosity. Your child may be experimenting with sexting because of peer pressure, but it could also stem from an adolescent interest in sex. You may find it helpful to discuss your family’s values on sexual content so your child knows where you stand on the subject.

For parents with teens and tweens, Snapchat sexting can be a stressful situation to get a handle on. Not only for the very real dangers it presents, but also because it can mean your kids are starting to express themselves in ways they haven’t before. They may also be trying to mimic grown-up behavior. As always, we recommend ongoing conversations about online safety even as your kids approach adulthood — no matter how hard or awkward the talks get. We promise it’s worth it.