What is Snapchat? 

Snapchat is one of the biggest messaging and social media apps that tweens and teens are using, and it’s not hard to understand why. But is Snapchat safe? The app has a lot of fun and positive things going for it. With Snapchat you can create silly pictures and send them to friends with a few clicks of a button. These aren’t the perfectly taken and curated photos for Instagram, they are the candid and funny moments of everyday life. Another reason the app is so popular is the intrinsic ephemeral nature of the message system. Individual Snaps disappear after viewing and stories disappear after 24 hours. Need a vocabulary cheat sheet? Click on the link and get caught up on Snapchat lingo.

What is SnapMap?

Snap Map is a feature on Snapchat that shows you where your friends are as they compose Snaps, lets you communicate with friends directly via the map, and shows certain public events happening around the world and who is talking about them.

If your tween or teen creates a Snap that gives out personal information and they send it to “Our Story”, it can be seen by the entire community and then possibly put on the World Snap Map with whatever personal information your child has shared.

***We will let that sink in for a minute.***

Why Are Kids Obsessed with Snapchat?

As teens continue to turn their backs on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, they’re signing up for Snapchat at an equally accelerated rate.

Snapchat gives teens two things that they believe are important in social apps.

When it comes to Snapchat, there’s good news, and there’s bad news. The good news is that most kids seem to be using Snapchat appropriately. The bad news is that online predators can and will infiltrate the social networks where teens tend to hang out. Furthermore, just because kids are generally using it appropriately doesn’t mean parents can be hands off.

Is Snapchat Safe?

As with almost all online interactions such as social media apps and text messages, there is the potential for harmful content to be shared, most especially cyberbullying and sexting are potential abuses with the Snapchat app. Because the images disappear after a short time, some kids may be tempted to send hurtful messages or sext nude images of themselves, thinking that they won’t get caught and there will be no consequences. 

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The recipient can take screenshots of the images they receive, which can be used maliciously or even shared with others. Or they can be simply recorded using an iOS 10 platform screen recording option and then shared. Additionally, these images and videos can be hidden in vault apps making it hard to find them and make sure they are deleted. Often the malicious use of received nudes are used in revenge porn and can have a lasting detrimental effect on a teen, both socially and emotionally.

Do you think your teen is sexting on Snapchat? Unsure? Check out the 5 signs they might be sexting using Snapchat.

Another area of concern are privacy issues. While the default setting is a private account, where only added friends can send users a Snap or view their Stories, the privacy setting can be switched to public and then anyone and everyone can send a user a Snap or view their Stories. Additionally, the video chatting feature allows for one-on-one interactions that are cleared once the user leaves the video chat. 

How to Talk to Your Kids about Snapchat Safety

There are ways to reduce risky behavior online and the first one is to talk about these risks. Although Snapchat certainly has fun features, it’s important to discuss safety with kids – especially with preteens and teens who have their own mobile phones. Here’s the 5 areas of concern about Snapchat you should speak with your tweens and teens about to help keep them safer online.

How to Monitor Snapchat?

Although Snapchat can be a lot of fun for preteens and teens as it gives them a means of keeping in touch with friends, it is vital that your kids learn to use Snapchat appropriately to stay safe. Add your child’s Snapchat to Bark and we’ll scan their public and private Snapchat stories. Bark can also monitor Snapchat DMs on Android and Amazon devices. However, Snapchat does not allow external access to DMs on iOS devices. We’re continually working to be able to monitor Snapchat on iOS., alerting you to any potentially risky behaviors of cyberbullying, sexting, or online predators. 

how to explain depression

If your child is happy and well-adjusted, talking to them about depression or suicide might seem irrelevant—it might even seem dangerous. After all, introducing the concept of depression, you reason, could inadvertently push them in a direction they might not otherwise go. But what if you knew how to explain depression in a way that would better support your child’s mental health?

What you may not realize, is that there’s a strong likelihood this is something to which your teen has already been exposed. It is likely they have one or more classmates dealing with depression. Additionally, children tend to share their experiences, both face-to-face and online. More often than not, they will discuss these big emotions with their peers instead of seeking help from adults. And, when emotions are shared, they tend to be imitated.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are many resources that can help. If you believe your child or another person may be in immediate danger, please call 911.

helping friend who is bullied and depressed

What Is Emotional Contagion?

When someone smiles, we tend to smile. When they cry, we find our own eyes watering up. Psychologists refer to this as “emotional contagion,” which San Francisco State University Psychology Professor, Dr. Ryan Howell, describes as follows:

“…emotional contagion is ‘the tendency to automatically mimic and synchronize expressions, vocalizations, postures, and movements with those of another person and, consequently, to converge emotionally.’”

In other words, whether your teen or tween is displaying symptoms of depression, they could be experiencing the effects of depression through friends. Furthermore, they are potentially at risk of developing similar feelings themselves.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the impact of those peer-to-peer conversations.

5 Effective Strategies For How To Explain Depression

  1. Explain that you care about how they feel: You might assume that your child already knows you care about their feelings, but to express it clearly. Children today face a multitude of distractions and concerns about school, sports, and friendships that it’s easy for them to forget something so obvious. Without judging them, you should tell them it’s important to you that they feel good about themselves. Explain, that even if they don’t feel this way it won’t change your love for them. Try to use words which mirror their feelings. For example, if you notice that they’re angry or sad, you could say something like, “I’m concerned because it seems like you’re worried about something.” Then ask them, “Do you want to talk about it?”
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  2. Ask them to describe their feelings, not explain them: Even though your teen or tween does not appear to be depressed, this lays the foundation for a time they might need to come to you about a friend who is depressed or suicidal. An effective way to do this is by establishing a pattern in which you encourage them to describe what they’re feeling without having to explain the reasons for those feelings. Teens and tweens typically don’t know why they feel the way they do. Instead of asking, “why are you angry all the time?” you can say, “Are there things which make you angry?”
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  3. Reassure them that their “bad” feelings won’t hurt you: One of the reasons teens and tweens are reticent to talk about their feelings is that they believe those feelings will be harmful to others. Yes, this includes their parents. They tend to think these feelings are “toxic.” Let your child know, through your words and your actions, that you are a strong person and they can tell you anything.
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  4. Become a role model by sharing your own feelings: Kids tend to mimic their parents’ behavior. If you’re not willing to be open about your feelings, your child will assume they shouldn’t share their own.  You might think it’s wrong to tell a kid that you’re sad or upset, but hiding those feelings actually intensifies their negative impact. Keep in mind children are extremely perceptive and most likely already know something is upsetting you. Especially if the family experiences a sad event, like the death of a grandparent, don’t hesitate to tell your child that you’re sad or feel the need to cry.
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  5. Let them know they’re not alone: Children need to know that there are people they can talk to, no matter what they’re feeling. Certainly, that includes you, but you should also let them know there are other resources. Discuss that there are other people they can talk to in the event they find it difficult to share their thoughts with you. This could include a grandparent, a school counselor, and mental health professionals. Let them know when they or a friend experience depression or suicidal ideation seeking a trusted adult is the best resource. While peer groups are wonderful places of support, other kids do not always know the best resources.

Conclusion

It’s not always easy to talk with a teen or tween about unpleasant feelings, but it’s important that you do.  The better they understand that you care about their feelings, the more likely it is that they’ll turn to you if they do begin to feel depressed. Hopefully that will include if they someone else who is experiencing those emotions. And that can make all the difference in the world.

If you think your teen may be dealing with depression, check out our article, How To Talk To Your Teen About Depression for more tips on how to explain depression. Additionally, sign up for Bark. We monitor your teens social media, email, and phone sending you an alert if there are signs of depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. You can also learn more about depression here.

mother talking to daughter

The big two questions. 1) Are my kids spending too much time online? 2) When online, to who and what are they being exposed? Both of these issues fall under the heading, “protecting kids online.” Both areas of concern are legitimate, but are content monitoring or screen time restrictions the best solution? Fortunately, parents don’t have to choose — Bark offers both services, in addition to web filtering so you can have all the tools you need to raise kids in the digital age in a single package.

Screen Time Restrictions

Doctors recommend that children 2 to 5 should only get one hour of screen time (not counting required things like homework) per day. They also recommend that for 6 and older parents should use their best judgment. Parents are reminded to set a good example — and not always buried in their phones. Of course, measuring screen time can be hard when phone use happens outside of eyesight.

For screen time restriction, using Bark is a good idea, as we allow you to limit entertainment time. Explain to your kids the rules around when they can access entertainment sites, like after they have finished homework. Incorporate these rules as part of your technology contract so the expectations and consequences are clear.

When considering screen time it is worth discussing media-free times and media-free zones. Media free times could include charging phones away from the dinner table or putting phones in bags while riding in the car. Media free zones could include banning devices from the bathroom and bedroom. The bathroom and bedroom are the two major places children are more likely to make risky judgments. They feel the privacy in this room translates to privacy online and are more likely to post inappropriate images and text messages.

Ending screen time a bit before bedtime helps kids calm down before they go to bed. Staring at a screen right up until it’s bedtime can cause poor sleep and thus poor performance in school. One idea is to charge phones in your bedroom so that putting the phone aside is part of their evening routine and necessary to use phones the next day.

Monitoring Solution

Monitoring can be more of a challenge, especially with older children.  However, it is as equally important as setting time restrictions. There are very real risks and it is our job as parents to be aware of the risks, and then educate and protect our kids as best has possible. And, a balance between monitoring and privacy is possible with Bark. For tweens and teens completely taking away all devices is not always the best or most practical solution. Using Bark allows you to monitor when something potentially risky happens, but also allows your kids privacy.

We recommend talking about both monitoring and screen time with your kids. Talk to kids about your technology rules and why you have them. Some kids will take this as a sign of not being trusted, but you can explain that while you trust them, you are not going to blindly trust everyone they come in contact with in real life or online.

When it comes to monitoring, discuss why Bark is different. Unlike other monitoring tools Bark does not send you all their information. You can’t see every text message, every “wyd” (i.e. what are you doing?) message with their best friend. However, if someone starts cyberbullying them or sending them inappropriate pictures you will receive an alert. If that happens, then you will work together on how best to respond.

We even created a how-to guide for how talk to your kids about Bark. Whether they’re still pretty young, in those tricky preteen years, or already a teen, this resource can help shape your conversation.

In Conclusion

Bark offers both content monitoring and screen time management tools, in addition to web filtering. Use the links above which have concrete suggestions around the conversations you can have about online safety when implementing all of the features of our service. Also keep in mind that there’s no replacement for proper online safety education. That is why an open and honest conversation about the risks and rewards that come with using the internet is also extremely important.

digital citizenship for kids

As technology becomes more necessary, and children use technology at a younger age, digital citizenship for kids is very important. We are the first generation of parents and teachers to raise and educate digital natives. Digital natives are kids born during the age of digital technology. Additionally, they are extremely familiar with computers and the internet from an early age.

Having an online presence is common place now. This continuous access lends itself to less worry about protecting privacy, presenting our best selves, and understanding with what we are constantly inundated. Even as adults, we are still learning how to navigate everything online. But, for our kids and students we have the potential to intervene. Not only protect them from online threats, but teach them how to be responsible digital citizens. Here are 4 tips on online safety to discuss with your kids.

1. Digital Citizenship for Kids: Password Safety

One of the most important things to stress to kids is to protect their privacy online. Explain the importance of protecting passwords to email and social media accounts. A potential frame for this discussion (depending on age-appropriateness) is to think of times in “real life” when your child might use a password. For example, they might use a password for a tree house or a fort. If they tell a bunch of strangers the password for their tree house, those people could come in and mess things up. Finding analogies helps your child understand the importance of password protection. Talk about setting different passwords for different accounts, changing passwords often, and thinking of unique passwords each time.

One app children give up their password for is Snapchat. Kids keep up streaks with their friends by Snapping each other each day. If kids know they are not going to have access to Snapchat they get concerned about keeping up their streaks. This concern makes them more likely to give out their password for Snapchat to a friend. Then friend then keeps up their streaks. This is a very risky behavior, especially if they use the same password for everything. If they ever have a falling out with their friend the potential for cyberbullying is great.

2. Talk About How to Interact Online

More and more of communication is happening online, and less is happening in person. While this opens up many doors for kids to learn about different cultures and see different perspectives, it also opens up doors to online risky behaviors. Online bullying takes place in many different forms, on different sites, and for many different reasons. It is important to talk to kids and students about positive online behaviors. Some talking points are:

The best thing is to maintain an open dialogue. Ask kids about their online behaviors, ask about their friends. Just like you talk to them about who they hang out with after school, you meet those kids, and you know who their parents are, ask those same kind of questions about who know online.

Keep an eye out for warning signs, such as a sudden change in attitude. If your child does experience cyberbullying, be their support and talk about how to report those issues, figure out the response together.

3. Avoid Finstas & Spam Accounts

Talk to your children about fake accounts and how spam accounts often lead to cyberbullying. Kids create fake accounts because they want certain peers to follow them but not everyone else. Sometimes this is because they feel pressure to have the best pictures ever on their real accounts so they use their fake accounts to post silly photos. However, these un-monitored, alter-ego accounts open the way for crossing boundaries and posting offensive comments about people not privy to the fake account. Furthermore, sometimes screenshots are taken and forwarded. This type of talking being someone’s back is hurtful, and then those spam accounts become the target of cyberbullying.

Let your children know that you do not want them creating such accounts because you are concerned about their online safety and want them to act as responsible digital citizens.

4. Create a Technology Contract

One way to promote positive digital citizenship is to write up or sign a family technology contract. In the contract set out your families rules around positive digital citizenship. Some of these rules can include the tips above and using Bark to monitor their online interactions. Setting out basic etiquette as a family and signing a document imparts the seriousness of the issues. Talk about the consequences for breaking the rules so that your kids know what to expect when they do not behave as positive digital citizens. With a technology contract in place, everyone in the family can refer to it for clear exceptions and actions.

These are just 4 tips on online safety to discuss with your child about maintaining a successful online presence. In these conversations remember to remain open minded and answer questions too. Other topics to consider discussing as they get older would be fact checking before re-posting articles, memes, and videos. Talk to them about how people online are not always who they say they are and that is why you need to know their online friends too.

Digital citizenship for kids is more important than ever. Technology and digital media are not going away and the sooner you talk to your child the better digital citizen they will become. Maybe they will teach you something as well! Visit Bark today and sign up to receive alerts on potential issues such as cyberbullying, sexting, and online predators.