A lot has changed in the world since we were kids — from smartphones and Netflix to Spotify and podcasts. But what hasn’t changed? The pure, unbridled joy of Halloween for kids. And while the internet can pose threats, it can also bring families closer together, provide entertainment, and enable parents to help protect their kids like never before. Here are a few reasons why Halloween is awesome for families in the digital age.

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Trick or Treat Maps

The Treat Map on Next Door enables residents to let their neighbors know if they plan on giving out tasty treats on Halloween. No more precious candy-collecting time wasted on a street that has mostly turned off the porch lights! Also good to note: the most popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Tutorials for DIY Costumes

If you can think of a costume or character, there’s likely a video of someone on YouTube explaining how to apply the perfect makeup or create a DIY version of the outfit. This is definitely a lot easier than watching Ghostbusters on VHS for the eighth time to get the iconic khaki jumpsuits just right!

Instant Photos

There were only two options when we were growing up when it came to sharing Halloween pics: snail-mailing dark, grainy Polaroids to grandma, or waiting a few days to have traditional film developed — which you’d still have to snail mail to grandma. Today, parents can upload photos of little Marios and Elsas to Instagram in seconds for friends and family to see, no matter where they live!

Halloween for Kids Playlists

Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, and YouTube all make it easy to find and create spooky playlists. It’s also fun for families to work together on a playlist that spans decades with hits from across generations. Bark monitors a child’s most recently played tracks on Spotify and then scans the lyrics for all the same issues we monitor everywhere else — cyberbullying, depression, suicidal ideation, threats of violence, and more — so you can have a better sense of what your kid might be going through.

Monitoring Social Media for Tricks

The lead-up to Halloween can be more exciting than the day itself, as kids text, chat, and post to social media about their activities, plans, and costumes. Bark monitors everything from texts to TikTok so parents can rest easy knowing their kids are better protected from digital dangers.

Making Halloween for Everyone

Social media has enabled large numbers of people to share information to make trick-or-treating more inclusive. The Teal Pumpkin Project, for example, is now recognized nationwide for its iconic gourd encouraging candy-givers to offer alternative treats like toys and stickers so that kids with food allergies can share in the fun.

Location-Sharing for Safety

Sending older kids off all dressed up and armed with only a flashlight and a pillowcase used to be the norm for families. Today, with ever-present smartphones and apps that track location, parents can get peace of mind watching the progress of their kids’ trick-or-treating from the comfort of the couch. Bark has a Check-ins feature available on Androids, and we also recommend the app Life360.

Have a Fun and Safe Halloween!

At Bark, we know that parenting the first generation of digital natives is challenging and vastly different from our own experiences growing up. Technology has is its perks on Halloween for kids, but it also comes with risks. Bark’s award-winning service helps keep kids safe both online and in real life by monitoring texts, email, chat, YouTube, and 24+ social media platforms for signs of cyberbullying, adult content, suicidal ideation, and more. Sign up today for a free, one-week trial of Bark.

Bark is proud to have officially signed the Student Privacy Pledge. The Student Privacy Pledge is a legally binding agreement on how educational technology companies commit to responsibly handling the data and privacy of students across the U.S.

Signing this pledge puts Bark’s commitment to protecting student data and privacy in league with companies like Apple, AT&T, Blackbaud, Clever, EBSCO, Google for Education, Microsoft, and PowerSchool. These are some of the biggest names in EdTech, and we believe that it’s important for companies like ours to publicly declare our commitment to student privacy. In 2015, the White House even declared its support of the pledge, further demonstrating the cultural shift towards modernizing our approach to digital privacy rights.

What Is the Student Privacy Pledge?

The Student Privacy Pledge provides guidelines for companies to adhere to when it comes to protecting and safeguarding the data they are privileged to access. Some of its most prominent tenets include:

Together, the different components of the Student Privacy Pledge help ensure that student privacy is paramount to a company’s day-to-day operations. Becoming a signatory helps a company show that everything is above board, and it also gives schools and parents peace of mind knowing that their children’s personal information is secure.

A Privacy and Security Guide to Bark

Bark signed the Student Privacy Pledge because we’re committed to helping protect children in every way we can. And while the pledge contains excellent safeguards, Bark goes above and beyond its scope when it comes to privacy and security. In addition to the guidelines we outlined above, Bark is compliant with CIPA, COPPA, FERPA, and AB1584.

We believe that strong data and privacy protections are an essential part of digital citizenship, and that transparency is the key to trust. For more information about what Bark is doing to secure student data, check out our Privacy Policy, our Terms of Use and Service, and our Online Safety and Compliance one-pager.

Bark monitors texts, chat, email, YouTube, and more than 24 social media platforms for signs of potential issues like cyberbullying, self-harm, depression, suicidal ideation, online predators, and more. Sign up today for a free, one-week trial!

Numerous reports have recently surfaced about a new and mysterious illness in which people are developing serious lung infections. Several outlets have even reported fatalities. There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that vaping is to blame.

It seems like every day in the news there’s another article about the dangers of vaping. So why do teens smoke (or vape)? There’s a lot to unpack, and it can come from all angles. So we collected some frequently asked questions to provide parents with the facts they need to better understand the danger that vaping poses to their kids.

1. What Exactly Is Vaping?

Vaping is similar to smoking in that users inhale a chemical cocktail to experience mild stimulation. If you think of a cigarette as an incinerator that burns tobacco, vaping uses an electronic device — which often looks like a pen — to vaporize a liquid fuel. The vapor is an “aerosol” that comes in all kinds of flavors and usually contains either nicotine or THC (the active compound in marijuana), in addition to 60+ other chemicals. Unlike cigarettes, vapes leave no little-to-no smell and can be used anywhere without detection, which makes them easy to hide.

2. How Many Kids Are Vaping?

Thanks to 30 years’ worth of anti-smoking public health campaigns, kids smoke cigarettes at record lows. This makes it all the more concerning that so many kids are getting their nicotine from vaping today. Vaping is a seemingly attractive alternative to smoking that threatens to set back our progress on public health by decades.

More than 20% of high-schoolers reported vaping in the past month, and the trend continues to rise. In 2015, the U.S. surgeon general reported that e-cigarette use among high school students had increased by 900% — and 40% of these users had never even smoked regular tobacco.

3. Why Do Teens Smoke? And Isn’t Vaping Safer Than Smoking?

For a while, many people thought so, especially in light of the medically accepted fact that smoking poses undeniable health risks. But just because something is allegedly safer than tobacco doesn’t mean that it’s safe — especially for children, who might find it more appealing to try all the fruity flavors.

We’re still not completely sure of the long-term effects of vaping. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be wary. The best-case scenario is that vaping turns out to not be physically harmful — but even then you still have to contend with the fact that it’s causing kids to become addicted to nicotine by the millions. The worst-case scenario is that vaping is both very unhealthy and also creating dependencies among its users that make it even more dangerous.

4. Are People Actually Getting Sick From Vaping?

Definitely. It’s not a series of isolated incidents, either. More than 1,000 cases have been reported, along with 18 deaths in 15 states. All patients reported a history of vaping, but the majority reported using THC-containing products. There’s also been some confusion around what types of vapes are dangerous. Many of the ones linked to disease were purchased on the black market. In any case, because there’s so much ambiguity — and because the research is limited — the CDC is now warning people to avoid all vaping products.

5. Does Vaping Happen At School?

Absolutely — and on an epidemic scale. Older generations will remember all the smoking that took place in the school bathroom. Kids today are bringing their vapes into the bathroom stalls — most notably those of the Juul brand. Juuls have become so popular in bathrooms that Gen Z has even made it into a meme, circulating joke petitions to “Remove Toilets from the Juul Room.”

Why Juuls in particular? Because they’re cheap, easy to conceal, and actually look like an unassuming, standard USB drive. Their appearance has even prompted some schools to ban flash drives in an effort to combat the spread of the devices. Other schools have gone so far as to file lawsuits against Juul, accusing the company of endangering students and forcing educators to divert time and money to fight nicotine addiction among teenagers.

6. What Do I Do If My Kids Are Vaping?

The most important thing you can do is talk to your child about vaping. Discuss the recent news stories with them so they know what’s happening and explain that these health threats are real. It can be easy to forget, but peer pressure still exists — the things kids are pressured into just change with every generation. Right now, it’s vaping. Making sure that your child knows the risks puts them in a better position to resist the temptation.

Growing up has always been a journey, but today’s generation has to deal with technology we couldn’t even dream of when we were kids. If you need advice or support in figuring out why your teen smokes or vapes, join our community of over 37,000 parents who are going through similar situations in Parenting in a Tech World.

You can also try Bark free for one week. Bark monitors texts, chat, email, YouTube, and 24+ social media platforms to help detect signs of issues that you might need to know about — including drugs and alcohol. In addition to vaping and other substances, our award-winning service monitors for potential issues like cyberbullying, adult content, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and more.

We all want to encourage healthy habits for kids. But are we setting the right example? As adults, we depend on technology to make it through the day. Scheduling meetings, checking emails, and managing our social lives would be next to impossible without the help of digital devices. For parents, the need for these technologies is even more urgent. On top of our professional and personal responsibilities, we also have to be able to manage the needs of our families. Whether it’s arranging playdates, texting about after-school activities, or setting parental controls, we all rely on our phones, tablets, and computers to keep things running smoothly.

At the same time, it’s important for us to be aware of our habits with technology. Yes, we need our devices — and they’re awesome in plenty of ways! But we don’t always need them. If we’re not careful, we run the risk of experiencing some of the downsides of the digital age — feelings of isolation and poor sleep hygiene to name just a couple. More importantly, we also risk passing these habits on to our children. Kids look to us to learn how the world works, and it’s up to us as parents to make sure that we’re passing on good digital habits.

Set a Good Example

One of the best things we can do to foster good digital habits in our kids is to practice good digital habits for ourselves. Kids are quick to mimic, and if they see us glued to our phones all the time, they might develop similar traits. It’s especially important to avoid pulling out your phone during family activities like having dinner, watching movies, or taking a trip to the planetarium.

We turn to our devices far more often than we realize, whether it’s to deal with an urgent matter, we’re looking for entertainment, or we just need a short distraction from the stress of parenting. Paying attention to our own approach to screen time — when, where, and why we use our phones — is a great first step to help our kids model healthy digital behavior.

Establish Digital Boundaries

In addition to setting an example, we can also set boundaries. What are some times and places that your family should not use devices? Family time is an easy opportunity to unplug — although technology can certainly be incorporated into family activities (Drawful, anyone?). It may also be worth discouraging phone use during the times before breakfast and right before bed, as well as the short moments between events like riding in the car or waiting for TV commercials to end. These moments of digital detox can really add up, and they’re awesome opportunities for families to focus on each other.

These aren’t just rules for kids, either. Parents should also make an effort not to use their devices at certain times and places. Not only will you then be modeling good digital habits, but you’ll also be more responsive to the cues your kid is giving you — whether they’re upset, bored, or excited — and you’ll be able to be more connected with them.

Invite Your Kid Into Your Digital World

We refer to kids today as “digital natives” — but that doesn’t mean they’re born knowing how technology works. Believe it or not, there’s actually a period of time where they have no idea what’s going on when we type out a message or strap on a virtual reality headset and start swinging our arms around as if we’re fighting Mike Tyson.

When our kids are around, it’s important to share what we’re doing on our devices. This helps them learn the context of what we’re doing and where our minds are going when we stare into our screens. When you learn about an upcoming Little League game, invite your child into the process. Show them the screen and say, “You’ve got a baseball game next weekend. Let’s put it on the calendar so we don’t forget.”

It’s also a good idea to consider how our kids might feel about the things we share about them online. Part of being a good digital citizen is protecting your privacy — as well as respecting the privacy of others. When it comes to posting on social media, it’s important to ask permission before posting images of our kid’s goofy smile all across the web. This is a great way to teach them to be thoughtful about their own online activities and can open up an ongoing conversation about digital safety. And who knows — they might even invite you into their own digital worlds!

Tools for Fostering Healthy Habits for Kids

It’s not always easy to form new habits — especially for busy parents. But there are lots of tools available to help them keep the bumpers in place. Giving your child the right device at the right time is an excellent place to start. Creating a technology contract can also help everyone in the family stay on the same page when it comes to digital devices. Parents can also take advantage of built-in parental controls. The Barkomatic is a one-stop-shop for the guides to parental controls your family needs.

In combination with each of those tools for developing healthy habits for kids, parents can use Bark to monitor their children’s online activities. Manually checking every single text is invasive and time-consuming. Bark alerts parents only when there’s a potential issue they need to know about — including cyberbullying, sexting, online predators, depression, suicidal ideation, threats of violence, and more. Sign up today to monitor texts, chats, email, YouTube, and 24+ social media platforms for signs of digital dangers.

Threads is the new Instagram spinoff app, and it’s poised to shake up the social media world of tweens and teens. It won’t replace Instagram, but it will change how folks interact on the platform. With the release of Threads, they’re essentially making a smaller, more tight-knit version of Instagram with a separate but related app.

When Instagram users join Threads, all their contacts are automatically transferred, and from there they can create a “Close Friends” group. These groups have dedicated inboxes for messages and notifications, and you’ll be able to share messages, photos, and more with the members of these private groups. The interface is also designed more like Snapchat to focus more on taking pictures. Still have questions? Don’t worry — the Bark Team did a deep dive into this new app and explored the features of Threads that parents need to know about.

Introducing Away Messages to Generation Z

With the new “status” feature on Threads, many Instagram users will be introduced to the concept of away messages. Older millennials will definitely remember these mainstays of internet culture from the early 2000s — before texting, smartphones, and social media kept us connected 24/7, we’d leave AIM up and running on our computers with away messages letting our friends know when we’d be around.

These messages can let people know what we’re doing or where we are (“I’m in class, catch you later!”) as well as our emotional states (insert cryptic song lyrics about your devastating heartbreak here). Statuses are completely opt-in on Threads, so some may choose not to use them. There’s also an “auto status” feature that automatically shares little bits of context that give people clues without giving away your coordinates (“On the move”).

Threads directly states that it doesn’t actively location-share — which is technically true. But with the ability to create custom statuses means that a geo-tag isn’t necessary. You don’t need a real-time map to find someone if their away message announces that they’re at the school library or the theater on Main Street. While this may not be a huge deal with real-life friends, many kids have internet-only friends — and those friends may not always be who they say they are. In these cases, there’s the potential that they might be sharing their physical location with strangers — which is something that parents need to know about.

A Quieter Form of Cyberbullying

Instagram’s intention with Threads is “to bring you a little closer to the people you care about.” It’s easy to see how a slightly smaller social world can help to create this kind of dynamic — you can communicate more quickly and not have to worry about what your boss or extended relatives will think of everything you post.

But with many kids, the app has the potential to create a complicated ecosystem of exclusion. For example, even when you follow someone on Instagram, if you’re not part of their Close Friends group, you won’t see their private Threads content. So if everyone at school is talking about a party you didn’t even know about — because the pictures were only shared on Threads — you may feel left out. Throw in adolescent hormones and complicated social hierarchies, and voila! — there’s a 100% chance of drama. It may not happen with all kids, but it’s something worth remembering if your kids start to experience more FOMO when they download the app.