The dangers of tiktok trends, boba tea, pills, and a clown.

Have you ever seen your child recording themselves trying to master all the steps to a 10-part TikTok dance routine? If so, you probably know how alluring the pull to participate in TikTok trends can be for kids. TikTok is a huge part of tween and teen culture these days, influencing everything from fashion and slang to music and memes

In fact, TikTok trends have surpassed mere viral dance moves and now include complex skits, jokes-within-jokes, collaborative songs, stitched-together video formats, and more.  Remember when everyone was singing sea shanties a few months ago? This is just one of the many TikTok trends that come from the popular app! Most are relatively harmless, and some are even highly creative. Unfortunately, potentially life-threatening challenges also go viral from time to time, and they present great dangers to kids chasing TikTok fame. These types of dangerous TikTok challenges are almost always changing, but we wanted to give you a guide to some of the ones that have gained the most attention — good and bad. 

Humor is a big part of TikTok, and puns, skits, and humorous observations are common all throughout the platform, no matter what the subject matter is. TikTok trends revolving around the same format or sound go viral often, relying on the power of hashtags. While this category is typically harmless, sometimes it can evolve into one of many dangerous TikTok challenges when the user tries doing something to cause physical harm or danger to elicit a stronger response from the audience.

Waking up in the morning

Blonde woman in TikTok video

This trend features lyrics to a child singing song about trying to get over a challenging time in life. Then, it jump-cuts to a video of something from the user’s past that was embarrassing or awkward. This trend works especially well for Gen Z, as they often have a lot of easily accessible (and cringey!) video footage from when they were younger.

Psychedelic clown

Woman with clown makeup holding cat

Another humorous self-deprecating trend, these videos incorporate a colorful, interactive clown filter with silly music. People use it to recount times they “were a clown” — that is, when they did something silly or embarrassing. Using the clown emoji while texting means the same thing!

Regardless of what you think about TikTok, it’s hard not to be impressed by some of the craftsmanship that goes into the production of some videos. Splicing together scenes, adding sound effects, and embedding text are just a few of the ways users express themselves. These types of trends urge users to find something about their inner world or life experiences and share it with others.

Day in the life

Woman drinking from large cup

Curious about all of the different activities a person does in a day? With this trend, users make a mash-up of their daily routines, all set to a sprightly tune. There are thousands of videos in this genre, featuring kids, teens, and adults from cities all over the world and from all walks of life. While this is not usually classified as one of the dangerous TikTok challenges on the app, users who participate can inadvertently divulge private information that cyber criminals may be able to use. 

What’s a video that lives in your head rent-free?

Woman with glasses leaning on elbow

These videos all start with the same clip of a woman asking for an example of a video that people love (“rent-free” just means that you think about it a lot for no reason). Users then pick a favorite scene from a movie, TV show, or meme to splice to question video.

While TikTok is popular with kids, it’s also very popular with adults, too. This means that sometimes trends may catch on that was never meant to spread to children — especially trends that feature sexually charged themes. These themed videos can contribute to the presence of dangerous TikTok challenges and sometimes slip past traditional parental controls that are in place.

Silhouette challenge

This NSFW challenge features a red-light filter and a quick-change edit to the user standing provocatively in a doorway — sometimes with lingerie, sometimes with nothing at all. Meant to originally be a body-empowerment trend for adults, it was soon upended by controversy as an editing trick to reverse-engineer the filter was leaked. Because the video creators are often wearing little clothing, without the filter, they become exposed — this is one of the more severe and dangerous TikTok challenges for underage users.

Buss it challenge

A popular song by singer Erica Banks serves as the soundtrack to this challenge, which requires users to squat down in slow motion and bounce. While it doesn’t have to be suggestive — and many versions aren’t — the majority tend to amp it up to the R-rated level.

These are the kind of TikTok trends that you hear about in the news — challenges that kids flock to and then end up injured or worse. Often, they stem from rumors that every day, household objects may lead to getting high or result in an unexpected physical effect. 

Kids can be quick to try things they see online, especially when their peers are posting videos about it on their favorite platform and trying it out may result in a spike in popularity. When they’re at this age, kids are still learning to evaluate what’s true and what’s false. At the end of the day, they’re still kids — and the part of their brains responsible for critical thinking is still developing.

Note: While the examples below were prominent a while back, viral trends have been known to return every so often, like the Momo Challenge.

Benadryl challenge

This trend revolves around teens daring each other to take large quantities of Benadryl, an anti-allergy medicine, in order to trigger hallucinations. While the pill usually just makes you sleepy, when taken in large enough doses, it can be fatal. This tragic challenge is incredibly dangerous and has resulted in the death of a teen. The Benadryl challenge is one of the most dangerous TikTok challenges that existed on the platform.

Blackout challenge

Another deadly trend involves holding one’s breath (manually or while using something like a belt) until you pass out. Also known as the “Pass Out Challenge,” this activity can cause kids to lose consciousness — sometimes to the point of brain damage or death. 

Morning-after-pill challenge

A rumor that pregnancy tests contain secret “Plan B” emergency contraception pills turned into a dangerous trend this past winter. The company that manufactures the tests tried to quell the viral trend by explaining that the tablet is just silica gel meant to absorb moisture, but countless teens have tried it. 

Like all fads, TikTok trends come and go. It’s important to have regular conversations with your kids about the kinds of things they’re watching on the platform. This way, you can get a feel for what they’re being exposed to. Talk about the dangers as well as the potential consequences of the more worrisome challenges and TikTok trends. And if you’re looking for some kid-friendly accounts that are light on danger, we’ve got some suggestions the whole family will enjoy! Plus, learn more about what's going on in your kid's world here!

How to Block TikTok with Bark

  1. From your dashboard, find your child’s profile.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Choose Parental controls.
  4. Review the rule sets you’ve scheduled.
  5. Scroll down until you see Screen time rule sets and select the rule set currently applied.
  6. Toggle TikTok to Blocked
  7. Repeat these steps for any other screen time rule sets you’ve scheduled.
  8. You’re all set!

**As of September 27, 2021, the in-development Instagram Kids app is now on hold.**

With more than a billion users worldwide, Instagram has come under fire recently for the dangers it presents to kids. Bullying, online predators, and adult content are just some of the many threats that make the platform a less than ideal place for children. Last week, the company announced a slate of new child safety features to help make Instagram safer for its youngest users. 

These rollouts include changes in how adults and kids can communicate as well as in-app experiences aimed at making kids think harder about who they’re talking to and how. An Instagram for Kids app may also be in the works, which is pretty huge news! This unexpected development may be similar in functionality to the Facebook Messenger Kids platform — but it also may just be smoke and mirrors on the part of Instagram. 

New Safety Features, Explained

Instagram’s latest safety announcement provides an in-depth explanation of all of the new features aimed at giving kids a safer experience on the platform, including:

While these can be seen as a step in the right direction and an acknowledgment of the platform's issues, most of the improvements are aspirational at best. For example, there’s still no way to actually verify users are over 13 when they create an account. The company responds to this problem by stating that it’s just common across all social media platforms. Several of the new safety features also use language like “encouraging” and “prompting,” which still leaves the ultimate decision for things like DMing and private accounts completely up to the child.

In addition to these new features, Instagram has also published a Parent’s Guide to the platform. This booklet explains the different privacy options for kids, provides a glossary of common terms, and suggests helpful ways to start safety conversations.

Instagram for Kids: What It May Look Like

Rumors of an Instagram for Kids app emerged last week as well, although Instagram hasn’t posted details about this development as of yet. Sources like The Associated Press, Buzzfeed News, and People have, however, confirmed that this new app may really be in the works. 

The big question is, of course, what will it look like? We imagine it may follow in the footsteps of parent company Facebook’s family-friendly option, Messenger Kids. With it, parents set up and manage their child’s Messenger Kids account through their own Facebook account. This enables them to have complete oversight and transparency with regards to what their kid is doing online. 

An Instagram version of this would likely involve a similar parent-managed account, with approval required for who a child follows and is followed by. And, because many of the dangers of Instagram are external, it’s likely that search, message requests, hashtags, and the Explore page may be turned off, as well. This sort of closed-world environment would provide a much safer way for kids to engage in photo sharing, commenting, replying, and messaging on the app.

Will This New App Just Be Smoke And Mirrors?

This new kid’s version of Instagram sounds like a good way to provide children of that in-between age (around 10 to 13, which is the official age required to have a full Instagram account) with a more supervised experience. So, what’s the issue?

First, this development appears on the surface to be a step forward in child safety, but it’s tempting to ask: who does getting users introduced to an app at a young age benefit the most? Most times, it’s the company. Secondly, a brand new app for younger kids does nothing to help protect the kids most at risk — the ones who are already on the platform (either of legal age or those who have fudged their birthdate). Right now, there’s a real tension in the world of social media between parents and the platform. At the end of the day, who’s responsible for child safety?

Parents Need More Tools, Not More Apps

At Bark, we believe that parents are usually in the best position to help protect their kids while they’re online. Big Tech doesn’t need to step in and parent — but we also understand that we need their help. What does that look like? It could be something like parental controls that actually work, or at least ones that don’t let kids unilaterally turn them off whenever they want (sadly, an all too common problem for Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and countless other apps).

Instagram for Kids could be a good idea, but online safety isn’t a problem with a one-size-fits-all solution. What would truly benefit families is the ability for parents to actually supervise and manage their children’s social media experiences every step of the way. Kids could then grow up with custom settings and experiences to help them as they learn to use tech responsibly —with their parents providing guidance and guardrails along the way.

**This blog post was updated on August 6, 2021.**

As a parent, you might have found the title of this blog post surprising for two big reasons. First, Twitter probably isn’t the first platform that comes to your mind when you think of porn. And second, when you think about social media sites popular among kids, interactive favorites like TikTok and Snapchat generally outshine the more news-heavy and adult-focused Twitter.

So, how — and why — are kids looking at Twitter porn? The short answer: because the company makes it really easy to find it. In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into this concerning trend. We're here to help you learn how it works as well as how to help protect your child from seeing things they aren’t ready for yet.

Twitter’s Complicated Relationship With Sexual Content

Unlike more aggressively moderated social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter aims (in theory, at least) to strike a balance between censorship and free expression. In practice, this results in a sometimes wild and potentially harmful environment for children. The company acknowledges in its rules and policies that users may be exposed to inappropriate content — full stop. To help limit this exposure, Twitter “encourages” users to adhere to two well-meaning but hard-to-enforce rules:

How Kids Can Find Twitter Porn

Twitter’s search function is basically a Google search bar. Searches can lead to a dizzying array of profiles, tweets, and links with pornographic content. Conventional terms like “porn” serve up countless results, but there are also workarounds to find content: alternate spellings like “p0rn” and “seggs” for example. Because of Twitter’s loose standards, however, these usually aren’t needed. A quick search for “anime porn” will reveal immediate explicit content. 

Kids may also learn about Twitter porn on other platforms. If you search for #twitterporn on TikTok, for instance, you’ll see tons of videos that provide tips and advice on how to find it. You’ll also encounter confession videos where teens spread the word about how Twitter is the best porn platform (versus traditional porn sites like Pornhub). Other videos show kids joking about how their parents wonder why they have been spending so much time on Twitter. (Hint: it’s not because they love tweeting).

Kids may use Twitter to look at porn because the platform won’t look suspicious if a parent does a quick browser history check. As we discussed earlier, Twitter is more traditionally known as a celebrity gossip and breaking-news platform than a go-to porn site. And, because it’s not exactly all the rage with Gen Z, it’s also not usually an app parents tend to worry too much about when setting screen time rules or creating web filters. Finally, kids don’t even have to sign up for a Twitter account or use the app to access its content. They can browse anonymously through a web browser.

What Porn Looks Like on Twitter

Twitter isn’t a traditional video-streaming porn site, as it’s not the site’s main function. Like all of its content, pornographic content on the platform consists largely of short snippets of explicit material. Usually, these are still images, looping animated GIFs, and brief videos. 

Graphic written descriptions of sex acts may accompany these visual depictions. In addition to on-site exposure, kids may also discover links to external sites from Twitter profiles and tweets. This can then lead them down a rabbit hole of inappropriate content. 

How to Block Twitter with Bark

  1. From your dashboard, find your child’s profile.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Choose Parental controls.
  4. Review the rule sets you’ve scheduled.
  5. Scroll down until you see Screen time rule sets and select the rule set currently applied.
  6. Toggle Twitter to Blocked
  7. Repeat these steps for any other screen time rule sets you’ve scheduled.
  8. You’re all set!

Ways Parents Can Help Protect Their Kids

According to our 2020 Annual Report, 70.7% of tweens and 84.0% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature online. For many kids, some of this content may come from Twitter. One of the most important things to do is talk to your child about porn — especially because sexual content may appear without them even looking for it. It’s important to express your family’s values and stance on the matter. And don't forget to reassure them that they can come to you no matter what they find online. 

Bark’s monitoring service can help your family, as well. While we can’t monitor non-child accounts — that is, the content that appears on feeds — we can monitor your child’s tweets, replies, and DMs. So, if they’re sharing inappropriate content with others or tweeting about it, you’ll get an alert. Finally, you can use our screen time tool to limit access to not only the Twitter app, but also internet browsers they may access it on. 

On the platform itself, Twitter has a safe search filtering option available for all accounts. This will hide sensitive content (which includes sexual content, graphic violence, and more). Keep in mind that kids will be able to turn this feature back off at any point without your permission. 

We know it can be frustrating (and scary!) to learn about all of the different ways your kids can be exposed to inappropriate content online. It seems like just as soon as we figure one thing out, another option pops up to take its place. We hope this blog post has enlightened you to the growing Twitter porn trend — and that it has prepared you for an important talk with your child. You can find more information about social media platforms here.

**Update: As of April 7, the supervised accounts feature is live!**

If your kids have entered into the YouTube Goldilocks zone — old enough for a little more freedom and online responsibility, but still young enough to need your guidance and supervision —  we’ve got great news for you. Parents all across the world are rejoicing at the recent announcement of YouTube parental controls that can grow with your child as they become young adults. We’ll break down everything you need to know about this update, including how it came about, how it will work, and why it’s a fantastic step in the right direction for social media and families. 

New YouTube Parental Controls: Why They’re Doing It

In the blog post announcing these new features, YouTube expressed that “We’ve heard from parents and older children that tweens and teens have different needs, which weren’t being fully met by our products.” So, they set out to make their platform better.

Because striking the balance between freedom and protection isn’t easy, the company consulted with parents and online safety experts from around the globe. This new supervised experience will have new content settings and limited features, and there’ll be a mix of user input, machine learning, and human review to determine which videos will be shown to kids.

How Supervised YouTube Experiences Work

YouTube’s new supervision features bridge the gap between the YouTube Kids experience and total freedom. Parents can select from one of three modes depending on their family’s values and the child’s maturity level:

On top of these customizable content controls, families can manage their child’s search history to keep an eye on their online activity. YouTube also said that eventually families will also be introduced to more advanced controls like content blocking. 

Why This Update is So Important 

A lot of the technology and social media we use today was created by adults, for adults about a generation ago. People probably didn’t ever expect to be raising kids who would spend hours a week on the platform they used to watch funny videos on in their 20s. It’s similar to the Y2K bug issue in the late 90s — technology that was created without much foresight into how it would be used and affect people years down the line. 

By taking such progressive steps and giving parents the ability to have more say in how their kids use YouTube, the company is helping to pave the way for other social media and tech companies to create more avenues for families to be involved. At the end of the day, you know your child best, and these new YouTube parental controls will not only help you keep them safe online, they’ll also enable you to help your child grow and thrive as they learn how to incorporate healthy tech use into their lives. But like all parental controls, they’re not perfect — and definitely not a substitute for engaged involvement in your child’s life. Make sure you continue to talk regularly about online safety and age-appropriate content as your child grows up.

Parental control guide illustrated by a blue Nintendo controller, Android phones, a Switch, the YouTube logo, and more

**This blog post was updated on July 29, 2022.**

With so many platforms and devices on the market, it’s hard for parents to make sure that their kids are using them safely. Every time a new one comes out, there’s a new set of parental controls that you have to track down. The process is confusing and time-consuming. That’s why Bark has put together this comprehensive parental control guide — covering everything from apps and games to phones and tablets — so you can help keep your kids safe online and in real life.

No more googling “How to restrict Netflix” or chasing down flimsy instruction manuals in junk drawers. This page allows busy parents to save time while feeling peace of mind knowing that their child’s devices and technologies are under control. Click the links below to jump to the categories that apply to you!

Android parental controls

Parental Control Guides for Android Devices

Android phones and devices are some of the best on the market, but kids can abuse them just like any other device. From games and in-app purchases to data usage and internet access, children are at risk of racking up a bill and encountering inappropriate content. Fortunately, Androids have parental controls at both the level of the device and the operating system. Parents can also manage their children’s accounts through the Family Link app. And don’t forget that Androids are great for monitoring!

Back to Top
web browser parental controls

Parental Controls for Web Browsers

It goes without saying that the internet provides plenty of reasons to celebrate. But it also connects kids with content that may not be age-appropriate. Even worse is the fact that the internet hosts an array of messaging platforms where online predators lurk. That’s why it’s important for parents to secure their web browsers by following the instructions in the relevant parental control guide below.

Back to Top
parental controls for cable providers

Parental Controls for Cable Providers

We may be living in the golden age of television, but not all programming is suited for young eyes — and that goes for movies as well. With so many channels available today, violence and adult content are easily accessible, even in the more basic cable packages. Setting the parental controls for your cable provider can keep your children from watching movies and TV shows that you’re not comfortable allowing them to see.

Back to Top
parental controls for email

Parental Controls for Email Providers

Email accounts are great for productivity and keeping up with friends, but they can also become platforms where inappropriate relationships begin, eventually leading to offline contact. It’s important for parents to know how to limit how their child communicates, as well as prevent them from receiving targeted ads, spam, and other undesirable messages.

Back to Top
parental controls for video games

Parental Controls for Video Games and Gaming Systems

The jury may still be out on whether or not video games are bad for kids, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise discretion over what and how they play. The list below will show you how to set up parental controls for some of the most popular games on the scene. Not sure if one of these games is appropriate for your child? Our friends over at Common Sense Media will walk you through everything you need to know.

Back to Top
parental controls for internet

Parental Controls for Internet Providers

You may have already set up parental controls on your internet browser, but have you set them up with your service provider? You might be surprised by everything you can do. From device pausing and screen time limits to full activity reports, your control settings can help you manage the safety and security of your household as they navigate the online world. Click on the relevant parental control guide below!

Back to Top
parental controls for iPhone iPad

Parental Controls for iPhones/iPad/iPod

Apple devices have lots of ways for parents to control safety, privacy, and other types of settings. Similar to the Family Link app found on Android phones, Apple offers Family Sharing that affords parents the ability to manage their children’s accounts. Software updates roll out quickly though, and we always advise parents to install the latest version so they can keep up with all the new features.

Back to Top
parental controls for laptops computers

Parental Controls for Laptops and Computers

For all the concern about smartphones, it’s easy to forget that laptops and computers are also staples of a child’s technology collection. No matter the brand or operating system, there are all kinds of ways that kids can get themselves into trouble on these devices. Taking advantage of the available parental controls can help block access to inappropriate games and websites, secure the privacy settings, and more!

Back to Top
parental controls for smart home devices

Parental Controls for Smart Home Devices

Smart home devices are like tiny personal assistants always waiting in the wings to play our favorite music, tell us about the weather, and remind us of upcoming events. But for all their practical applications, there are plenty of ways that kids can use them inappropriately. From blocking access to explicit content to preventing kids from buying four pounds of cookies and a dollhouse, you’ll want to make sure to take a look at the parental control guide for your own device.

Back to Top
parental controls for social media

Parental Controls for Social Media and Apps

Social media platforms have taken the world by storm, and so too have stories of users having terrible experiences. Cyberbullies assail their victims around the clock, predators groom children in chatrooms, and nefarious corporations exploit personal information for financial and political gain. It’s important for parents to make sure that the safety and privacy of their children are protected through the available parental controls. Visit our friends at Common Sense Media and Protect Young Eyes to learn more about the apps your child is using.

Back to Top
parental controls for streaming services

Parental Controls for Streaming Services

Setting parental controls on streaming services can go a long way toward keeping your kid from watching inappropriate movies and TV shows. These settings can allow parents to block certain programs by rating or category, check on the recent activity, and more. Some parents might not mind their child binge-watching Orange is the New Black, for example, but that might not be appropriate in other households.

Back to Top
parental controls for tablets

Parental Controls for Tablets

Tablets can have many of the same features and functionalities as phones and laptops, so it’s important for families to make sure that they’ve taken advantage of all of the available parental controls settings. From curfews and purchase restrictions to screen time limits and web filtering, these instructions will help you keep your kids safe on their tablets.

Back to Top
parental controls for wireless carriers

Parental Controls for Wireless Carriers

Wireless carriers have some pretty robust parental control settings that families can use to secure their kids’ devices. Many of the controls are similar to what you’ll find at the level of the device or operating system, but don’t sleep on the extras like location tracking, call/text limits, or even pausing the internet!

Back to Top

Safety Beyond This Parental Control Guide

This ultimate parental control guide can give your family amazing protections against all kinds of issues, but these settings are mostly preventative — there are still plenty of ways that kids can get into trouble that can’t be managed with the flip of a switch. Even when they’re not actively seeking it out, they can encounter a worrying amount of problematic content and communications. It's important for parents and guardians to take advantage of all of the digital safety tools that are available to them to help protect their kids both online and in real life.

**This blog post was updated on September 7, 2021.**

**Update: As of April 13, Instagram still hasn't taken down @HaveBikini — even after an influx of reports.**

Yesterday, Titania Jordan, our chief parenting officer, came across an Instagram account sharing hundreds of images of teen (and even tween) girls in bikinis, and when she filed an Instagram report, nothing happened. Now let’s be clear: Bikini photos are not the problem here. But the way they’re being shared on this account is.

One of the differences between, say, American Eagle’s Instagram account sharing a shot of a girl posing in a fun suit and what “Bikini Teens” is doing is the entire purpose behind the posts. Bikini Teens isn’t sharing these posts to sell a cute new tie-dye bikini. It’s posting for the sole purpose of displaying random teens’ semi-nude bodies for anyone to see. Even the Story highlights on the profile reduce these young girls to fitting neatly into “Brunettes,” “Redheads,” or “Blondes.”

When Bikini Teens does share a photo, they’re grabbing it straight from the girl’s own Instagram account, and they often tag her — potentially opening her up to receive unwanted messages from strangers.

This is not the only account like this. They’re everywhere, and some contain even more explicit images of what are clearly kids. Disgustingly, these accounts are goldmines to predators. But we’re urging you to report “Bikini Teens” because the more of us who bring it to Instagram’s attention, the better our chances are of getting it taken down and making the platform a little safer for everyone.

How to File an Instagram Report Against This Account

  1. Open the account’s profile on Instagram.
  2. Click the three dots beside the “follow” button at the top of the page.
  3. Click “Report User.”
  4. Click “It’s inappropriate.”
  5. Click “Report account.”
  6. Click “It’s posting content that shouldn’t be on Instagram.”
  7. Click “Nudity or sexual activity.”
  8. Click “Involves a child.”

New Instagram Safety Update

On March 16, Instagram released an announcement detailing new features designed to help protect young users. These include working to detect when kids are lying about their age, restricting which adults can message teens, providing safety notices to kids who may be engaging in unsafe conversations, and more. While these changes are a step in the right direction, they likely will not lead to children being meaningfully safer on the platform.

What Else You Can Do to Help

It can be easy to get upset when you see accounts like this, but you may find comfort in the fact that there are steps you can take to help.

Report, report, report

Even if Instagram can ignore a handful of complaints that an account is posting inappropriate content involving children, we’ve seen that they’re likely to take action when a number of people work together. So never assume sounding an alarm won’t make a difference, because you and your community can create real change together.

Be alert 

It can be easy to assume that since social media platforms have community guidelines in place and reporting tools you can use, they will take speedy action when you bring something to their attention. But, sadly, that just isn’t generally the case. Do not trust that Instagram has your child’s best interest in mind.

Educate your kid

A teen or tween who wants to build a large following on Instagram might insist on keeping their account public, but be sure to talk with them about some of the issues with this that they might even realize. As shown above, it’s easy for one of these predatorial accounts to grab the cute beach pic your tween posted last summer and share it for tens of thousands of strangers to see. And it would most likely be a nightmare — if not altogether impossible — to get that photo taken down. 

Turn off message requests

Even if your kid has a private account, they can receive message requests (that show you the text, images, and videos they’ve been sent) from anyone unless you disable that feature. We’ve included a step-by-step guide for how to do that in this blog post about Instagram messaging.

Empower other parents

Whether you recognized how pervasive an issue this is on Instagram or not, it’s likely that a big group of parents in your social circle aren’t aware. Help them protect their own children by sharing this important information with them… and urge them to pass on the message.

Put safeguards in place

You can’t file an Instagram report for every single predatorial account on Instagram, but you can make it easier to know if something’s wrong in your own child’s online activities. We’re here to help by sending you an alert if they receive a message .

The messenger kids logo

As parents probably know, Facebook is the most widely used social media platform for adults today. More than 2 billion people use it to stay in touch, and nearly half of those people use Messenger, its text chat and video app. While teens may opt for the Wild Wests of TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, younger kids and tweens are now using the Facebook Messenger Kids app in record numbers (and not just for the fun illustrated stickers and interactive filters).

Facebook launched Messenger Kids, a video chat and messaging app designed specifically for kids to communicate with family and close friends, in 2017. Much of the app’s appeal lies in the fact that parents not only have full oversight into their children’s activities, but they can also rely on the contact lists of their existing Facebook networks. Kids get a level of autonomy while parents get peace of mind that they can see (mostly) everything their child is doing on the app.

If your child is already using Messenger Kids — or if you’re thinking about using it to help them connect with friends and family — we’ll break down everything you need to know in this blog post. 

How Messenger Kids is Different from Other Social Media

Before we dive into the mechanics of Messenger Kids, it may be helpful to understand why many parents choose to use it. Technically, kids under 13 cannot use social media platforms (including Facebook) because of COPPA, a federal law that protects children’s online data. Messenger Kids sidesteps this requirement because parents actually sign up on their child’s behalf and manage their account themselves. 

This set-up — where kids use the app in a controlled environment and their parents manage every aspect of it — is like training wheels for a child’s first social media experience. With Messenger Kids, children don’t have a public profile that every other Facebook user can see. Parents can choose to make their kid’s name and profile photo visible to friends of their kid’s contacts (and their parents), the kids of their own Facebook friends, and the kids of people they invite to download the app. No other social media platform gives parents this level of control.

How Messenger Kids Works

Parents begin by downloading the app onto their child’s device. They set up and manage their child's Messenger Kids account through their own Facebook account. Parents can then:

The app relies heavily on parental involvement, both for managing your own child’s account and reaching out to other parents to approve child connections. The hallmark of Messenger Kids is visibility on all sides so that there are no surprises or hidden activities. Parents can also download their child’s conversations at any time.

Family members who are older especially like the functionality of Messenger Kids because they don't have to download any new apps in order to keep in touch. If a grandparent already has Facebook, they can get started chatting with their grandchild right away without having to learn how to navigate a new social media platform.

What Protections Are There On Facebook Messenger Kids?

Apart from a 2019 technical flaw that temporarily allowed strangers into some group chats, Messenger Kids is a remarkably secure app for kids wishing to chat and video call with friends and family members. A parent can see nearly everything about their child’s Messenger Kids experience through their own Facebook dashboard, including:

And unlike most chat apps, nothing can be deleted on Facebook Messenger, which means parents can scroll back and read every message they want. Kids also don’t have the ability to send links or YouTube videos within the app, which means their exposure to potentially concerning content is limited to in-app communications.

Potential Dangers in Messenger Kids

Because of all the safeguards that are in place with Messenger Kids, the primary dangers kids face are interactions with existing friends and acquaintances, rather than strangers. A common adolescent risk is cyberbullying, which can take place both in text chats and images/videos.

One blind spot in Messenger Kids, though, is the video functionality. While parents can see who their child called and when they called them, no record is left of the interaction itself. This means that if your child experienced cyberbullying or other potential issues like inappropriate or offensive content over live video chats, and there would be no evidence.

Parents may be also concerned that introducing their children to a Facebook product at a young age may get them “hooked” on the platform at an early age. This is a risk for any social media platform, however — concerned parents wishing to combat this can limit time on the Facebook Messanger Kids app and set strong boundaries.

All in all, the Facebook Messenger Kids app is a secure way for parents to let their kids keep in touch with friends and family members in a pretty safe environment with lots of oversight. While security breaches can occur in any app — as have on this very platform in 2019 — consistent supervision and check-ins with your child can go a long way in giving you peace of mind.

Teen slang illustrated with bright words and emojis

We’ve combed through our data at Bark to find the most common instances of teen slang that kids are using these days. Some of this slang you’ll be familiar with, but much of it may surprise you! (P.S. If you want to receive alerts if your child uses a potentially worrisome word or phrase, we can help!)

**Note: This list was updated on Jan. 25, 2023.**

Text Slang Decoded

Less Frequently Used Teen Slang Terms

Teen Slang Emoji Icons

Pretty frequently, kids opt for emojis instead of typing out full words. Here’s a helpful list of some of the most popular teen slang emojis decoded.