If you’ve ever watched Sailor Moon or played Pokemon Go (remember when that app took over the world back in 2016?), you’ve seen anime. Anime is one of the world’s most popular types of entertainment, and while it’s not new, it’s been growing in popularity in America over the past 20 years. Kids especially are drawn to it (pun intended) and make up a large part of the fanbase. Because of this, anime culture now extends to television, movies, social media, fan fiction, memes, and so much more. So, just what is anime? In this post, we’ll explain its history, why kids love it, where they find it, potential dangers, and more.
What is Anime?
Anime refers to a specific style of cartoon produced or inspired by Japanese animation. Think of it this way: all anime shows are cartoons, but not all cartoons are anime. The art style associated with anime is very unique and recognizable. You’re probably familiar with the large eyes, wild hair, long arms and limbs, and more. This exaggerated design helps the characters more easily express emotions — of which there are plenty in anime.
Also adding to the emotional feel of anime are the technical animation tricks like dramatic closeups and zooms, intense lighting, and brilliant colors. But beyond its distinctive visual look, anime has endeared itself into the hearts of fans because of its complex characters and engaging plotlines.
Anime’s Popularity in America, Explained
Anime has been popular in Japan for more than a century, and its TV shows and movies are now exported all over the world. America has been enjoying anime as far back as the ‘60s with Speed Racer, a kid favorite at the time. In the ‘90s, the loveable Studio Ghibli had a string of mainstream movie hits. Spirited Away even won an Oscar for best foreign-language film at the 2001 Academy Awards.
Not long after that, a whole generation of kids grew up watching Pokemon and DragonBall Z, two kids’ shows that aired on TV all across the country. Today, kids can find anime instantly on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and more, showing that interest in the genre shows no signs of waning.
Just Because It’s Animated Doesn’t Mean It’s for Kids
In America, animated shows are usually marketed toward and made for kids. Exceptions exist, of course, but generally speaking, adults gravitate more toward live-action entertainment. In Japan, though, animated shows are made for people of all ages, and it’s commonplace for people in their 40s, 50s, and beyond to have favorite anime characters and shows. But even though the content is animated, anime can have very adult themes, ranging from serious drama all the way to pornography.
The Dangers of Anime
This brings us to some of the dangers facing kids as they explore the world of anime. Because so many anime TV shows and movies are made for adults, the chances a kid could be exposed to very inappropriate content are high. This includes things like violence, crude language, nudity, drug use, and sexual content — basically anything they could see in a live-action R-rated movie.
As anime has become more mainstream, though, a quick Google search can reveal whether a certain TV show or movie is for kids or adults, which can help you set limits on what’s allowed. Fortunately, there’s absolutely no shortage of anime that is completely acceptable for kids to watch. Bark can also help you keep your kids safe from inappropriate content by blocking categories of content and specific websites.
How Do Kids Find Anime?
Anime can be found in nearly every corner of the internet — and that’s no exaggeration. It’s embedded itself into online culture like few other things have. From full-length movies and TV shows to hashtagged posts on social media, in fan fiction, and more, there’s all kinds of content out there. Here’s a quick list of how kids often find anime and anime-related material:
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime
These popular household subscription services have tons of old and new anime content.
Crunchyroll is basically a Netflix just for anime. It’s free with ads, but there’s also a premium option.
It’s illegal to pirate shows, but it still happens, especially when content isn’t available for streaming due to country restrictions.
Here, kids can watch clips of their favorite shows and movies, fan-made videos, mashups, and more.
Tumblr is home to a ton of anime content, especially fan art and GIFs.
Popular subreddits where fans gather to talk about anime include r/anime, r/animemes (memes about anime), and countless others for particular shows and movies.
Fan art and memes are especially popular on this photo-sharing platform and can be found in a matter of seconds thanks to #anime, which has more than 156 million posts.
Anime-themed TikToks are also incredibly popular and are even used as viral sounds in non-anime videos.
Anime fanfiction is wildly popular on sites like fanfiction.net and Wattpad.
Similar to messaging app Slack, Discord is home to many anime servers where fans gather to message and voice chat.
On Spotify, kids listen to anime soundtracks and search for, create, and share playlists inspired by their favorite shows.
Another popular part of anime culture is going to conventions. These fan festivals and gatherings feature lots of costumes (known as cosplay), panels, performances, vendor halls, and more.
Is Anime Related to Manga?
Think of it this way: anime is to animated cartoons as manga is to comic books. Manga is essentially the paper (or ebook) version of anime, with similar drawing styles and themes.
Manga is incredibly popular in Japan and a part of its national culture. In fact, in this year’s opening ceremonies at the Olympics in Tokyo, manga even made an appearance! The placards introducing each country’s athletes were designed in manga’s traditional speech-bubble style. Like its counterpart, manga has spread in popularity in America.
How to Keep Your Kid Safe
A quick stroll through your neighborhood Barnes & Noble will reveal entire shelves dedicated to these graphic novels. Keep in mind, too, that the potential for exposure to potentially inappropriate content in manga is just as high as for anime.
If your child is expressing an interest in anime — or is already an anime aficionado — they’re not alone! Millions of kids all over the world love these shows and characters. If you feel a little lost because you don’t know anything about anime, now is the time to sit down with your kid and learn more about it. You already know the basics thanks to this blog post — what anime is and why it’s popular.
The next step is to find out what your kid is passionate about, the characters they love, and what they spend their time watching. Discuss your family’s values about what’s acceptable to view and what’s not. Depending on your child’s age, you can set parental controls on streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu to help protect them from seeing anything too mature. And as always, make sure they always know they can talk to you if they watch something that upsets them.
If you’ve tried talking about Bark with your kids and didn’t get very far, not to worry. We’ve got help! We totally get it — most kids probably aren’t thrilled to have a monitoring service put on their phones. But they might be surprised to learn that, at the end of the day, Bark’s child internet safety app actually gives them more privacy, not less. Also, because kids don’t always look at the big picture, you may have to explain some of the very real dangers that monitoring can help protect them from. Read on for tips to make internet safety for kids and the monitoring process a little easier for your family.
Internet Safety for Kids: How to Talk About Bark With Your Children
Explain that this is all uncharted territory
Leading with love, tell your kids that your family’s decision to monitor their online activities wasn’t one that was taken lightly. Explain that literally no other generation of parents in human history has dealt with raising kids that have smartphones. So, there’s not exactly a guidebook! Many of the dangers facing kids are all brand-new, like cyberbullying and online predators. Right now, the best way to address the dangers from technology is actually with more technology — and that’s where Bark’s child internet safety app comes in.
Present the alternatives
In terms of privacy, Bark isn’t even in the top three most restrictive ways parents can keep tabs on their children’s devices. First, explain that some kids don’t even get smartphones at all — or have to wait until they’re a certain age. Second, some kids have to turn in their phones at the end of each day so their parents scan through all of their texts, posts, and photos. Finally, some families even resort to spying apps that give parents complete access to every single thing on their kid’s phone. Bark’s internet safety app is definitely a happy medium in comparison, only alerting parents to potential issues and nothing else.
Highlight external threats
Internet safety for kids is hard to teach and for many families, the main worry isn’t about their own child — it’s about everyone else on the internet. No matter how careful a kid is, there’s always a chance that someone else may lead them into a dangerous situation. This can include cyberbullying, which takes many forms and can cause children severe anxiety and depression. Online predators may also take advantage of a child’s trust and start abusing them through the grooming process. Another example is the recent trend of drug dealers soliciting children on Snapchat. It’s a dangerous world out there, and the internet has made it even more so — especially for kids.
Talk about the dangers
Kids may not believe it, but the number of dangers facing kids is actually pretty high, and they’re incredibly common among young people. Last year, Bark analyzed more than 2.1 billion messages across texts, email, and 30+ apps and social media platforms and found that:
- 76.7% of tweens and 82.0% of teens experienced bullying as a bully, victim, or witness.
- 45.5% of tweens and 66.3% of teens engaged in conversations about depression.
- 70.9% of tweens and 87.9% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature.
Watch Childhood 2.0 together
In this eye-opening documentary featuring Bark, actual teens and tweens talk about what it’s really like growing up in the digital age. The film also features experts in technology, pediatrics, and law enforcement who comment on dangers like online predation, anxiety, and more. You can stream Childhood 2.0 absolutely free. Note: This movie addresses serious issues and may not be appropriate for very young children.
Real-Life Examples of How Parents Have Explained Bark to Their Kids
“I explained Bark by comparing it to the alarm system in our home — we don’t even notice that it’s there, but it’s working in the background at all times, only alerting us when something bad is happening.”
“I let them know this isn’t a punishment and explained that I wanted to be transparent and build trust with them rather than snooping behind their backs, and Bark allows me to do that.”
“It’s 100% not because I don’t trust my daughter or that I want to spy on her. I let her know that I understand how she must feel and assure her I’m not going through every post, message, comment, etc. I didn’t make it out to be a big deal. I also put [Bark] in a folder so that she doesn’t notice it every time she scrolls through her apps.”
The Importance of Digital Citizenship When Discussing Internet Safety for Kids
Along with monitoring your kid’s activities, it’s important to teach them how to be a good digital citizen. Phones are tools that they’re going to use for the rest of their lives, so starting healthy habits early is key to helping them thrive. This includes creating family tech contracts, learning how to identify and choose trustworthy sources of information, and striving to act with compassion and empathy while online.
A Stranger Danger Video Made Just for Kids
Often, seeing is believing — especially for children as they learn about some of the dangers of using the internet. That’s why our team created a video to show just how easy it is for an adult to create a fake social media account and masquerade as a kid. In just a few short minutes, kids can learn exactly how people aren’t always who they say they are online. Bark helps parents protect their kids from predators like these. Alerts are sent when conversations may indicate a large age gap or potentially abusive behavior.
Internet safety for kids is a complicated subject, and it can be a challenge to get your children to understand just how important it is. One way to make the process of monitoring with Bark a little easier is to start as soon as possible. The earlier kids understand that having a phone also comes with having Bark, the more they’ll accept it as part of their routine. But no matter their age, hopefully they’ll understand that you’re doing it out of love. And as always, when in doubt, talk it out. Discuss internet safety for kids with your child — and keep discussing! — their ideas, feelings, and perspectives on growing up in the digital age.
Do you remember reading the Fear Street books when you were growing up? How about the chill you felt when you heard the eerie theme music to Unsolved Mysteries? If so, you can probably relate to the first time you figured out that scary stuff can be fun sometimes. Today’s generation is no different! The only difference is — like nearly everything else (TikTok, anyone?) — they just use the internet to do it. Gen Z prefers to read online scary stories called creepypasta. Yes, you read that right! We’re not talking about spooky spaghetti. So, just what is creepypasta? Buckle up for a deep dive on the internet’s most terrifying tales — and why kids love them.
First, Why Is It Called Creepypasta?
Let’s start with the name. Creepypasta is a variation of the word “copypasta,” which refers to blocks of text that get shared across the internet (remember email chain letters and jokes?). Copypasta, in turn, got its name from the actions of “copy” and “pasting” stories in emails, message boards, and websites.
Think of creepypasta like the internet version of scary camp stories that everyone knows: the girl with the green ribbon, Bloody Mary, or the car with the hook stuck on the door. Tales like these got passed around by word-of-mouth, had slight differences, but retained the same scary core features. Creepypasta is much the same — it’s just all online.
What Is Creepypasta?
Creepypasta refers to horror stories that are kind of like internet urban legends — stories that have been read on different websites over the years that can’t be tied to a single author. Over time, different people have taken these myths and added to them. Some even create brand-new stories. Today, writing creepypasta is a popular pastime for both kids and adults around the world — it’s basically fan fiction for horror. The stories are often (but not always) accompanied by extremely disturbing images that help them go viral.
The Allure of Horror Myths
So what is creepypasta used for? Well, spooky entertainment can sometimes provide a way for children to experiment with big feelings, growing independence, and even “big kid” behavior. Scary content often deals with uncomfortable issues, and this can make kids feel like they’re being edgy and pushing limits.
Creepypasta is especially alluring because many examples of it are written in the first person, making the stories seem like real accounts. This trend is not new — remember The Blair Witch Project in the ‘90s, and how the marketing campaign framed it as alleged “found footage?” The whole point was to freak people out and make them think that maybe it’s real and not fiction. But of course, it was entirely made up!
Popular Types of Creepypastas
Just like scary movies have genres — think monsters, vampires, slasher films, and haunted houses — creepypastas also come in a wide variety of types.
These stories revolve around mythic, evil characters like Slender Man. They’re usually origin stories of how they were first discovered, what they do to people, and how often they’re spotted in the real world or in photos.
Creepypastas about made-up episodes of TV shows, usually ones the “author” of the story stumbles across on old DVDs or catches on the air late at night, are another popular genre. Typically dark in nature, they present disturbing plots and imagery of light-hearted TV shows. An example would be a lost episode of Spongebob Squarepants where something traumatic and horrifying happens to Squidward.
This trend is kind of like an interactive game. The main idea is that you can get “stuck” in the backrooms — another dimension of never-ending and inescapable rooms. They are usually yellow-walled, dingy offices often populated with terrifying creatures just out of sight. On the Backrooms subreddit, people post photos of these types of rooms (real-life photos they’ve taken or found on the internet). The spook factor in these lies in the idea that these types of office buildings are usually empty and benign — but what if they weren’t? And you couldn’t escape?
Remember the scary movie The Ring? In it, people who watched a “haunted” VHS cassette would have just seven days to live after viewing. Now, take that idea and apply it to websites, YouTube videos, or even emails. For kids, the idea of haunted video games is also popular, especially evil versions of beloved characters like Sonic the Hedgehog or Link from Zelda.
Where Can You Find It?
A quick Google search will reveal millions of results for creepypasta — and not just websites, but also videos, images, and GIFs. Creepypasta has managed to infiltrate nearly every corner of the internet — if you know where to look for it.
- Ground zero for creepypasta on the internet is an archive called Creepypasta.com. It showcases new and upcoming stories as well as classic creepypastas.
- On Tumblr, #creepypasta is an incredibly active hashtag that goes beyond simple stories to include fan art, memes, and more.
- Reddit — especially the Creepypasta subreddit, which has more than 500,000 subscribers — is home to lots of stories, images, and more.
- Fanfiction favorite Wattpad has almost 90,000 stories about creepypasta written by amateur authors.
- YouTube features a ton of creepypasta videos featuring disturbing imagery and narrated tales.
Dangers of Creepypasta
While there’s nothing wrong with a good spook every now and then, the inherent dangers of creepypasta lie in the fact that kids can get in over their heads if they start spending too much time immersed in terrifying material. Graphic stories about murder and violence and teeth-chattering imagery can be especially disturbing to young readers. Prolonged exposure can cause anxiety, leading to sleepless nights and excessive worry. Stories about suicide or self-harm — of which there are many — can be triggering to kids who struggle with these issues. Relatedly, you may remember the Momo Challenge from a few years ago. While it was proven to be a hoax, its disturbing imagery made the rounds on the internet and had parents (and kids) scared of secret messages in YouTube videos encouraging child suicide.
The most well-documented and notorious event associated with creepypasta occurred when two girls, both obsessed with the creepypasta monster Slender Man, stabbed another child in an attempt to prove that he was real. This tragedy shows what can happen when young people take an idea too far. It’s important to note that this appeared to be an isolated event and not any sort of trend.
What to Do If Your Kid Is Interested in Creepypasta
What is creepypasta? At the end of the day, it’s this generation’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? or Nightmare on Elm Street. And like for generations past, some things are acceptable and some are too inappropriate — it all depends on your kid, the content, and your family’s values.
If your child has expressed an interest in creepypasta stories, talk about it with them! Discuss the kinds of stories they like to read and maybe even write about. Sit down with them and read a few together so you can know what they’re getting into. For younger kids, stress that these creepypasta stories, while they’re written to sound real, are just made-up tales like the ones you find in books. Finally, make sure they know you are always available to talk if they read something that upsets them. Sometimes, kids just need a hug and reassurance that there are no monsters under their bed (or laptop).
In the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day life raising kids, it can be easy to find yourself doing a lot of talking but not necessarily a whole lot of connecting. It’s not always easy — running out the door to carpool or scrambling to make dinner on a school night isn’t usually the perfect moment for a heart-to-heart talk. But for those times when you’re ready to sit down and truly connect, we’ve compiled some helpful conversation starters for kids so your family can grow closer and learn about each other.
The Importance of Conversation Starters for Kids
Being active and engaged in your kid’s life is one of the best investments you can make in your child’s well-being and future. Not only will you know what’s going on in their life, but you’ll also create and nurture open lines of communication so your child will feel more comfortable coming to you with any issues they may have. This can ultimately help keep them safer because you’ll be able to intervene in situations a lot earlier if your support is needed.
Mastering the Art of Meaningful Conversations
One of the most important things to remember about talking to your kids is to try and be yourself. Kids appreciate authenticity, so don’t try to be too formal when you’re breaking the ice. Humor is always good, and so are embarrassing stories from your own childhood, which can help your kid relate to you a little easier.
From a technical standpoint, approach conversations kind of like a lawyer — don’t ask yes or no questions unless you want one-word answers. Similarly, try to use lots of “why” and “what” prompts so the answer requires a few sentences and not just the ever-dreaded, non-answer “fine.”
Conversation Starters for Elementary School Kids
- “Walk me through what the best day ever would be for you. Start with breakfast and go all the way to bedtime.”
- “When I was your age, I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license. What are the three things you’re most excited about being able to do when you grow up?”
- “You know how I go out sometimes with my friends to dinner? That’s how my best friends and I have fun and catch up. What do you think it means to be a good friend? How do you show you care about your friends?”
- “You and I both use screens a lot. What do you think about the time we spend on phones, computers, and tablets? Should it be any different?”
Good Talks for Middle Schoolers
- “You know how my favorite song is [insert your favorite song]? What is your favorite song in the whole world? What’s your least favorite song?”
- “Imagine you’re the newest ambassador to Earth and a spaceship full of super friendly aliens just landed. You get to pick one meal to present to them as the best that our planet has to offer. What are you serving up to impress our new visitors?”
- “When I was young, the “popular kids” were [describe some features personal to your high school experience]. What makes kids popular at your school? What are they like?”
- “Imagine you’re all grown up and you’re wildly successful and famous. What are you famous for? Sports? Medicine? Politics? Being a good friend?”
Heart-to-Hearts with Kids in High School
- “If you could pick your dream class schedule with any subjects you like — including fun stuff like ‘history of ice cream’ or ‘the art of making Spotify playlists’ — what would you pick?”
- “You know how I’m always a stickler for no shoes in the house? If you could make one rule mandatory for everyone in the whole world to follow, what would you pick?”
- “When I was your age and got dumped, this is how it went down (insert your awkward 10th-grade anecdote here). What does it look like when someone in high school breaks up today?”
- “If I didn’t get invited to so-and-so’s party, I didn’t know I was left out until homeroom Monday morning. What’s it like for you seeing it all in real-time on Snapchat?”
Want More Inspiration?
Once you start digging deep and bonding with your kids on a regular basis, you probably won’t want to stop! Coming up with new and different questions can sometimes be a challenge, though. Fortunately, there are a ton of fun, family-friendly games that make finding conversation starters for kids a breeze. We recommend:
What’s Wrong With Grownups?
Kids will love this game that offers them a chance to share their thoughts on everything from why grownups work so much to how they’d run the world.
Our Moments: Families
Sometimes, the best conversations happen in cars. Our Moments: Families is the perfect activity to beat those backseat boredom times on vacation.
Do You Really Know Your Family?
This zany card game helps you learn about each other and build new family memories as you answer interesting questions and perform silly challenges together.
Parenting in a Tech World
The best-selling parenting book written by Bark’s very own Titania Jordan and Matt McKee is filled with real-life examples and tried-and-true conversation starters that will teach you how to have — and keep having — hard (but important) conversations with your child.
In the ‘90s, we dealt with telemarketers calling the family cordless phone in the middle of dinner every night. Today, phone frustration comes primarily in the form of spam texts sent right to our personal devices, whether we’re watching a YouTube video, messaging a friend, or trying to finish that one last level of Candy Crush after a hard day’s work. No one is safe from these non-stop messages, it seems. Kids with brand-new phones (but whose number used to belong to an adult) can be especially vulnerable to these toxic and potentially dangerous messages. To help restore your family’s sanity, we’ve got some pointers for how to stop spam texts.
The Dangers of Spam Texts
Spam texts come in a variety of flavors, from car warranties and social security scams to hackers trying to trick you into giving over your passwords. These scams are usually attempts to gain access to your credit card information — in good faith or on the sly. Oftentimes, the bad guys will try to intimidate people with the threat of jail time or huge tax fines to get them to pay money.
Another danger of interacting with unknown numbers is malware. Clicking shady links from texts could unload a phone-damaging virus onto your device. While this sort of thing is more common on computers, it can still happen on phones.
Finally, there’s the unexpected danger that comes in the form of inappropriate sales offers. One Bark employee learned this the hard way when her son came to her with a text advertising sexual-enhancement drugs. She not only had to explain that it was a scam — she also found herself having a serious talk about biology earlier than expected.
How to Stop Spam Texts: 3 Things You Can Do Today
Forward Spam to the FTC
Did you know that the Federal Trade Commission encourages people to forward spam texts to them? On both Android and iPhone, you can send these pesky messages straight to the government so they can deal with them on their end. Whenever your family receives a spam message, teach them to copy it and send it to the phone number 7726 (SPAM).
When in Doubt, Block the Number
Blocking is a great option when the same number keeps sending repeated messages to a phone. Be aware though, many scammers will simply use a different number to try and reach you. Another way scammers work around this is by “spoofing” a number. Spoofing occurs when a strange number’s information is made to look familiar — like it’s coming from your uncle or your dry cleaner’s. This tricks people into believing it’s trustworthy so they respond.
- Open up the spam text message.
- Tap the phone number at the top of the screen.
- Three icons will slide out below. Tap info.
- Tap info again on the next screen
- Tap Block this caller.
- Open up the spam text message.
- Tap the More icon.
- Tap Block number.
Enable Built-in Phone Filters
To help prevent scam texts from interrupting your day (and your notification screen), you can enable built-in filters on your phone. This automatically sorts texts from non-contact senders into a separate folder. Keep in mind, though, that it filters every number that’s not a contact — whether it’s a new friend or just spam, so remember to check it occasionally.
- Open the Settings app.
- Scroll down for a bit and then tap Messages.
- Toggle on Filter unknown senders.
- Open the Phone app.
- Tap the three dots, then tap Settings.
- Enable Caller ID & Spam.
Why Is It Called Spam, Anyway?
Back in 1970, British comedy show Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired a sketch in which chanting of the word “spam” overrides all the other dialogue. In the ‘90s, when bulk email began annoying consumers, it was only natural that “spam” would be used to describe it. Automated emails, phone calls, and text messages share several key features in common: they’re obnoxious, interfering, repetitive, and annoying — not unlike the choruses of “spam!” in the sketch!
Avoiding Spam in the Future
Sometimes, you accidentally sign up for texts from companies, like when a subscription service asks for a phone number. It’s easy enough to leave these types of opt-in messages, especially when they say that you can simply reply “STOP.” However, be careful of responding “STOP” to unknown spam texts — they may actually be counting on you to reply so they can confirm that you’re human (and to keep sending you more texts).
Now that you know of several concrete ways for how to stop spam texts, spread the word! Help liberate your friends and family from these annoying and potentially dangerous messages.