How to prevent cyberbullying

Tons of new apps, platforms, and technologies have created opportunities for kids. They can meet new people, game, learn, and even start businesses — and it all happens online.  

Of course, these new opportunities also bring challenges that parents haven’t faced before, like cyberbullying. Social media and messaging apps bring out the best and worst behavior from all ages. But kids often take the brunt of misbehavior.

Recent studies have shown that cyberbullying affects 70%+ of kids between the ages of 12–17. It's no surprise, then, that parents are more concerned than ever with how to prevent cyberbullying. 

We’re here to help demystify this challenging topic and give you some practical ways to prevent cyberbullying and help keep your kids safe online.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying can be a vague term, but it’s generally used to describe mistreatment someone experiences online. This can take place through harmful messages, exposure of private information, aggressive threats, and other personal attacks.

Online abuse can happen on any device and across social media, email, text, private messaging apps, and many other platforms. 

While this article will talk specifically about how to prevent cyberbullying with kids, these forms of online aggression aren’t only harmful to young people. Offensive, aggressive, and disruptive behavior affects people of every age range and background. If you’ve ever taken a look at the comments section of a political post on Facebook, you’ll know what we mean.

The Impacts of Cyberbullying

Sadly, the effects of cyberbullying are often serious and can last for a long time. It also affects kids in many different ways, and changes in your child’s moods or behavior might be the first clue that something is wrong.

Instead of their normal excitement about being online or hanging out with friends, your child might suddenly keep to themselves. They might also be less willing to open up and talk with you about what's going on in their life. Signs your child may be experiencing cyberbullying include:

This type of avoidance, anxiety, and emotional drain can cause harm beyond just feeling bad. It can include:

How to Spot and Prevent Cyberbullying 

Now let's dive in to identifying cyberbullying. Anyone born in the era before social media probably remembers bullying a little differently. For today’s generation, traditional bullying is an almost entirely different experience than cyberbullying. While schoolyard scraps aren't totally a thing of the past, cyberbullying is now more common than face-to-face bullying. And it's not going away.

Learning how to prevent cyberbullying starts with understanding what it looks like. It isn't always obvious, and it can happen in tons of different ways. This can include email, text, chat, live streaming, online gaming, and much more. 

The trick for many parents is learning the difference between harmful behavior and harmless fun. Abuse, harassment, and other types of cyberbullying can be hard to spot. In some cases, cyberbullying is even sneakily disguised as normal behavior. Fake accounts, coded language, and memes are like a digital camouflage for mistreatment.

Types of Cyberbullying

We know that the internet can be a weird and confusing place sometimes, and kids tend to be a little more tech-savvy than their parents. You may find it helpful to brush up on the different types of cyberbullying, and how it looks online. Below are some of the most frequent ways that cyberbullying is experienced:

So, how does cyberbullying actually appear online? What should you be looking for? It takes many forms, but any of the following might be a good reason to look a little closer at your child’s accounts and interactions:

Now, if you want to read a more in-depth explanation of these cyberbullying types and see examples, check out our full blog post

Ways to Prevent Cyberbullying 

Intervening to stop cyberbullying isn’t always easy. Parents know that their kids may not want to have a conversation about online activity. Children, on the other hand, don’t want to get in trouble or have their phones taken away. To some kids, revealing the content of their messages and posts can feel like an invasion of privacy. 

Breaking through this discomfort will probably get easier over time as you work on communication and reinforce good habits.  

First, we recommend creating a tech contract with your kids. This agreement can outline expectations for online behavior, including:

Teens may welcome your help, surprisingly. Some actually feel that adults are not doing enough to monitor and prevent cyberbullying. Whether they've experienced cyberbullying or not, your kids might be ready to talk more about it.

Lastly, before you talk about bullying that your child is experiencing, make sure you have the facts. Awareness is key to having a healthy, productive conversation.  

Now, let's talk through some specific steps that you can take to help prevent cyberbullying. What you're hoping to learn is probably dependent on how cyberbullying is affecting your family, so we've separated our guidance into two sections. 

If Your Child Is Being Bullied

  1. Report what’s happening. Encourage your kids to speak up if they see instances of cyberbullying online. By creating an environment of awareness and accountability, you can encourage your kids to call out and reject inappropriate activity. It’s also important for kids to know who they should tell about the inappropriate activity. Other adults (like teachers, coaches, and mentors) in your kid's lives can create a broader network of eyes and ears. Periodically touching base with these people can help you keep track of problematic activity.
  2. Educate and stay up to date. Teach your kids what cyberbullying looks like, and how to understand the difference between having fun and causing harm. Blogs like ours help you decode internet trends, slang, and behavior.
  3. Support and step in. The experience of bullying may cause your child to feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty. Help your child understand that they aren't responsible for cyberbullying they've experienced. Getting rid of the stigma around experiences of cyberbullying makes kids more likely to report it when it happens.
  4. Find the root cause of cyberbullying. The social dynamics of bullying can be complicated. Is your child caught in an ongoing feud between friends? Were they standing up for someone else online? Is it possible that they’re experiencing retaliation for things that they said or did first? Understanding why cyberbullying is happening will help you step in where and how it’s needed.
  5. Limit their exposure to harm. Teach your kids how to remove themselves from negative online situations in safe and healthy ways. When experiencing cyberbullying, kids sometimes may want to quit social media altogether. Long term, though, they might miss interacting with friends and using their favorite apps. Addressing the underlying sources of abuse is usually a better option, though temporary account deactivations or breaks from social media might make your child feel better.
  6. Protect their accounts. Doxing or illegal sharing of personal information often happens when accounts aren't secure enough. Changing passwords, restricting access, and using two-factor authentication are all recommended — even for your kid’s accounts.
  7. Use a tool like Bark to monitor online activity. Early detection is key for keeping things from quickly getting out of hand. Bark does much more than just monitor online activity. Created in partnership with experts in child psychology, Bark is designed to help parents better understand and oversee their kids’ online activity. We do this through sentiment analysis, screen time management, and more.

If Your Child Is Bullying

Figuring out how to prevent cyberbullying is a little different when your child could be the instigator. So if you know (or think) that your child is cyberbullying others, there are a few things to consider when deciding how to intervene:

You can read more about how to detect signs that your child may be bullying and how to approach this difficult subject in a productive way.

Cyberbullying is an all-too-common occurrence in today’s digital age.  Plus, kids often have to figure out how to deal with cyberbullying when growing up, facing academic pressure, dealing with social challenges, and a lot more. With the right monitoring tools and approach, it’s easier to have an honest conversation with your kids. Then, you can let them know that you’re here to listen, support, and help where needed.

Signs of teen depression

People are becoming more aware of mental health struggles than ever before. Better conversations and more public acknowledgment have helped destigmatize the topic of mental health. More than ever, we’re aware that the experience of depression can truly affect everyone. 

While children and adults both experience depression, its effects often change over time as kids grow and emotionally mature. Children who are experiencing depression can manifest their symptoms in many different ways, and it’s not always obvious to parents when depression is the cause of mood shifts, reduced social involvement, or lower academic participation. By knowing how to identify signs of teen depression, you can be better prepared to help your child understand and confront the symptoms head-on.

In this blog post, we’ll break down how to spot signs of teen depression, plus tools and techniques you can use to foster more open, honest, and transparent conversations with your kids. 

When Are Kids Most Likely to Experience Depression?

Kids change all the time. One week, they might hate Fruit Loops, only to become passionate about them the next. These changes usually happen with no warning, as many parents can attest. One day everything is cool, and the next...nothing is! 

But there’s a big difference between discovering new hobbies (or new favorite cereals) and larger shifts that can signal mental health issues. Research shows that the adolescent experience of depression is generally highest among teens, and the rate of teens experiencing depression has risen sharply in recent years. Physical, social, and emotional changes that happen during the teenage years aren’t the only causes of depression in kids. There are many other potential causes, including:

Regardless of the cause, there are common signs of teen depression that might prompt you to start a conversation about their health.

Common Signs of Teen Depression

It's possible that signs of teen depression could have simpler explanations like a vitamin deficiency or hypothyroidism. Knowing exactly what to look for can help you spot real issues that need more attention. Keep an eye out for the behaviors below if you think your child is experiencing depression. And — of course — speak with your child's doctor if you have concerns about their well-being.

Changes in Social Behavior

Kids spend less time at home as they develop friendships and join extracurricular activities. This might be a welcome change for both kids and parents, and it's definitely expected. But, withdrawal from social interactions that your child used to enjoy is problematic.

These shifts could include:

Loss of Interest in Activities

It's fun to watch your kid obsess over anything new, from toys to technology to mastering an epic front flip. Most kids seek comfort and entertainment from activities they enjoy. As your kids grow up, they'll probably lose passion for a particular hobby, connection with a friend group, or interest in a school subject. This is different, though, from a complete disinterest in any activities. Total lack of interest in once-loved pastimes is a common sign of child depression.

Physical Appearance and Demeanor

Depression can affect the body in many different ways. Physical symptoms are sometimes a lot more obvious than emotional ones, especially when your teen will do just about anything to avoid showing how they’re really feeling.

Physical signs of child depression often include the following:

Academic Changes

School can be a struggle in itself, aside from social and parental pressures to perform. Kids who normally show effort toward and interest in their school work might suddenly stop caring altogether. If this is out of character for your child, then it's definitely a sign to note. 

Abnormal Behavior

Here, we've used abnormal to mean different from how your child typically acts. Are they usually confident, expressive, and social? Are they now acting moodier and disconnected from what they generally enjoy? Everyone has bad days, and that’s more than understandable. Adolescence is full of ups and downs. But, no one knows their kid better than you, and you’ll likely notice right away if they have lost key pieces of their personality.

Depending on your child, signs of abnormal behavior could include:

Sadness is a normal emotion for everyone, and kids can feel it quite often. Temporary sadness due to the loss of a friendship or social rejection is common. However, persistent feelings of sadness are definitely a sign of child depression to watch. If your child can’t explain why they feel sad, then they might be experiencing longer-lasting effects of depression. 

Unusual or Alarming Online Activity

Kids can gravitate toward certain online behaviors and communities if they’re experiencing depression. Interest in darker subject matter is common during bouts of depression and other mental health struggles. For example, children could be more likely to seek out online content about acts of self-harm or other expressions of difficult emotions. 

Signs of troublesome online behavior might include:

Mature content is often found in message boards, private chat rooms, messaging apps, and other online resources that are hard to find and even harder to track. We’ll talk about how to address this problem later by using Bark's content monitoring tool

How to Spot Warning Signs of Child Depression

Now that you know common signs of teen depression, how do you keep an eye on your kid when they're at school, hanging out with friends, or working at their after-school job? We've compiled some of the best tools, resources, and methods for tackling this difficult task. In the sections below, we look at both online and offline ways of monitoring behavior to keep your child safe.

Online Activity and Sentiment Monitoring

If you’ve spent time trying to manually check your kid's social accounts, then you know it’s hard and very time-consuming. Connecting with your kids on social media and messaging apps can help, but it’s just the start. Since social media platforms allow users to hide certain activities from specific followers, it’s impossible to know exactly what’s happening in private. 

A tool like Bark parental controls can help you easily keep tabs on your child's online activity. By monitoring social media, texts, messaging apps, and email, we help identify and report on alarming digital behavior. Bark's sentiment monitoring also uses the tone of messages to give parents insight into their child's emotional state. Together, these insights can help parents take action sooner and build better relationships

Offline Accountability

Offline monitoring can be hard, too. Though most kids have some supervisory presence nearby during the day, a lot of activity still goes unnoticed. The following two suggestions can help you keep an eye on uncharacteristic behavior:

Tips for Approaching a Teen Who’s Experiencing Depression 

If you’re regularly seeing signs of teen depression, the next step could be to get involved. Experts note that open communication is vital for helping a child who’s experiencing depression. Having a safe place to discuss feelings or verbally process frustrations can be helpful for reducing the effects of depression. 

How do you naturally start this conversation while respecting their boundaries and showing empathy?

  1. Address the subject directly and compassionately. Though it might feel uncomfortable at first, it’s usually better to get the issue out in the open. Do your best to remove shame, embarrassment, or reluctance to talk about feelings.  
  2. Actively listen. Acknowledge your child’s experience. This will show that you respect their opinion and believe their symptoms. During face-to-face conversations, use non-verbal cues to show that you’re hearing and processing what they’re saying.
  3. Use their preferred method of communication. Younger kids often prefer to open up through text, chat, messaging apps, and other communication tools. These ways of talking might feel impersonal to you, but to your child, they might feel safe, comforting, and familiar.
  4. Develop shared ways of talking about depression. Depression can be hard to identify and diagnose because kids can't always explain how they’re feeling, or why. Working on common language and explaining terms related to depression are helpful practices.  
  5. Provide healthy outlets for conversation and connection. A shared hobby or activity, especially one that your child enjoys, might help them open up and talk.

Of course, if you're concerned your child might be depressed, reach out to their pediatrician, who can recommend a licensed therapist to help them navigate this time. Childhood depression is a clinically-recognized and treated condition. Treatments range from therapy to medication that can treat chemical imbalances. Remind your kid that there's absolutely no shame in getting help. In fact, it's a radical act of strength and self-care.

What to Avoid When You See Signs of Teen Depression

When signs of teen depression first appear, it can be tempting to brush symptoms off as typical teenage moodiness. Even if you’re unsure what your child is experiencing (and why) there are some things that you don’t want to do:

Key Takeaways about Child Depression

It’s totally understandable if this all feels a bit overwhelming. The key takeaways are simple:

This will all go a long way toward early and healthy forms of intervention. As a final encouragement to any parent working through these difficult issues with their family: it’s very important to care for yourself amidst the busyness. Regular mental health check-ins with your own therapist can help you keep the right mindset and a patient attitude during difficult times. Having a dedicated partner for discussion and insight can be invaluable.

Headphones for kids illustration

Ready for a throwback? Remember when the only headphones you could buy were the super thin wire-and-plastic ones that came with your Sony Walkman? They came in one color (black) and had one feature: tiny foam pads on each ear. Fast-forward to today and there are now hundreds of options — wireless, corded, in-ear, over-the-ear, and all available in a ton of different colors. Because of this, when it comes to finding the perfect headphones for kids, the process can be a little overwhelming. 

Balancing the right functionality with the right price point — especially for younger kids who may drop or lose them — is key. But fret not! We’ve scoured the internet and talked to real-life parents about the absolute best options out there. Here are our picks! 

Headphones for Kids: Priced from Low to High

Affordable ($19 and under)

Sony ZX On-Ear Headphones


If you’re looking for a good-quality, basic pair of over-the-ear headphones, Sony’s ZX has you covered. This no-frills option provides clear sound, comfortable ear pads, and wires that *somehow* magically stay untangled. And, because it’s Sony, it’s a reliable brand.

iJoy BlueTooth Over Ear Headphones


These comfortable over-the-ear bluetooth headphones are a workhorse! They also come with exterior button controls so you can skip songs, answer calls, and more. But maybe the greatest feature is the 6-month warranty — perfect for kids who may get a little too into dancing to “Good 4 U” by Olivia Rodrigo.

A Little Pricey ($20 – $50)

JLAB Go Airpop True Wireless Earbuds


Bark’s Director of Community Jodie Sherrill raves about her JLAB Go Airpops! For just $20, these Bluetooth earbuds provide 32+ hours of listening with a charged case, have stellar voice and sound connections, and come in a sleek case that resembles Airpods. But the best part? “If your kid loses these, you’re only out $20 and not the full $129 that Airpods cost,” Jodie says.

TOZO T6 Wireless Earbuds


These bluetooth earbuds come in six cool colors and feature super-sensitive touch controls. Compatible with both Android and Apple phones, perhaps the coolest thing about these headphones is that they’re waterproof up to a meter deep!

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Bluetooth Earbuds


If your kid is all about the best possible sound, Anker Soundcores allow them to nerd out with an customizable app. They can choose from 22 equilibrium settings to get great tone tailored to their ears — perfect for creating that ideal sound for background study music. 

Splurges ($51 – $100)

Skullcandy Indy Evo Wireless Earbud 


Another set of decent Bluetooth earbuds, Skullcandy Indy Evos have one really cool feature that may be a selling point for your family: They have Tile technology. This means you can download the Tile app and locate your kid’s earbuds no matter where they are. Say goodbye to lost headphones!

Raycon Gaming Earbuds


If your child is a gamer, you’ve probably heard of this brand. These earbuds are specially designed with in-game communication in mind. This means a loud and clear microphone, lag-free sound, and quick and easy touch controls. 

Most Expensive ($100+)

Apple Airpods (2nd generation)


We’re not going to sugarcoat it: Apple Airpods are the gold standard for wireless earbuds, and not just because they popularized modern Bluetooth headphones. For many kids, iOS products are also status symbols, making them highly sought-after. But Airpods are also very reliable, have great sound, and seamlessly connect to iPhones with a flip of their case.

Galaxy Buds2


Think of these as the Android equivalent to Airpods. The two are very similar, and at the end day, each performs the best with their phone counterparts. Galaxy Buds2 have great sound and microphone quality, ergonomic fit, and remarkable battery life. 

How to Choose the Right Pair for Your Child

It may not seem like it off the bat, but headphones can be a necessity these days! Whether you’re travelling together and don’t want to listen to BTS for the millionth time or your kid needs to tune into a Zoom lecture, headphones for kids are important. 

We recommend starting younger kids with the less expensive options. For older kids who may want fancier headphones like Airpods, consider a trial run of a slightly cheaper Bluetooth set. If they can keep up with and take care of them, they’ll be able to demonstrate responsibility and convince you they're ready for the big (audio) leagues.