Imagine living in a glass house. Think about everyone watching what you do and how you spend your time. A bit terrifying, right? Today, many kids are living in a sort of virtual glass house. Everything gets documented. They might capture that late-night mac and cheese, snap a pic of their new outfit, or check in at a concert venue.
Not only is this normal, but it’s also often rewarded. Reputation, followers, likes, and even the ability to earn money (i.e., influencers) are all offered as “rewards” on social media. Too often, kids aren’t aware of how their activity can expose personal information and how this might affect their well-being, mental health, identity, and even physical safety.
We're going to walk you through some practical, empathetic ways to relate to your kid’s online experience, explain the lack of privacy on social media, and create family rules to help promote safety.
Social Media and Privacy (or Lack Thereof)
To your kids, the blatant lack of privacy on social media might not seem like a problem. Social media and privacy might even sound like a contradiction. Isn’t the whole point of social media to share details about your life, feelings, and whereabouts? How else will people know what your teenager had for lunch today?
Here’s a little context from Pew Research on how most young kids are thinking about social media privacy issues:
- Teens are sharing more about themselves than ever before, including sensitive personal information.
- Kids continue to use social media even after they start to lose interest because it’s a major part of their socialization.
- Only 9% of teens showed concern about 3rd-party access to their personal data.
Introduction to Social Media and Privacy While Online
How can you get your kids more interested in protecting their privacy online?
Connecting social media privacy issues to more serious and long-term problems might drive home their importance and relevance to your kids. Below are a few tips for starting a productive conversation about social media privacy issues:
- Make the consequences clear and relatable. The result of something like identity theft is more than inconvenience; it can affect their ability to get into college or get a car loan.
- Don’t make any topic off-limits. Let them know you are even willing to talk about things that involve violent or inappropriate materials.
- Give specific examples of actions that can compromise their privacy. Try asking questions like, “Have you ever told someone you know online but not in real life what school you go to?”
- Use the same privacy rules and recommendations for yourself — they don’t only apply to kids!
- Emphasize that most things done online are permanent, and can sometimes be found online even after profiles appear to be deactivated or deleted.
- Take some time to familiarize yourself with trends, terms, challenges, apps, and other popular ways of interacting online. Understanding your child’s world and using shared language (maybe even slang!) will help build trust.
Getting buy-in as a family can make rules that might otherwise feel strict seem more like a team effort. It’s important to clarify that family boundaries don’t apply to only one child. Also, you can explain that new rules about social media and privacy aren’t necessarily the result of past bad behavior. Instead, rules apply to all family members equally to keep them safe and protected online.
Clearly Define Protected Personal Information
So, you’ve gotten your kid on board and ready to protect themselves on social media. Great! Now what?
Your child might not have a clue what information is too sensitive to share publicly. You can help by establishing clear boundaries about which information is appropriate to post and share via messages. Non-shareable information might include the following:
- Where they attend school
- Their home address
- Their cell phone number.
- Their email addresses
- Their full legal name
- Any banking or payment information
- Their social security number
As we’ll discuss more in the next section, this information can often be used for all kinds of harmful online activity, from stalking to identify theft.
Explain Common Online Scams
Social media privacy issues aren’t always obvious. Scammers can use all kinds of creative ways to get personal or financial information from kids. This kind of activity can even put parents’ information at risk. For example, many parents give credit card information to their kids for purchasing apps or items online.
Accidentally falling prey to a scam can jeopardize more than your kids realize. To steer clear of social media privacy issues, your kids need to know how to spot threats. You might find it helpful to talk about some of the examples below with your kids, especially if they are older and more independent on social media.
- What they are: Shady developers sometimes create apps that are used to harvest personal data, spy on devices, or illegitimately charge credit cards.
- What kids can do: Don’t provide payment information without verifying the app’s quality and reputation.
- What they are: Has your child ever gotten excited about a contest or promotion online that promises cool swag or cash prizes? Fake contests usually look like giveaways or one-time offers that are too good to be true.
- What kids can do: Ask parents to check the legitimacy of a contest before providing personal data or payment information.
- What it is: While the word “phishing” sounds silly, it’s a serious problem for individuals and businesses. Phishing is used to get access to protected personal accounts like online banking.
- What kids can do: Don’t reply to messages from people they don’t know. Don’t click on unfamiliar links. Be careful when browsing away from their home Wi-Fi.
Viruses or Malware
- What they are: Malware is used for all kinds of bad purposes, from stealing passwords to turning on webcams.
- What kids can do: Don’t open links from strangers. Ask for help before downloading a new app or file. Remind your kids that attackers could even use one of their friend’s profiles or accounts to send harmful content and links.
- What it is: Minors can experience identity theft. By using private personal information, cyber criminals can open fake accounts at retailers, rent properties, falsify tax returns, and much more.
- What kids can do: Keep their personal information private. Partner with their parents to keep track of their data through monitoring tools.
For older kids (about 16 and up), discussing social media privacy issues might actually provide a good opportunity to teach other important life skills. For example, credit scores can be a simple and free way to keep track of which accounts have been opened in your kids’ names. By showing them how to check their credit score online, you can help them learn a valuable practice and protect their identity.
Emphasize the Importance of Physical Safety
Social media apps are meant to be, well, social! Regardless, oversharing about their personal location can put kids at risk.
Our recommendation for parents is simple: Encourage kids to not share information on their home address, school address, or exact whereabouts. Also, don’t share information that might expose the location of friends and family members. Bullies, predators, and shady companies can all use this info to track people against their will. To help out with this, you might consider looking into Bark's location sharing features.
A few other best practices for kids include:
- Don’t agree to meet people that they don’t know in real life (especially not alone).
- Tell people you trust where you’re going and what you’re doing when going out.
- Talk to an adult if you notice a suspicious person following your profile, liking your online activity, or messaging you directly.
Talk About Advertising and Data
We understand that advertising and data can sound boring. Honestly, it sounds a little like a sleep-inducing college course. But, these topics are really important for teaching your kids about social media and privacy.
For young kids (below 13), it might be sufficient to set controls and rules for their usage. However, older kids can probably begin to understand how social media companies use the information they share.
Without being too scary or specific, you can explain to your kids that social media apps like TikTok and Instagram use their personal data and activity to show them personalized ads. The apps are “looking at” content that they might think is personal and private, like:
- Private messages
- Browsing history
- Personal photos
- Online purchases
- Location data
There are some practical steps that parents can take to help kids keep nosy apps out of their business:
- Follow age requirements for apps. Kids will definitely wait until they’re allowed to start using these apps, right? Nope. In fact, research shows that kids are starting to use social media at younger ages. Most major social media apps (e.g., Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp, etc.) have a minimum age requirement of at least 13 years old, but they don’t ask for verification or proof of age.
- Change app settings to maximize privacy. Apps and websites that serve children are required by law to say what information they collect and use.
- Make profiles private. This will limit what snooping visitors can see, regardless of their intentions.
- Eliminate personal information from accounts and profiles if it’s not needed. Social media apps will take as much information as users give them. The more information they get, the better they can allow advertisers to target each person.
Lastly, prominent tech companies (e.g., Facebook, YouTube, Google, etc.) have a responsibility to protect their users' data and personal information, but they can’t stop every threat. Though they might not realize it now, it’s important for kids to understand that the biggest companies in the world can accidentally expose their information, including things like email addresses, passwords, banking details, and more.
Don’t Use Social Media to Vent Private Feelings
Sometimes kids just want to connect with others who feel the same way they do. When they have a bad day or experience bullying, they might turn to social media to share their frustrations and feelings. While this might provide temporary relief, the long-term effects can be negative — from cyberbullying to, unfortunately, resurfacing when they’re older.
A healthy alternative to social media venting might be a hard-copy personal journal that can be kept safely in their room. For some kids, therapy might be another safe solution that provides a protected outlet for processing and conversation.
Use Bark to Detect Social Media Privacy Issues
Parental control apps like Bark eliminate the stress and uncertainty around kids’ online activity. We do this by giving parents the insight, content monitoring capabilities, and alerts needed to take action when it matters most.
These are just a few of the ways that Bark can help parents resolve social media privacy issues:
- Restricting access to specific social media apps
- Receiving alerts when suspicious or alarming activity is detected (e.g., instances of self-harm or cyberbullying)
- Setting and enforcing schedules for certain app usage, or household Wi-Fi access
- Monitoring texts, emails, and more for problematic interactions
Talking to your kids about social media and privacy is often easier when you start young. Over time, your kids will likely begin to feel a sense of ownership for their online activity, awareness, and practices. If they know what to look for and how to protect themselves online, kids will feel equipped to handle anything the Internet throws at them — from rude comments to full-blown phishing.
Remember yearbook day in middle school? It was the best day of the entire school year, when you could actually hold pictures of your friends (and crush!) in your hands. It was a rush to see candid photos of classmates at lunch, scoring points in basketball games, and lined up for club photos. That’s right — yearbooks were the O.G. social media.
In contrast, kids today can access photos and images of classmates online every single day, almost in real time. Because of this, body image and social media are closely intertwined. Growing up can sometimes feel like there’s always a spotlight on you, but for today’s generation, there essentially is — and it’s having serious effects on kids.
Filters Have Transformed How Kids Can Present Themselves
If you type “photo editor” into the App Store, you’ll get tons of results. There are so many apps that promise to provide filters and enhancements for amazing selfies. Some promise flawless skin, a reshaped face, and even the ability to open your eyes if they’re accidentally closed in a photo. Many of these apps are free, which means they’re easy for kids to download.
Of course, kids aren’t born wanting filtered faces. They’re eased into it, often through kid-focused, “fun” filters that add puppy ears or angel haloes. As they get older, kids will encounter filter options that include more adult-appropriate adjustments. These include prominent cheekbones, larger eyes, and plumper lips.
But these types of filters aren’t just in fun apps… they’re everywhere. There’s even an option on Zoom, which many kids relied on during distance learning, called “Touch up my appearance.” It’s possible that many kids may never post a photo of themselves without having altered it in some way. It’s no wonder that body image issues are growing more and more common — even in kids as young as four.
The Negative Feedback Loop of Unrealistic Expectations
Kim Kardashian has 283 million followers on Instagram, and the photos she posts are sleek, stylized, and absolutely, 100% put together by a team of media and PR experts. Curated feeds dominate the social media landscape, even for non-celebrities, especially when it comes to body image. And if everyone you see is altering their appearance in some way, it can entice you to do the same thing. Eventually, nobody’s image is reflecting real life anymore. The standard for perfection simply becomes higher and higher.
How Does Media Negatively Affect Body Image?
When kids are constantly bombarded with so-called “ideal” beauty standards, the desire to fit in and match them can be intense. This can lead to anxiety and depression as a child struggles to deal with how they present themselves to the outside world.
Constant worrying about whether they’re pretty enough, thin enough, tall enough, or muscular enough can be taxing, especially during puberty, when bodies are in flux. In some cases, the desire to look perfect can even lead to disordered eating, which can greatly impact a child’s health and well-being. And it’s worth mentioning (as there are often misconceptions about this) that not just girls experience these pressures.
There Is Hope — Body Positivity Is Becoming Mainstream
The body positivity movement is grounded in the belief that all bodies are worth celebrating. As such, they’re also deserving of being seen in ads, movies, TV, and more. Visibility is important for making people (and especially kids) aware of and more accepting of different body types, sizes, and definitions. The body neutrality movement takes this one step further. It suggests that you don’t need to focus as much on your body’s aesthetics (even to say you are beautiful). Instead, you can pay attention to how your body feels.
Companies are beginning to realize this, and many have incorporated different-sized models in advertising campaigns. Dove is a good example of this movement. The company even launched the Dove Self-Esteem Project with resources for promoting body positivity among young people. Popular younger artists like Lizzo and Billie Eilish are also known for bucking traditional beauty standards, and have enjoyed incredible success being exactly who they are.
The Top Platforms Where Body Image Issues Are Happening
According to Bark’s 2021 annual report on children and technology, 7.66% of teens engaged with or encountered content about disordered eating last year. Alerts for disordered eating range from mentions of dieting practices all the way to discussions of anorexia, bulimia, and body dysmorphia. The top platforms for body image alerts were:
What can we learn from this ranking? First, that Discord leads the pack, with dedicated servers for discussing everything from #thinspo (“inspiration” to help someone get dangerously thin) to actual ways to practice disordered eating. Next, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are all visually focused apps where image is very important. It’s no surprise that body image issues are discussed frequently on them. Finally, WhatsApp is a messaging app similar to iMessage or GroupMe, and it’s where kids can message privately or in groups.
How to Talk With Your Kid About Body Image and Social Media
Starting a conversation about body image can be a little scary, but it’s important to talk with your kid about how they feel and the things they see online. We’ve got some ideas to help you break the ice. Keep in mind these may work best with older kids. They have more experience with social media so they have some context.
- Why do you think so many people use filters when they post selfies?
- Does body size have anything to do with a person’s personality?
- Has another person’s post on Instagram/Snapchat/TikTok ever made you feel bad about your body?
- Do you ever feel pressured to post certain types of photos on social media?
It can also help to make sure you’re not using body shaming (or food shaming) language at home. An offhand comment may seem harmless to you. But saying something like “I can’t believe you ate that many chips” — can contribute to your child having an unhealthy relationship with their body. You can learn more about identifying and preventing disordered eating in this blog post.
If you’re worried that your child may be struggling with body image and social media, Bark can help. Bark monitors disordered eating in texts, emails, and 30+ social media platforms and apps. You’ll get an alert if they may be struggling so you can check in and support them.
Time management is key for successful routines that last a lifetime. Teaching time management for kids has gotten more complicated as families figure out how to deal with all the different technology in their homes. Perhaps more than ever, setting (and — hey — modeling) healthy habits is pretty tricky. We can do pretty much anything from our phones. Need to see what’s in your fridge? Check the phone. Want to dim the lighting in your family room? There’s an app for that. Looking to pass the time while you’re waiting in line? Hop on social media.
For many families, questions around phone use and access are starting earlier than ever. Plus, kids often need to use technology for school and to communicate with friends, which can make it harder than ever to set boundaries. What you’re probably wondering is how to strike the right balance and optimize phone time management for kids. You probably don’t want to move to an off-grid homestead, but you’re also not jumping headfirst into the Metaverse.
Is there a healthy in-between? We think that there is a happy middle ground and that the right combination of good routines and tools puts it well within reach. Let’s explore some creative ways to work on phone time management for kids, and review a few extra tips for getting these healthy habits started without too much fuss.
8 Ways to Foster Healthy Phone Time Management for Kids
1. Model healthy behavior to reinforce phone time management for kids.
Yes, it’s true that most kids go through a phase where everything their parents do is lame. They have their own slang terms, friend groups, and an encyclopedic knowledge of internet memes. However, it’s well established that kids start to imitate adult behavior from a very young age. Remember the first time you said something you didn’t want your kids to hear but they did and it quickly become their new favorite phrase? Case in point. Even when your kids seek independence as teenagers, they will notice how you spend your free time and whether you’re prioritizing the same boundaries you’re teaching them.
Modeling healthy behavior also makes you more relatable. Your kids might find it interesting that most adults struggle with over-using their phones. This makes it easy for you to admit that learning phone time management for kids isn’t something they have to do because they’re inferior or less capable. Technology is with us every day, and keeping up good habits is a lifelong practice.
2. When teaching time management, start tech limits early on.
Just like modeled behavior, rules and boundaries that start from a young age tend to stick better and reduce fights later on. Though your two-year-old probably won’t have a smartphone, they’re still may be exposed to household screens and technology from the time they’re only a few months old. If you glance around your house for even a few seconds, you’ll likely see four or five different kinds of screens with interactive technology — from smart TVs to tablets.
Instead of waiting until they’re older to address phone time management for kids, you can start now by working on more general screen time limits. Rather than creating a whole new set of rules when your kids get their first phone, it will feel more like adjusting existing ones. Plus, you’ll already have spent time talking about these issues together, so they’ll know that proper phone time management is an expected part of responsible usage.
With solid boundaries in place, you’ll have a head start on addressing phone time management for kids throughout later years.
3. Replace phones with alternative entertainment options.
Phones are incredibly entertaining, and they’re always nearby. This is one of the biggest reasons that phone time management for kids feels so difficult to enforce. 40 years ago, it was a little easier to keep entertaining technology at bay. You had to wait for a visit to the arcade if you wanted to go play popular games like Pong or PAC-MAN. Many younger parents remember dial-up internet or big, unwieldy video game consoles that would take over the whole TV when played.
Maybe we didn’t realize it then, but biking to the arcade or waiting for your turn to play a video game kind of forced us to have better boundaries. Here are a few ways that you can help your kids practice phone time management by giving them alternatives for entertainment:
- Keep offline options in every gathering space, including things like board games, puzzles, crafts, books, and more.
- Create a chart of non-digital alternatives that your kids can pick from. Think of this like an “entertainment hierarchy.” At the top are options that don’t need any permission and don’t have limits. At the bottom are options that do need permission and also have limits. Here’s what this might look like:
- Play outside.
- Play with toys inside.
- Get a new book or read a book.
- Play card games or board games.
- Watch a movie or show with the family.
- Play games online alone.
Your specific chart might look very different, but the concept is one that kids can easily grasp. As a last reminder, the more alternatives you have available, the easier it will be for your kids to find something of interest — especially when the weather prevents outdoor play.
4. Pick a specific day, or time of the day, for tech-free time.
When you put specific tech-free time on the calendar, your kids know that phones will get put away before they start their homework or get ready for bed.
There are a few ways to approach technology-free time, and the ideas below might help you find an option that fits your family:
- Put phones away or turn them off after a certain time of day.
- Keep phones off or put them away until a specific time every morning.
- Get everyone to commit to stepping away from their phones for an hour at the same time every day (during dinner, for example).
- Let everyone choose when they want to have their own phone-free hour of the day. This flexibility might help your boundaries feel more achievable and personalized.
It’s normal for kids to push back a bit against tech boundaries, no matter their age. But, they’ll enjoy knowing that the whole family is on board with a plan. They won’t feel isolated or singled out in their behavior if parents and siblings are sticking to the same routines.
5. When teaching time management, make phone time management about more than rules.
The whole topic of phone time management for kids might feel a little dull. That’s understandable. Is there a way to use this topic to teach your kids about deeper values around limitations, self-control, and healthy balance? Words like “limit” give the impression that we’re taking away. In reality, good time management for kids is about adding things that encourage well-roundedness.
Are there parts of your life that serve as a good example of careful management? Perhaps you can show your kids how managing certain aspects of your life well has allowed you to achieve personal goals, or to help others. Do you give to charity, volunteer at non-profits, or help serve in the community? These can all be great examples of how managing time and resources promotes a full, healthy life.
6. Use incentives to encourage other behavior.
Incentives can be a tricky topic, but they often work well. Using incentives to encourage very specific behavior is a smart way to get the outcome you think is best. Behavior-based incentives also keep every difficult discussion about phones and technology from turning into a bargaining battle. How does this work?
Let’s use reading as an example. There are many reading programs that offer prizes, gift cards, and other rewards for participating kids. Today, lots of these programs can be completed entirely online.
In a sneaky way, this teaching time management approach also takes you out of the hot seat. Someone else can be in charge of determining prizes, administering the program, and picking the best new kids' books! Plus, once your kids start the program, they’ll know exactly what they need to do to get an award. It’ll be up to them to put their phone down and pick up something else.
7. Use a screen time limit app.
Apps like Bark help parents control screen time and teach phone time management for kids. The ability to turn on and off access to apps, websites, or the Internet means you can be more strict when your kids are supposed to be doing homework, sleeping, or hanging out with the family.
Bark does a lot more than help with screen time limits. Our sentiment monitoring and analysis can give parents a heads up on suspicious activity before it gets out of hand. This includes instances of cyberbullying, inappropriate content and behavior, depression, and potential acts of self-harm. We look for this behavior over text, email, and over 30+ popular messaging and social apps.
More access, control, and visibility give parents peace of mind even when kids do spend time on their phones.
8. Make phones less interesting.
Part of the reason phones can be so addicting is that kids can keep downloading new apps, games, and other content. A lot of these apps are cheap (or free), and they only take a few seconds to download. Once they’re bored of the latest trend, kids can simply hop on the App Store to look for something else that piques their interest. With millions of apps to choose from, this constant “rinse and repeat” cycle of new entertainment becomes addictive from even very young ages.
A good way to encourage phone time management is simply to make the phone less interesting. There are a couple of ways to do this:
- Limit the total number of apps that your kids can keep on their phones at any given time.
- Have a rule that for every new app added, an old one needs to be deactivated or deleted.
- Allow a certain number of apps in each category: gaming, social, messaging, etc.
Extra Encouragement For Parents Struggling With Teaching Time Management For Phones
We all know that good habits are hard to start, and they can be hard to keep as months go on. Have some grace with yourself, your partner, and your kids as you make big changes.
- Give your boundaries time to work, and time for your kids to embrace them.
- Periodically check in with your kids and let them know their opinion is valued — especially as they get older. They might even bring new ideas to the table, or come up with incentives that are more motivating for them.
- Add fun incentives to encourage everyone to get on board. Mixing up the living room furniture, adding a fun new reading chair, and building bookshelves to hold games and reading material are just a few ways to make these changes more exciting and positive.
Remember that striking the right balance with phone time management is about using both access control and self-control. While tools like Bark will help you grant or deny access to certain apps and sites, long-term success relies on your kids taking ownership over their own boundaries.
For even the most tech-savvy of parents, keeping up with all of the latest apps your kid wants to download can be a real struggle. Trends change, social media platforms evolve, and new viral apps can explode onto the scene in a matter of days. Making things even harder, it can be difficult to tell which apps are really a threat to your child’s well-being. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the twelve most dangerous apps for kids today. Some you’ll probably recognize, but a few may surprise you!
Bark’s Top 12 Most Dangerous Apps for Kids
The roster of apps popular with kids is always changing, but these are currently the most widely-used and most dangerous apps for young people to have on their phones. Keep in mind that these aren’t arranged in order of most dangerous to least dangerous. They all have different features with varying levels of inappropriateness.
Kicking off our dangerous apps for kids list is one that most parents are probably familiar with. Snapchat has been around since 2011 and popularized the trend of “disappearing messages.” However, kids may not always fully understand that nothing really disappears on the internet — especially when a screenshot is just a quick button tap away.
In addition to providing a space to send nudes, Snapchat also presents other dangers for teens. The GPS-powered Snap Map enables friends (and potentially even strangers) to know your child’s exact whereabouts. There’s also been a recent uptick in drug dealers using Snapchat to connect with young people, as they think it’s “safer” than texting or emailing. Spoiler alert: it’s not, and the app is expanding efforts to root out the sale of illegal substances.
Close on the heels of Snapchat is Instagram, the popular photo and video sharing platform owned by Facebook. Like Snapchat, Instagram has also added disappearing messages and photos. It’s even developed its own version of TikTok called Reels — short videos set to music or viral audio clips.
One of Instagram’s primary dangers is the sheer amount of inappropriate content kids can access in just a matter of seconds, especially porn. Parents may overlook this, but remember that a private account does nothing to prevent explicit searches — it just prevents certain users from viewing your kid’s posts.
The app has recently taken steps to create a safer environment for its younger users, but many of these changes (like defaulting to private profiles for those under 16) are either ineffective or can quickly and easily be turned off by a child in their settings.
Discord is a huge place for teens to hang out and talk about gaming, whether they’re actively holding a controller during a game of Call of Duty or just shooting the breeze after school. It’s a messaging platform that’s very similar to Slack, and features chatrooms, direct messaging, voice chat, and video calls. Users can join different “servers” and within each server are different “channels.” Think of these like chat rooms. They can be for anything, from huge public video game servers to small, private groups of friends.
So, why is Discord considered one of many dangerous apps? Because it can expose kids to all sorts of inappropriate content, from hate speech and porn to bullying and online predators. Bark’s 2021 annual report found Discord consistently in the top five platforms for bullying, suicidal ideation, body image, and more. And even though it’s popular among teens, Discord is used by more than just kids, which means that adult content on the app is rampant. It can be easy for kids to get involved in a Discord server and make “friends” and then be influenced by sketchy adults.
4. Yik Yak
One of the most dangerous messaging apps for kids of the past decade has recently made a resurgence. Yik Yak is an anonymous chatting app that lets users within a five-mile radius read publicly posted messages. When we say anonymous, we really mean it: Yik Yak has no user names, no handles, no real names, and no photos.
Kids can struggle with online etiquette when they’re using their real names, so imagine how wild things can get in an environment with no accountability. Yik Yak is also a breeding ground for bullying, especially when it becomes popular on school campuses. Rumors can be posted and spread like wildfire. Another threat to watch out for is content that promotes sexual assault and violence, an issue the app had back in 2017.
5. Among Us
Among Us is an animated whodunnit mystery video game played on phones and tablets. Designed for 4 to 10 players, the game pits people against each other to find the secret killer on their spaceship. If you’re wondering why Among Us made this list, it’s not because of the mild violence (though there’s plenty of that) — it’s because of the chat function. The game features a text chatroom for use during the emergency meetings to discuss who might be the imposter.
While the chat is censored, it can’t be turned off entirely. Profanity and violent language can be common. Also, many players move to Discord or Zoom to talk while playing. This may be fine if your child is playing with their friends, but often games of Among Us are played with strangers — opening the door to conversations with adults.
If you’re surprised by this one, you’re definitely not alone! Twitter is usually considered an app for breaking news, celebrities, and stand-up comedians. But it’s also a go-to source for porn. Twitter is so expansive and has so many users that the app’s search bar is basically like a Google search.
Kids know this and use Twitter to find porn because the platform won’t look suspicious if a parent does a quick browser history check. Similarly, because Twitter isn’t 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 check it out anonymously through any web browser.
Omegle is an anonymous video chatting platform that pairs you with a complete stranger somewhere in the world. Sensing a theme? That’s right — anonymous apps are usually some of the most dangerous apps for kids out there.
Children have been known to go on Omegle in groups, looking for excitement during a sleepover much like our generation did with prank calls or AOL chat rooms. But what they find on Omegle can be extremely dangerous. Kids can be exposed to nudity and even real-life sex acts on screen. Predators can lurk on the site, grooming children and saving photos and videos from their encounters.
What is Hoop? Think of it like Tinder meets Snapchat — almost literally. The app allows kids as young as 12 to form connections with total strangers. By swiping through profiles — which include the person’s age, gender, and photos — users can pick who they’d like to start a conversation with. They can then request that person’s Snapchat username with the tap of a button to continue the conversation there. While adults are also able to use the app, Hoop claims that users over 18 won’t be shown kids’ profiles (and vice versa). Still, this seems a little too close for comfort.
Kik is a free instant messaging/chat app that has almost no redeeming value. The company states that it’s for kids 13 and older, but the App Store rates it as inappropriate for anyone younger than 17. This is because of the vast amount of sexual content the app can expose kids to. If you don’t use Kik to chat with friends you already know (and why would you, if you have texting capability, Facebook Messenger, or other more reputable apps), you’re left with nothing but strangers in chat rooms. Because of this, the potential for predation is enormous with Kik. As such, it’s definitely not a messaging app for kids.
10. Vault apps
Vault apps are used to hide content on phones and tablets, from photos and files to other apps that kids don’t want their parents to know about. They often look like harmless apps — a popular one is a fake calculator, which grown-ups wouldn’t usually think twice about. Sometimes, these apps require a passcode to gain entry. Some even take a photo if someone is trying to figure out the combination to it! Whether they’re hiding off-limits apps like Snapchat or even inappropriate photos, nudes, or racy memes, vault apps can spell trouble.
Similar to Minecraft, Roblox is an open-world video game that’s wildly popular with kids 5 – 12. You can often find games with characters and settings from pop culture — worlds that kids like to spend time in. Roblox isn’t just one game, it’s actually a platform hosting millions of games that users have created and published.
Like with any other app that has user-generated content and an in-game chat feature, there’s always the chance that kids can run into inappropriate content while playing. This can include profanity, sexual content, drugs/alcohol, and more. The games themselves are similar to mainstream video games, with simulated violence (players can kill and be killed). There’s also the chance of children messaging with potentially predatory adults.
Many of the apps we’ve discussed so far are social media platforms or games. Yarn, on the other hand, is something you wouldn’t expect. It’s a reading app, but definitely not one you want your kids downloading. Yarn tells stories via fake text messages (it looks like you’re in iMessage reading a friend’s thread) that are either scary or sexual. Some of the titles you can access include “Send Nudes?,” “He’s Watching Me,” “Serial Slasher,” and “Sexting 101.”
In addition to text messages, you can also watch short videos on a variety of topics. Sometimes, they’re even in the form of TikToks. You can also listen to audio clips kind of like an audiobook or podcast.
How to Talk With Your Kid About Apps
Oftentimes, children just want to keep up with the apps that their peers are using. They may not even realize just how dangerous apps for kids can be. We recommend sitting down with your child and talking through any new apps they’d like to download. Discuss the pros and cons of each, keeping in mind that “because everyone else has it” isn’t the best of arguments. But be sure to listen to what they have to say. Their research and passion may surprise you!
Sometimes, talking about a simple app can turn into a very important conversation about safety, sex, or even mental health. No matter what you decide when it comes to allowing your kid to use an app, consider making a tech contract. This document, which is created collaboratively, can help set expectations around and guidance for your child’s online activity.
As a parent, you probably want to shield your child from the worst of the world — at least as long as you possibly can. The internet, as you can imagine, complicates things. No matter how hard you filter, block, and monitor, things may still slip through. Friends have phones. Schoolmates have tablets. And, eventually, kids grow up. Striking the right balance between protection and education when it comes to racism on social media is the best way to prepare your child for dealing with this issue for the rest of their life.
Whether your family hasn't had to think seriously about this yet or had to start conversations about race very early, it’s important to stress to children the benefits of fairness, understanding, and kindness. Here at Bark, we believe in the golden rule, and that every family — and every child — deserves a happy, healthy life. In this blog post, we’ll dig into why there’s so much racism on social media, how it affects kids, and how you can talk to your child about this important topic.
Why Is There So Much Racism on Social Media?
Anyone who’s spent time on Facebook and checked out the comments section on a political post is probably familiar with how quickly things can devolve. Even subjects that have nothing to do with race can end up with comments that attack someone’s ethnicity or skin color. But why does this happen so much? There are often a number of factors at work.
People post without thinking
Social media — when combined with the fact that we have little computers that connect us to everyone in the entire world — gives people the chance to post their thoughts as soon as they have them. In situations where emotions run high, it can be easy to immediately dash off an angry response that includes slurs or hateful language. Many times, the response is something that the person would never say in real life to an actual person.
In this way, social media is intensely personal — in that a person’s sense of self can be impacted by a simple comment from a stranger — and also at the same very impersonal, in that it’s easy to forget you’re talking to another living, breathing human being with feelings much like yours.
People can be trolls
In the film The Dark Knight, Alfred responds to Batman’s questioning of the Joker’s insidious motives with the statement, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” So it can be with internet trolls that exist to rile up others online, and there’s no quicker way to do that than to start attacking physical characteristics and using racist language. They may not even believe what they’re saying — they just know that it can ruin someone’s day in just a few hastily typed-out characters.
People can find community in anger
Racism finds a home online in places where like-minded folks gather to share their hateful thoughts. Reddit, for example, is notorious for allowing hate speech to flourish in its many communities. Members of these communities may join for any number of reasons, including ignorance, powerlessness, prejudice, or a combination of all three.
Why Kids Are Especially Vulnerable to Cyber Racism
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ position on racism is that it has “significant adverse effects on the individual who receives, commits, and observes racism.” Anger, shame, hate, aggression, and other negative emotions can greatly impact a child's development. Here are a few reasons why kids are especially vulnerable to online racism:
They may not understand exactly what they’re doing
Using profanity is often one of the first ways kids try to rebel — and several forms of profanity come from racist slurs or expressions. When a child calls someone a racist bad word, they may not understand the complex history and impact that such a loaded term has.
They might not immediately realize when it’s happening to them
Younger kids especially may find themselves in positions where other children are harassing, ignoring, or shaming them about their background. Some many chalk it up to just being teased or regular schoolyard bullying, but there’s often so much more to it. Cyberbullying can take it to another level when racist memes are created and shared.
What Hate Speech Looks Like
Bark’s 2021 annual report analyzed more than 3.4 billion messages across texts, email, and 30+ apps and social media platforms. When it comes to hate speech, these were the top five platforms with the most instances:
What can we learn from this list? We can see that hate speech occurs online in a wide variety of apps. Kik, Discord, and Snapchat are messaging apps, which means that kids are sharing images and sending text chats that contain inappropriate content. Spotify is a music streaming service, so alerts triggered here indicate that kids are listening to music with potentially racist content. Tumblr is a microblogging platform where images and posts can go viral and be shared by thousands in a matter of hours. Regardless of whether children are actively sharing hate speech, they’re often exposed to it, and the cumulative effect can be damaging.
Online Racism, Real-life Dangers
Social media platforms are aware of the threat that online racism poses, and community guidelines from Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, and countless others all contain sections that explicitly ban hate speech. The reason why so many companies strive to keep it off their platforms is because it can lead to real-life violence.
According to Stomp Out Bullying, “Words, name-calling, hateful phrases, casual racist comments — they all have an impact, especially if those words become convincing to a large number of people.” Many times after mass shootings, the perpetrator’s online activities or manifestos point to explicit hate speech.
How to Talk to Your Child About Racism: Conversation Starters
Having a conversation about racism is serious and important, and like all hard talks, can be challenging. It’s so, so important though — try not to shy away from it. Here are some ways to start a conversation with your child in a safe, supportive manner.
Ask for their opinion on a news story concerning racism
Civil rights have been in the news nearly constantly over the past few years. As America reckons with its history, find out what your child has learned and absorbed. If they bring up something you're not familiar with, research it together.
Find out what racism is like at their school
Schools are like microcosms of society, for better or for worse. Ask your child if they’ve ever seen a racist incident in class, witnessed someone use a slur in their presence or online, or even experienced it themselves.
Discuss what it means to be an “upstander”
Upstanding is the opposite of bystanding — or sitting back while something unfair happens. Here are a few ways to get your child involved in upstanding. Make sure they know they can always:
- Tell the person to stop
- Get others to join them by standing up to the person bullying
- Shift focus away from the person bullying
- Find an adult who can help
How to talk to your child if they experience racism
Not all children will experience racism on social media. But for families who do, Dr. Sadiqa Cash wrote an article for Texas Children’s Hospital on how to develop resilience in children in the face of racism:
- Affirm their identity. Teach your child to take pride in their background and culture. It’s worth celebrating!
- Surround them with representation. Every kid deserves to see themselves as doctors, baseball players, superheroes, attorneys, and more. Find books, TV shows, movies, etc. featuring people who look like your child.
- Validate their feelings. Speak openly and honestly with your kid about the reality of racism in our society. Let them know that whatever they’re feeling is okay, and support them as much as you can.
- Find community. It takes a village to raise a child. Find community organizations that help your child feel at home and thrive.
Fighting Prejudice with Purposeful Inclusion
Most of the values children learn come from their families, from table manners to thoughts on TV shows. Even if your family never discusses race, a stance is being taken — silence on important matters can speak volumes. It can also create a vacuum that outside influences may fill, often to a child’s detriment. Need some ways to help raise an anti-racist kid? Try these:
- Expose your child to other cultures and praise different perspectives. This can be as easy as watching a movie set in a different country, like Coco.
- Set a real-life example by having friends from different backgrounds.
- Denounce racist behavior shown on the news to help communicate to your child that racist actions are not to be emulated.
- Avoid race-based cliches and stereotypes whenever talking about people, music, movies, and more.
Why It’s Important to Protect Your Child Online
Bark can help you protect your kid from racism on social media. Our award-winning service gives parents peace of mind by monitoring texts and 30+ apps for signs of bullying, hate speech, suicidal ideation, and more.
These alerts not only help keep your child safe, they also spur important discussions about the topic — even if your child is just a witness to something inappropriate in a group chat or on YouTube. The internet can be a scary place. Let Bark help support your family as you navigate it.