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Back in the ‘90s, the closest we got to meditation apps was the commercial for the ethereal and panflute-heavy music of the Pure Moods CD. Today, an entire industry has been built up around helping kids, teens, and adults relax with easy-to-use smartphone mental health apps. There are a ton of options to choose from, though! That’s why we’ve downloaded, meditated, and breathed in and out to find the best options for families.

Why Encouraging Mindfulness and Breathing Is So Important 

Growing up has never been exactly easy, but it’s even more of a challenge in the digital age. The mounting pressures of social media, ever-changing technology, and even recent world events like the COVID-19 pandemic all add up to a lot for kids to handle. That’s why it’s important to check in with your family often about how they’re feeling. Younger children may not even have the words to describe emotions like being anxious, overwhelmed, or stressed out. Mindfulness and breathing activities can help ground your child in the moment so they don’t get carried away by negative feelings. 

The Top Mental Health Apps for Kids

Calm

iOS

Android

You’ve probably heard of Calm, and with good reason. It’s one of the most popular meditation apps out there, and recently hit the 100-million download mark back in the fall of 2021. There’s tons of relaxing content available, from calming sleep stories for kids to body scan meditations perfect for stressed-out teens. There’s also relaxing music, stretches, and more. Free options are limited with the app, but Calm premium is around $40 for an entire year. 

Headspace

iOS

Android

Headspace is known for its colorful graphics and eye-catching illustrations in its videos and throughout the app. These definitely help users to visualize more clearly during breathing exercises and mindfulness meditations. Sessions range from just one single minute of deep breathing all the way to hour-long rain baths that help you drift off in the evenings. Headspace is $69.99 annually or $12.99 monthly, and includes a free 7-day trial. 

Breathe, Think, Do With Sesame

iOS

Android

Perfect for younger kids (4–8), Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame helps teach kids about uncomfortable feelings and ways to self-soothe. Presented in a game format, kids work to help calm down a frustrated Sesame Street monster. Slow taps on his belly encourage him to breathe deeply, while quick taps on thought bubbles help him to come up with a plan. Kids absorb these lessons about the importance of working thoughtfully and slowly through stressful situations. The best part? It’s absolutely free!

Chill Panda

iOS

Android

If your kid loves animals, they’ll enjoy learning about mindfulness from wise and chill panda bears in this relaxing game. This cozy gaming experience is full of nature sounds, gorgeous garden scenery, and a minimalist design that’s reminiscent of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing. There’s also a Quick Chill option where Chill Panda helps you practice simple box breathing in timed movements. Chill Panda is another option that’s available at no cost for families.

Better Sleep

iOS

Android

Better Sleep has meditation activities, sleep stories, and music options to choose from, but one of the coolest features is its composer tool. You can choose from tons of sounds, from ambient night music and rainfall to morning birdsong and the sound of a dishwasher running. You can even put them together to create the perfect background noise for falling asleep, doing homework, meditating, or going for a walk. There’s a free option with a fair amount of content, but the annual price for full use is $39.99/year after a one-week trial.

Go Noodle

iOS

Android

Sometimes, the best way for younger kids to feel a little better mentally is to get their bodies moving with physical activity. Go Noodle has tons of entertaining and energetic videos that will get kids dancing, jumping, and moving around the living room. Once they’ve boogied out some of that energy, they’ll have an easier time concentrating when they get to school, church, or even a long car ride. It’s 100% free, too!

How Bark Can Help Families Stay on Top of Mental Health

If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, Bark can help give you peace of mind. Our award-winning content monitoring service scans your kid’s online activities — texts, emails, chats, and social media posts — for anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and more. Even though mental health apps like Calm or Headspace are good for addressing the symptoms of anxiety, they don’t provide insight into your child’s world or mood. Bark sends you alerts so you can check in and make sure everything is okay with your kid and if needed, provide them with support from a mental health professional.

how to block websites on android header image with blocking emoji

Want to help keep your child safe while they’re using their Android? Whether you’re worried about porn, gaming sites, or streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, keeping your kids away from inappropriate websites can be a challenge. In this blog post, we’ll teach you how to block websites on Android devices two different ways. First, we’ll explain how to do it with Google Family Link, a free app that has basic features. Then, we’ll show you how to block a website on Android devices with Bark, our comprehensive tool perfect for digital families.

Android devices like Pixels, Galaxies, and Palms come with a free set of parental controls —it’s actually an app called Google Family Link. You can use Family Link on an iPhone or an Android, but your kid will need to have an Android device for the controls to work.

To kick things off, download the free Family Link app onto your own device (Android or iPhone). If your child already has a Google account, Family Link will walk you through linking both of your accounts. If not, you’ll need to create a Google account for them.

Once you’re good to go with accounts, you can get started. 

  1. Open the app on your phone. Tap your child’s name.
  2. Tap Manage Settings.
  3. Select Google Chrome. Here, you’ll see three options for how to block websites on Android devices.
    • First, you can approve all sites. This basically means no rules, so you may not want this option.
    • Second, you can select “Try to block explicit sites.” This means that Google will automatically try to filter out sexually explicit and violent sites. You can also customize this option by manually adding in sites that are approved as well as sites that are blocked. 
    • The last option is also the most locked down. Here, you’ll have to manually add every website you would like your child to have access to.  Everything else will be blocked! You’ll also be able to approve website requests from your kid.
  4. Once you’re done with that, head back to the settings page and tap Google Search. Make sure SafeSearch is toggled on — this will hide explicit results in Google Searches. 

How to Block a Website on Android Devices with Bark

Bark is your best option if you’d like to be able to block a website on Android, along with tons of  categories of content — like adult websites, gaming, social media, and much more. That means you don’t have to know all of the potentially worrisome sites by name! 

To get started, download the Bark parent app, and follow the on-screen instructions to connect your child’s device.

  1. From your dashboard, tap Screen time.
  2. Tap Rules, then Default rules.
  3. On this page, you can choose from 19 different categories of content to block. 
  4. Apply rules for any other rule sets you’ve got set up, like bedtime and school time.

You can even get granular — whatever works for your family!  For example, you can block social media as an entire category or just the ones that you’re most worried about. Be sure to also require safe search when your child is using Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.This feature then blocks all other search engines that don’t have a safe search feature so your kid can’t get around it.

Need More Help with Android Parental Controls?

In addition to blocking websites and apps, Bark also lets you create custom screen time schedules. Sometimes, you don’t want to block something outright, but just want to let your kid use it at certain times. This can look like “No Fortnite during the school day” and “Only meditation apps after bedtime.” Bark lets you create custom screen time schedules to help keep your kid on track during the day. 

We also help keep kids safe with our content monitoring tool. Our award-winning service monitors texts, emails, and social media platforms for signs of potential dangers like bullying, online predators, suicidal ideation, and more. If something concerning is found, you’ll get an alert so you can check in and make sure everything’s okay. Now that you’ve learned how to block a website on Android devices, the sky’s the limit for other parental controls!

sexual slang keyboard keys

We’ve talked about drug slang, gaming slang, slang in general — now it’s time to take a deep dive into sexual slang. When it comes to sexting codes and meanings, the phrases and emojis kids use are constantly evolving. To help parents out, our team of experts has scoured TikTok, Instagram, and more to compile examples of how kids are actually talking about sex today. For all the families frantically googling “sexting text meaning” after seeing a random emoji on your child’s phone — this post is for you.

Sexual Slang Terms Parents Need to Know

Sexting Codes and Meanings Used to Get Around Social Media Rules

Lately, slang has been evolving extra quickly because of the different rules social media platforms have for certain words. For example, on TikTok, posts that feature the word “sex” may get taken down. To prevent this from happening, users may use an alternate spelling like “seggs” to get past it. Eventually, once you start seeing this term enough, it becomes interchangeable with “sex.” Sexting text meanings can vary, but here’s a list of current popular ones.

How to Talk With Your Kid About Sexual Slang

Now that you have an understanding of the most common sexual slang terms that kids use today, you might want to have a conversation with your child about what they’re likely encountering online. It can feel pretty awkward to bring up, but letting your kid know you’re there to support them and answer any questions they may have can go a long way in strengthening your relationship.

Keep having age-appropriate conversations about sexual content as your child grows. This can include explaining what consent means, discussing how to spot online predators, and more. Above all, never shame your kid for asking questions — as their parent or guardian, you’re an invaluable resource for them as they grow and learn.

If you’d like some support navigating the sexual content your kid may experience online, Bark can block explicit websites and apps, help you manage your child’s screen time, and even send you an alert if they run into porn, predators, or sexual slang terms.

Hidden social media apps image of emoji making shhh face

No matter how tech-savvy you consider yourself to be, teens and tweens will probably always stay a few steps ahead. Fortunately, the team here at Bark is in your corner, and it’s our job to keep up with all of the new and different ways kids use technology. In this post, we’ve compiled a list of the top online things parents need to know that your kids probably already do. This includes everything from using hidden apps and secret browsers to blocking you from seeing Instagram stories. 

Things Parents Need to Learn That Kids Already Know

So many apps have hidden browsers

When it comes to checking your kid’s web browsing history, you probably go for the usual suspects like Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. But did you know that many apps open up websites in their own browsers? 

This means that your kid may be able to visit websites that wouldn’t leave a trail in their main browser. Apps like GroupMe, Kik, Telegram, and even Instagram all have these backdoors to the web. These browsers can be hard to manage and monitor, but it’s important to know that they exist.

There’s a Tinder for teens, and it’s called Hoop

Described as “Tinder meets Snapchat,” Hoop is a friendship and dating app for young people. The app allows kids as young as 12 to form connections with total strangers locally and all across the world. 

Here’s how it works: After you download the app, you link it to your Snapchat account. Then, you begin swiping on profiles (like you would on Tinder to find a date). You’re required to use in-app “diamonds” to request chats — and you’re only allowed to send 10 requests before needing to obtain more, which you have to pay for. 

Hiding apps is easier than you think

If you’re ever doing a spot check on your kid’s phone and don’t see any potentially suspicious apps, you may not be seeing the whole picture. It’s possible for apps to be downloaded and installed on your child’s phone but not be displayed on their home screen. This way, a quick scan wouldn’t reveal them. 

If you’re concerned your kid may have an app that’s not allowed in your family, check out their app library. You can also go to the App or Play Store and search for a specific app. You’ll be able to tell if an app has been downloaded before if you see the option to download it instead of purchasing it. Some kids delete apps while at home, and then redownload and use them while at school or at a friend’s house.

You might not be seeing all of your child’s Instagram stories

Even if you and your child follow each other on Instagram, and even if you’re Close Friends, you still may not be seeing the whole story of what’s going online (pun intended). No matter how closely connected, Instagram users can hide their stories from anyone as long as they like. A kid may choose to hide them for just a few hours while at a party or continue to block them indefinitely. 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if your child blocked you from seeing stories short of looking at your child’s account. But if you don’t want to go that far, just keep an eye on their usual posting rhythm and notice if it changes throughout the week or during certain times or events. 

Calculator apps can be for more than just math homework

If your child has more than one calculator app, there’s a good chance it could be a vault app. These are apps that look harmless but actually serve as secret folders for pictures, files, and even other apps. 

Because hidden apps tend to be used to hide inappropriate content, it’s important to talk with your kid about them. Even if your child wants one just for security (like for a banking app or a journal), it still may not be a good idea.

Location sharing may be an option in your kid’s favorite apps

Snapchat has long been known as the app that made disappearing messages famous, but there’s also another popular feature parents may not know about — the Snap Map. Usually, kids just use their Snap Map to share their location with their friends. 

But you can also post it to a feature called “Our Story,” which enables users to contribute to a public feed that shows in near real-time events happening across the world. 

WhatsApp, the popular messaging app that’s similar to texting, lets users broadcast their location. When chatting with a contact, you can send your exact whereabouts. An in-app map opens up with your precise location accurate down to a few meters. With just a few taps of a button, the other person can even get instant directions to your location.

If there’s a way to chat on an app, kids will find it

You’re probably familiar with the direct message (DM) feature on apps like Snapchat and Instagram. And even popular games like Roblox and Clash of Clans have in-app chats for players to swap messages and insults. 

But even seemingly harmless platforms like Fitbit and religious apps may have message boards. Because of this, these are places where adults can target kids for grooming. This is why it’s important to evaluate the apps your child downloads, so you can know every potential danger. 

Need Help Finding Hidden Social Media Apps?

Now that you know some of the tricks that young people use while online and on social media, you probably want to know what you can do to help keep them safe. Bark is here to help with content monitoring, screen time management, app and website blocking, and location sharing tools. You can even get an automatic alert whenever your child downloads a new app! Say goodbye to being in the dark about hidden social media apps.

phone icons for messaging apps for kids

It is a truth universally acknowledged that today’s families will eventually be in need of a safe messaging app for kids. Whether your child is just starting out with their first phone or is already a texting pro, safety is still paramount. There are so many different apps and social media platforms to choose from, which is why we’ve got your back.

For teens in particular, the popular way to chat seems to change with the season. Snapchat has been the go-to app for texting and group chats for a while, and it’s certainly not very safe. So, what’s a parent to do? Here’s a breakdown of the best — and worst — messaging apps for kids. The criteria for the best apps include ease of use, cost, and the ability of Bark to monitor them for dangers.

The Best Messaging Apps for Kids

Messenger Kids

The best messaging app for kids who are younger is one that you have complete oversight of, which is why Messenger Kids tops our list. The hallmark of Messenger Kids is visibility on all sides so that there are no surprises. Parents can also download their child’s conversations at any time. And because the app is tied to your personal Facebook profile, you can easily add friends and family members for your child to chat with. 

Google Chat

As your kid dips their toes into the internet, one of the first things they’ll usually get is an email account. Gmail tends to top the list of best free email providers, and it also comes with all of the accompanying Google Workplace features like Chat, Drive, and more. Google Chat (formerly called Hangouts) is an easy way to message back and forth, and there’s a dedicated app for it. In addition, Google can archive Chats, so you can go back at any time and read the transcript of messages. Keep in mind that this feature can be turned off, however.

GroupMe

For group chatting, GroupMe is a great option. Users can sign up with their phone numbers or email addresses, and are then able to send private or group messages to other users. One of the cool things about GroupMe is that it’s a great equalizer. it works across platforms: All you need is a device (iPhone, Android, computer, or tablet) and Wi-Fi or cellular data to get connected. One thing to keep in mind: GroupMe does have its own internal browser that kids may be able to find. 

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a free instant messaging service that lets people with different mobile devices text, call, and video chat with each other. The app is frequently used to keep in touch with family and friends who live abroad. Users can create groups and share pictures, audio, and video messages as long as they’re connected to the internet. There is the ability to send disappearing messages, but this feature can be turned off. 

The Worst Messaging Apps for Kids

If there were a “Bark’s Most Wanted List” when it comes to dangerous apps, these platforms are definitely repeat offenders. 

Telegram

Telegram is similar in functionality to WhatsApp, but goes a step further — it adds the group chat functionality of apps like Discord. You can also use Telegram to share and store large files like TV shows or documents. Perhaps the most dangerous feature, however, is that you can find nearby users and message them. It goes without saying that this is incredibly dangerous for kids, especially considering that messages can be sent in secret mode or can be programmed to “self-destruct.”

Kik

On the surface, Kik may seem like yet another chat app similar to WhatsApp, GroupMe, or Facebook Messenger. But it relies a lot more on anonymity in its interactions. And unlike those other popular apps, Kik’s main draw is the thousands of public chat rooms filled with strangers — many of whom are adults. And when it comes to parental controls, Kik basically provides almost zero support for parents trying to protect their children. This makes it one of the least safe messaging apps for kids.

Snapchat

This world-famous disappearing-message app is likely well known to parents, but there’s more to it than just inappropriate photos. Drug dealers have begun using the app to contact kids to make sales, which is extremely dangerous. Even more troubling is Snapchat’s expansion into location sharing. The GPS-powered Snap Map enables friends (and potentially even strangers) to know your child’s exact location.

Discord

Discord is a popular gaming messaging platform that’s very similar to Slack. It features chatrooms, direct messaging, voice chat, and video calls. It’s a huge place for kids to hang out and talk about gaming. But it’s also popular whether you’re playing Call of Duty or just hanging out after school. Unfortunately, there are a ton of  “adult” servers on Discord that contain graphic and sexual content — and even potential predators. 

How Bark Can Help

Bark can monitor many of the platforms listed above (even some of the less safe messaging apps for kids) and send you alerts if there’s something you need to know about. We also provide help with screen time. You can block websites and apps entirely to help protect your child, or set healthy boundaries around how often they can use them. Bark will even let you know if your child downloads a new app without your permission!