Teen mental health — mom and daughter hugging

Growing up has never been easy, but for families today, it can seem even more daunting. Adolescence is a time of big change for kids, and dealing with emotions, school, and outside events can be overwhelming sometimes. As a parent, it’s important to help instill in your child healthy mental health habits that will last a lifetime, as well as to know when something may be wrong and a conversation is needed. This blog post will help you understand teen mental health a little better and how to connect with your child.  

Stressors — And Coping Mechanisms — Are Different Today

Even apart from the global pandemic, civil unrest, and inflation that’s disrupted nearly everyone’s life the past few years, teens today face issues our generation couldn’t have imagined. The pressures of social media and technology can create a toxic storm of self-doubt, FOMO (fear of missing out), sadness, bullying, and more. 

Teenage mental health issues can manifest themselves in ways adults may not recognize. Even the way kids talk about depression has changed, with new slang terms, idioms, and metaphors. Instead of staying on the phone with friends venting about school or parents, they may turn to group chats, logging on to a Discord server to voice chat, or even just zoning out watching their favorite Twitch streamer.

How to Promote Positive Mental Health in Teens

Mental health is like taking care of a car — many big problems can be taken care of with preventative maintenance. Also, some folks may think of the term “mental health” as something negative, but in reality, it’s part of our daily lives, and can be a positive thing! Here are some ways to encourage healthy mental health in teens:

Talk about feelings often

Emotions are how we process and make sense of the world around us. Make sure you talk about your own and encourage your child to share theirs — good, bad, and everything in between. Let your child know that all feelings are okay, no matter what. Tell them they can always come to you with any emotion, problem, or situation for help. Plus, the more you talk about these feelings, the more you’ll know what’s going on in your child’s world.

Encourage good physical health

The mind and body are linked, so it’s important that teens eat nutritious food, drink lots of water, exercise regularly, and rest well. Set aside some time throughout the day to share healthy meals and move your bodies as a group. 

Be a role model

One of the most important things you can do is model how to respond to life and emotions for your child. When you have a bad day at work and are stressed, demonstrate how you decompress with yoga or by having a movie night with the family. These little habits show your child that life isn’t just about what happens to you — it’s also how you react to things. 

Common Mental Health Issues to Know About

Anxiety and depression are probably the most common teen mental health issues parents recognize, but there are other ways teens may be struggling, including:

How You Can Support Your Child

Know the warning signs

No one knows your child quite like you do, so you’re in the best position to know when and if something is amiss in their world. Here are some general things to look out for when it comes to warning signs for issues like depression and anxiety:

Actively listen

When you sit down to talk to your teen, give them your full attention. It can be hard for a young person to bear their soul, and the last thing you want is for them to feel like you’re not all there. Put your phone in another room, turn off the TV, and make sure there’s lots of eye contact. Ask follow-up questions and repeat back important parts of what they’re saying. This can look like “I hear you’re not sleeping well and feel tired all the time. That sounds pretty stressful!”

Show empathy

It may be hard to 100% understand some of the situations and activities your teen may be in. For example, maybe you’ve never dramatically been kicked out of a group chat. But you probably have experienced a fight with friends, though. Show your child that you understand their emotions and that they’re not alone in their feelings, whatever they may be. 

Offer support 

This can look like listening more often, planning a weekly ice cream date, or something heftier like working together to find a therapist. Let your child know that you’re willing to show up for them in whatever they need to support their mental health.

Provide resources

If there’s one silver lining to dealing with mental health issues today, it’s that there’s never been a time more filled with information and resources thanks to the internet. From videos and worksheets to texting hotlines and phone numbers, there are tons of ways to get and implement help. Check out the section below for resources for both you and your teen.

Helpful Resources for Teen Mental Health

How Bark Can Help Families

Even armed with the best information and resources available, it can still be hard figuring out teen mental health. Many teens turn to social media and messaging with friends to help make sense of their feelings and emotions — things they sometimes wouldn’t normally share with their parents. Bark can help by monitoring online activities for signs of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.

Snapchat premium

Have you heard the news? Snapchat Plus is the new premium subscription version of the popular disappearing-message app. Lots of apps and games operate on a freemium model — that is, free basic features with the option to pay for extras — but Snapchat is the latest social media platform to head in this direction.

For $3.99/month, users can customize apps and themes, get insight into who’s interacting repeatedly with their stories, and more. You can even get early access to new features before they’re rolled out to everyone else. Fortunately, we’ve got everything you need to know about the Snapchat premium subscription— including possible dangers.

Why Is There a Snapchat Plus, Anyway?

The short answer is — money. Snapchat has been around for a while, and like most apps, it’s been relying on ads to generate income. Creating a premium model will not only help bring in more cash, it will also attract more users. It’s unclear how successful this model will be for Snapchat, especially considering how many kids use the app (and who often rely on their parents to approve purchases). But in the meantime, teens especially are bound to get excited about some of the new features explained below.

Snapchat Plus Features, Explained

Story rewatch indicator

On Snapchat (like Instagram), you can see who’s viewed your stories, which are photos you share and that stay up for 24 hours. Once someone has viewed a story, though, they can look at it again as many times as they want and you’d never know. This new feature really lets the cat out of the bag and tells you exactly how many times they’ve come back and replayed your stories, which in turn could indicate if someone is interested in you. 

Friend Ghost Trails

With the existing Snap Map, you can see where friends are in real time on a map if they choose to share their location with you. Ghost trails take this even further and shows you where all they’ve been over the past 24 hours. Of all the new features available with Snapchat Plus, this one is probably bound to cause the most drama. 

Custom app icons

For power users, the ability to completely personalize your Snapchat experience can be a huge draw. Want your Snapchat icon to be on a rainbow background? Overlaid on an American flag? Completely made of flowers? A Snapchat premium subscription lets you take your pick. 

Snapchat+ badge 

Exclusivity is another draw of Snapchat+. You can add some flair to your user name with a black star badge that lets your friends know that you’re an official Plus subscriber.

Friend Solar System

Ready for a throwback? Snapchat+’s Friend Solar System is basically the visual friend-ranking version of MySpace’s top eight. When you’re a Snapchat+ subscriber, you’ll see a “Best Friends” or “Friends” badge that has a gold ring around it on someone’s Friendship Profile. If you’re “Best Friends,” that means you’re one of each other’s eight closest friends, while “Friends” means you’re one of their eight closest friends, but they’re not one of yours.  In order for this feature to work, you and your friends must have linked Bitmojis.

Best Friends Forever Pin

This is a small feature, but some teens may love it. You can pin your BFF as your “#1 Best Friend” with Best Friends Forever. However, only you can view this pin.

The Dangers of a Snapchat Premium Subscription

Many of the features discussed above are harmless — things like the customizable Snapchat icon. Others may be bound to cause a little tension (like the friend Ghost Trails), but don’t necessarily present an immediate threat. However, it’s the unmentioned things that may cause danger down the line. As a Snapchat Plus user, you get access to unreleased new features, and there’s no telling what some of these new additions may be. Snapchat has long been one of the more dangerous social media apps, so it’s worth keeping in mind that any new features may be sketchy, as well. 

How Bark Can Help

As many families know, Snapchat makes it extremely difficult to monitor its content on any platform. Currently, no monitoring services can scan Snapchat messages on iOS devices. On Androids, we can monitor messages with text only. 

Apart from monitoring, Bark’s blocking and screen time tools allow parents to manage when — and even if — kids are allowed to use Snapchat. You’ll also receive an alert if your child creates a Snapchat account or downloads the app, so you can stay in the know when it comes to what’s going on in their digital world.

Project anchor

If your family has struggled with supporting a child experiencing suicidal ideation, you’re probably familiar with just how devastating can be. It can be scary, anxiety-producing, and incredibly isolating. But it’s important to know that you are not alone. Many, many families have dealt with this issue, so much so that suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for young people aged 10 to 14.

Here at Bark, we’ve witnessed that 43.09% of tweens and 74.61% of teens were involved in a self-harm/suicidal situation in 2021 — a sobering and heartbreaking statistic. We send alerts to parents and guardians notifying them of this concerning issue, but it can be hard for parents to know what to do next. 

That’s why we’re proud to announce that we’re partnering with Project Anchor in a groundbreaking new study meant to provide more resources and information to parents supporting a child struggling with suicidal ideation or self-harm. Read on to learn how you can volunteer for this important study.

What is Project Anchor?

In collaboration with Bark, Dr. Kathryn Fox (University of Denver), Dr. Taylor Burke (Harvard Medical School), and Dr. Alex Bettis (Vanderbilt University Medical Center) were recently awarded a research grant from the Mental Research Institute to develop evidence-based guidance for parents about what to do in the hours, days, and months after they receive a suicide/self-harm alert. 

This research funding will support the launch of Project Anchor, the first step in Bark’s collaboration with this team. Despite alarmingly high rates of suicide and self-harm in teens, there are few evidence-based resources designed to help parents and guardians navigate what to do when they learn that their child might be at risk. 

Project Anchor is an anonymous, paid research study recruiting guardians who use Bark. Through Project Anchor, we hope to learn more about guardians’ experiences after receiving a Bark suicide/self-harm alert. 

Based on what is learned from Project Anchor, the researchers will design an evidence-based digital tool to help parents know what to do after they receive a suicide/self-harm alert, and to help keep their children safe.

Why Volunteers Are Needed

Talking about suicide is hard, and it can be even harder when it comes to how children experience it. By sharing your family’s experience with Bark alerts regarding suicidal ideation and self-harm, you can provide invaluable information that can benefit countless other families. Because of how Bark works within the framework of a child’s use of social media, texting, and other forms of online communication, Bark families are uniquely positioned to help researchers learn the hows, whens, and whys of suicidal ideation and self-harm.

Project Anchor’s research aims to understand how and when teens disclose suicidal thoughts and self-harm, how families talk about these thoughts and behaviors, and to develop tools to support families when a child is at risk for suicide and/or self-harm. 

What to Expect

You’ll complete two separate surveys online over the course of a week. The study will take less than an hour total. After you finish the first survey, you will receive a $5 electronic Amazon gift card. After you finish the second survey, you’ll receive a $10 electronic Amazon gift card. 

How to Get Started

988 on phone suicide hotline

Starting July 16, 2022, people in distress — including those who are suicidal or experiencing a mental health or substance-use crisis — can call, text, or chat 988 to reach support. This new easy-to-remember number may be new, but its lifesaving concept isn’t — dialing 988 will route callers to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The current Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will still be active after 988 launches nationally.

Designating 988 as the new suicide hotline is so, so important for expanding mental health care in the U.S. First, it shows that mental health emergencies are just as important as public safety emergencies by assigning it a quickly reached, three-digit number like 911. Second, by making it easy to access and remember, the hotline makes it possible to get help to more people. Read on to find answers to frequently asked questions about 988.

FAQs About 988, the New Suicide Hotline Number

How can you access 988?

From a phone, you can call 988 to speak in-person with a trained counselor. If talking feels like too much, you can send a message to 988 and communicate via text. Finally, if you don’t have access to a phone or have spotty cell service, you can visit 988lifeline.org to text chat or even place a video call. The lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week — including holidays and weekends.

What should you expect when you call 988?

When you contact 988, you’ll be connected with a trained local counselor who will listen, provide support, and offer resources for further help, if needed. If you’re worried about an ambulance being automatically called, don’t be — fewer than 2% of hotline calls require connection to emergency services like 911. 

How is 988 different from 911?

988 aims to help provide more accessible mental health support given the rising rates of suicide in the U.S. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. 911, on the other hand, is for public safety and medical emergencies like fires, accidents, and crimes. Calling 911 often results in the dispatch of EMTs, police, or firefighters. 

Can anyone call 988?

Yes. Anybody who needs suicide or mental health-related crisis support, or is close to someone in crisis, can contact the lifeline for help and assistance. Counselors can provide ways to help navigate a situation if you’re a loved one looking to help. The lifeline is absolutely free.

Is 988 only for those with suicidal ideation?

988 provides support not just for suicide, but also mental health and substance-use crises. 

Does 988 work in every part of the U.S.?

Yes, the Lifeline itself covers all areas of the U.S., even if there’s no nearby local crisis center. 988’s goal is to get calls answered as locally as possible, so they are working on developing relationships in areas where there are no nearby crisis centers.

How Bark Can Help With Suicidal Ideation

As a suicide hotline, 988 can provide help in moments of crisis. But what about before a situation gets to that point of crisis? Bark’s award-winning service helps families by monitoring children’s online activities for potential signs of depression, suicidal ideation, self-harm and more. When you connect their device and accounts, Bark will scan for potential issues and send you an alert if something concerning is found. This way, you can check in and make sure everything is okay in your child’s world.

Peacock parental controls header with logo

If you’ve wondered why reruns of The Office have disappeared off of Netflix, it’s because they’ve headed to Peacock — the streaming service for new and classic NBC content and popular movies. Peacock joins the ranks of other platforms like Hulu, HBOMax, Disney+, Paramount+, and countless other streaming choices. But is it safe for children?

In this post, we’ll walk you through how to set up Peacock parental controls so you can help keep your kids safe as they watch their favorite shows and movies. Unlike a lot of other platforms, Peacock offers a free plan, though you have to upgrade to a premium package to access all content. 

How to Set Up Peacock Parental Controls

To get started, we recommend signing into your account on a web browser to make things easier. All changes will apply across every device you’re signed in on. 

How to decide what kind of profile to create for you child

You have two options for what type of profile you want to make for your child. You can create a kid’s profile, which allows kids to access a curated selection of child-friendly, youth-rated movies and TV shows. Think of this like the quick-start option. The only downside is that there’s no customization, it simply loads up TV-PG-rated content and below. 

Or, you can create a regular account and then require a PIN code for programming that’s over a certain rating. Kids will only be able to watch these shows and movies if they know the passcode you set. One downside of this is that this requirement will apply universally. This means you’ll have to enter your passcode every time you (any anyone else on your account) want to watch a movie with this rating and above. 

How to create a kid’s profile

  1. Log in to your account from peacock.com.
  2. From the top right corner, click your profile icon.
  3. On the next screen, under the existing Kid’s icon, click the pencil icon to personalize the account.
  4. Choose which avatar you’d like your kid to have.
  5. Next, type in their name.
  6. Click Done.
  7. You’re all set! When they log in to their profile, they’ll only be able to watch PG-rated content and below. If this rating is a little too high for your kid, you can create a more locked-down account using the next set of instructions. 

How to create a kid’s profile with custom restricted access

Use these instructions for creating a profile for a child that’s ready for more than just basic PG-rated content or is young enough to need the most restrictive content. 

  1. Log in to your account from peacock.com.
  2. From the top right corner, click your profile icon.
  3. On the next screen, click the + to add a new profile. 
  4. Choose their avatar and then click “No” when they ask if it’s a kid’s profile. Note: This can be a little counterintuitive, because you’re still making a kid’s profile, you’re just not making the PG-rated and below default one. For example, you may be making a profile for your teen and want to allow PG-13 content.
  5. Enter in your child’s name. 
  6. Click Done.
  7. You’ll be back at the selection screen. Now it’s time to set a passcode. Click Account in the top right corner.
  8. Choose Settings from the top menu. 
  9. Scroll down and toggle on Parental Controls.
  10. Then, enter in your desired PIN code and click Save Parental PIN.
  11. Underneath that section, click Change TV Rating.
  12. Here, you can choose from TV-Y all the way to NC-17. No matter which you choose, content with that rating and above will always require your PIN code — even if it’s you watching it on your profile. 
  13. Enter in your PIN again and click Save Parental Rating. 
  14. You’re all set!

Manage Screen Time with Bark

Now that you’ve learned how to set up Peacock parental controls, you can help protect your kids from inappropriate TV shows and movies. But what about managing the overall time they spend watching Peacock? Bark lets you manage your child’s screen time with custom schedules. This can look like “No Peacock on phones or tablets after bedtime.” Or, you can block it altogether, if needed. With Bark Home, you can even manage when your kid can access it on smart TVs, gaming consoles, and more.

BeReal app logo on green background

For every new social media platform popular with young folks, there exists a glorious moment when it’s free from adults, family members, and advertisers. Facebook had it in 2005. Instagram had it in 2012. Snapchat had it in 2015. And right now, a new app called BeReal is currently riding a wave of newfound popularity among teens and tweens. Its angle? Authenticity and spontaneity. Confused? No worries, we’ve got everything you need to know about this hot new social media platform. 

What is BeReal and How Does It Work?

Developed in France in 2019, BeReal is a photo-sharing app that’s growing in popularity at a rapid pace — monthly active users have grown 315% since the start of 2022. It’s particularly prominent among college students, a trait common in the explosive growth of new social media platforms (think Facebook and Yik Yak). 

Here’s how it works: Once a day, users get a time-sensitive notification. You then have exactly two minutes to snap a photo — it then will automatically create a collage of an image taken from both your front and back camera. The time you get this alert changes every day, so it’s always random when you’ll need to be photo-ready. Once the time’s up, you’ll be able to see what all of your friends are currently doing and react with emojis and comments. You can only post once per day in this tiny sliver of time. Also, if you don’t post your photo of the day, you can’t see others’ until you do.  

Why Kids Are Drawn to BeReal

Why is BeReal suddenly taking off when so many other photo-sharing apps currently exist? The short answer is: It’s complicated! But when you break it down, it all starts to make sense. Here are some of the selling points that help explain its rapid growth and popularity among young people. 

It can be more authentic

You can’t choose when you’re going to get the notification that it’s time to post. This can be a little nerve-wracking, because what if you’re just on the couch? What if you’re at Target? It doesn’t matter. The whole point of BeReal is to share what you’re actually doing — not a painstakingly curated photo of tacos or a group photo of friends smiling but who are actually all mad at each other.

The upside of this is that you only see real, everyday activity, and it can truly be a fascinating glimpse into the behind-the-scenes activities of your loved ones. The downside? It can be kind of boring sometimes. Blurry photos of cereal. Out-of-focus selfies in a dark room. A zoomed-in picture of a bug on the floor. When you only have two minutes, it’s not always a masterpiece of photography that’s created — and that’s the whole point. Think of BeReal like a complete reaction to — and rejection of  — more stylized social media platforms.

It’s not overrun with ads

A quick scroll through anyone’s Instagram account will reveal just how monetized the app has become. Peppered in between your friend’s stories are targeted ads selling clothes, medicine, perfume, sporting equipment, and nearly anything else you can think of (or buy). When you check out the feed, you get served “suggested” posts from people you don’t even know. BeReal has none of that — just the random daily snapshots from the lives of people you choose to follow. This isn’t to say that ads won’t happen eventually, but for now, it’s glaringly free of advertising. For kids, it feels less like an established product and marketing tool and more like pure social media. 

It hasn’t been infiltrated by older family members yet

Let’s face it — when we were young, we wanted cool places that weren’t infiltrated by parents and aunts and uncles. Back then, these spaces were real, like friends’ houses, parks, or even just on bikes cruising aimlessly around the neighborhood. Today, kids crave cool digital spaces, too. After all, even Facebook started out only for college students. Instagram was edgy for years before it, in turn, overtook Facebook as the go-to social media platform for the masses. BeReal is the latest social media phenomenon that gives teens and young adults a more private experience. That is — for now.

Dangers of BeReal

Like most social apps, BeReal isn’t immune from its share of dangers. Here’s what parents and families need to know. 

Inappropriate content

Whenever you give people access to a camera and the ability to publish photos, the chances of inappropriate content appearing are near inevitable. The app states that it’s for ages 13 and above, but many adults use the platform, which means that photos could include sexual content, drugs/alcohol, violence, and more. Another feature to note is that users can only delete one of their old photos per day. This means that potentially problematic photos that were posted in a moment of poor judgment could be up for longer than is prudent. 

Connections with strangers

Users can access a public feed composed of users from all around the world, and it’s just a quick button tap to add them as a friend. Once the invite is accepted, users can then leave comments, which could quickly lead to a jump to a different platform where chatting is easier. There’s no direct messaging feature on BeReal, currently. 

Privacy concerns

When you go to post your daily photo, it automatically defaults to geotagging your location. This means that other users could see potentially identifying clues to where you’re currently at. Coupled with a public feed, this could spell trouble. Fortunately, this feature can be turned off so that location doesn’t appear next to posts. 

Distraction

It’s completely random when users get the time-sensitive notification that it’s photo-sharing time. For some kids, this could result in dropping everything to search for something cool to post. It’s only two minutes, but this may interfere with school work, walking safely across the street, or even just paying attention to a conversation. 

How Bark Can Help

While we don’t monitor BeReal yet, Bark’s blocking and screen time tools allow parents to manage when — and even if — kids are allowed to use the BeReal app. You’ll also receive an alert if your child creates a BeReal account or downloads the app, so you can stay in the know when it comes to what’s going on in their digital world.

Illegal streaming sites header image of boy in front of computer in dark room

Remember when Netflix was just a couple of DVDs that came in the mail? It can almost seem like an urban legend to young people these days. That’s because today’s kids have never known life without advanced technology. They can listen to their favorite songs whenever they want or choose from nearly any movie to watch. They’re accustomed to getting the entertainment they want on-demand, around the clock.  It may be hard to believe, but not everything they want to watch may be available on streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for kids to turn to illegal streaming sites and download movies, music, and other content with phones, tablets, and computers. However, when they use illegal streaming sites, they’re putting their security at risk and breaking the law.

In this blog post, we’ll explain some of the dangers of illegal movie streaming sites. Awareness is critical because many kids don’t understand what can happen when they use any of the top illegal streaming sites.

What are Illegal Streaming Sites?

Illegal streaming sites allow users to download movies, music, and other entertainment files without paying for them. These sites offer pirated content that is distributed without the knowledge and permission of those holding rights to the content. The files are often different from the ones you would download from a paid streaming service legally, so they can contain malware and viruses.

Remember spending all day downloading a song on Napster or Limewire back in the day? Today’s illegal streaming sites aren’t much different — they just allow access to a wider variety of entertainment, including full movies, entire seasons of TV shows, and even ebooks. 

The Dangers of Illegal Movie Streaming Sites

There are a few dangers when children — and  even adults — use illegal streaming sites:

Top Illegal Streaming Sites to Watch out For

If you decide that you want to prevent your children from using illegal streaming sites, start by discussing the issue with them openly. Make sure they’re aware of the security risks and understand that you don’t want them to use any illegal programs to access movies, books, or music.

You can also help them find legal streaming services that offer free content. There are tons of options, including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, and countless others. 

The next step is to watch out for some of the top illegal streaming services. This short list covers some of the most popular today:

If you see any of these programs on your child’s device, you should remove them immediately. Keep in mind, though, that these types of websites and apps are constantly changing as they get shut down and others pop up in their place. 

How to Talk To Your Kid About Illegal Streaming

The best thing you can do is start asking questions. If you notice your child using a streaming service you don’t recognize, look it up online and ask what it is. When you see your child watching a movie or listening to music, ask what streaming service they’re using. Open lines of communication are essential for modern parenting.

If you want to learn more about monitoring your child’s online activity, learn more about Bark today.

Bark phone

Bark is thrilled to announce the upcoming launch of the Bark phone. This groundbreaking phone will combine Bark’s award-winning technology with an easy-to-use, secure Android device perfect for kids of all ages. Coming in late 2022, the Bark phone will give families the ability to completely customize their child’s online experience, helping to keep them safe online and in real life. 

What Sets the Bark Phone Apart

Existing phones designed especially for kids don’t give parents enough oversight and hand-me-down models can present many dangers for young people. Here at Bark, we know firsthand that parents want something that works. The Bark phone provides a better alternative for families looking for Bark’s award-winning content monitoring, screen time schedules, and more combined with an Android’s everyday functionality. 

Giving your child their first phone is a personal decision. No matter when you decide the time is right, the Bark phone stands out from the competition with its built-in safety controls and state-of-the-art features. 

What to Look Forward to

How to Reserve Your Spot

We’ll have additional details in the coming months as the Bark phone is finalized, but to make sure you stay up to date and reserve your spot in line, join our waitlist. The Bark phone will only be available online, so you won’t want to miss your chance to purchase the ultimate kid’s phone in 2022.