Ever wonder about the safeguards your child’s school puts in place for online activities? Many schools have rules in place when it comes to web blocking for all devices on school grounds, as well as school-issued computers that are sent home with children.
According to the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), 98% of schools are now filtering all website content that is available to students. This can look different depending on the school, but most schools use software to block potentially offensive content while others take a more manual approach by supervising students while they work in the classroom.
We want to make sure parents stay in the know about their child’s internet safety, no matter where they are. So this post is going to break down all the big questions, like why schools block websites, what exactly they are blocking, and how this information could help you decide what to block at home.
Why Do Schools Block Websites?
So why did schools start blocking websites in the first place?
The answer is because of something called the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). In 2000, Congress passed this act that placed certain restrictions on schools and libraries receiving internet services through the E-rate program (this program provides affordable internet services to schools and libraries that need it). The act requires these schools to block websites on all computers accessible by minors that contain the following types of content:
- Child pornography
- Images harmful to minors
CIPA also requires schools to follow other guidelines, including monitoring student activity while they’re actively using school or library computers. Schools that do not use the E-rate program to receive internet services may still decide to follow suit and block websites on their devices as well. In addition to CIPA, some states have regulations that their schools have to follow when it comes to website blocking.
The goal of these rules and restrictions is simple: to protect kids from harmful and distracting content on the internet.
School is a place where kids should be learning. While the internet is a useful tool to do just that, it also brings countless dangers that schools should be wary of. And aside from danger, the internet can be just plain distracting. Teachers have to do enough to keep students' attention without internet games and social media sites to worry about.
There has been some debate about whether or not schools should be blocking certain websites. You might be wondering, “what is the argument against blocking inappropriate content?” Good question. The leading opinion is that blocking websites is a form of censorship, which will do more damage in the long run. Restricting content could prevent kids from fully forming their own beliefs and ideas.
While there is some validity to this, it hardly seems to outweigh the damage of not blocking harmful websites. Kids should have the freedom to learn about a variety of topics to form their own opinions, but that doesn’t mean they need access to all the ugliness of the internet to do so.
What Websites Do Most Schools Block?
You can most likely guess what sort of websites are blocked on school grounds. First and foremost, it’s popular sites and apps kids will be tempted to visit. Some examples include:
- Amazon Prime
These are just a fraction of what schools may block on their devices. There are thousands more that easily make the list. Some schools block entire categories of content, taking away the need for human analysis of individual websites.
Reasons to Block Websites at Home
So what does all of this mean for you at home?
One takeaway is that if schools, state legislatures, and even Congress have gone so far as to require website blocking and content monitoring, that probably means this is a prevalent and serious issue. And if kids are willing to test the boundaries of internet browsing at school, how much more willing are they to test the boundaries in the comfort of their own home?
If you’ve been a parent for any amount of time, no one needs to tell you that kids are vulnerable and easily impressionable. So when the internet gives them access to loads of adult content — drugs, sex, guns, and violence, to name a few — it’s super important to have a support system in place. And that support system starts at home.
It’s important to know that this will look different for every family. There is a lot to consider when it comes to making internet rules for your kids. Let’s start with age. It’s a little easier to decide what’s appropriate and what’s not for young kids. But the older they get, the more they are going to want some freedom in what they do online. And sometimes, giving them that freedom is the intelligent thing to do. But even still, there’s more to consider. Do they get distracted easily and will the internet only add to that? Are they sensitive to bullying and the opinion of others on social media sites? Can you trust that they won’t share personal information with strangers they meet online? Maybe they have a developmental disability that will prevent them from understanding the consequences of certain online activities.
Sounds stressful, doesn’t it? We won’t sugar-coat it, it’s hard parenting in the digital world. But the good news — actually, the best news — is that you don’t have to do it alone! There are so many resources to help you navigate all the important decisions that come with introducing your kids to the internet.
The Simple Way to Block Websites on Phones, Tablets, Computers
The first step you can take in terms of website blocking is by using add-on extensions for Chrome or Firefox. This will allow you to block individual websites on any computer or mobile device. It’s simple enough but definitely time-consuming to figure out which websites to block and then actually block them one by one.
That’s why Bark offers a faster and even simpler solution. Bark allows you to block websites and apps by category, as well as set screen time schedules so you can help set healthy boundaries. This gives you all the control with none of the tedious work, so you can rest easy that your kids are better protected.
To get started, learn how Bark works and start your free trial today.
Chances are, you’ve been scrolling the internet on your phone or computer when you come across something that grabs your attention. It could be a headline or an image that seems to stand out for some reason. Without too much hesitation, you move your mouse or finger over it and…click!
It takes just a fraction of a second for your finger to touch down and make that click. It may not seem like a big deal, but online marketers spend a lot of time setting traps that encourage you to do just that. They want you to click on their links because it’s how they make money. In some cases, you don’t have to do anything but click to make their paycheck a little fatter.
What we’re talking about is something known as clickbait. Even if you don’t know what it is, you’ve most likely seen it a few thousand times, if not more. Let’s talk about what it is, how it can impact your kid online, and how to explain it so your child knows how to recognize it.
What is Clickbait?
Clickbait is any type of online content designed to convince internet users to click a link. The link could be attached to an eye-catching image or an attention-grabbing line of text. Oftentimes the click is more important than whatever the link is actually trying to say or do.
Here are some examples of clickbait in action:
- A social media account promotes a blog post with a shocking title that grabs your attention — something like “You won’t believe what happened when I tried this life hack!” When you click the link, you end up reading a blog that has nothing to do with a great life hack. It’s a waste of time, but the blog owner receives a view and accomplishes their mission.
- You see an interesting social media quiz that promises to read your fortune for the next month. You just have to click a link and then enter your name, birth date, and email address. You receive a generic fortune in exchange, and the marketer starts sending you spam messages to your email account daily. Even worse, they may use your birth date and name to attempt identity theft.
- You receive an email from a company you trust announcing a Facebook Live broadcast that hints about something catastrophic about to happen in the world (“Your worst fear is about to happen – click here to find out how you can be prepared”). So you click the link in the email to watch Live. You find out nothing catastrophic is about to happen, but the company is launching a new product they want you to buy.
How Does Clickbait Work?
Ever wonder how someone makes money off your clicks, anyway? Let’s take a look…
- First, someone with a web page or social media account attaches their link to some kind of clickbait, designed to entice you into clicking it.
- Then, unsuspecting people (not you, since you’re reading this blog post) click the link to learn more, only to find out the webpage or social media account is not what they’re actually interested in. For this person, it simply feels like a few minutes wasted before moving on to other parts of the internet.
- For the person that created the content, however, they just received some type of compensation for that click and every other click the post received. In some cases, they’re earning ad revenue for getting people to click ads on a website. In other cases, if the website asks for some personal information, they’re collecting that data in order to sell to advertisers.
You might be asking yourself, “Don’t all businesses want people to click their links? Isn’t all advertising technically clickbait?” The answer is: yes and no.
Legitimate businesses will use certain strategies to draw people to their websites. Their ads clearly tell you what they're selling and clicking the link will give you more information. That’s honest advertising.
Clickbait is different because clicking the link does not actually deliver what was first promised. In most cases, there’s not even a legitimate business behind it. Either the content is simply not there or it promotes some deceptive purpose, all to help someone make a few pennies.
What Does Clickbait Mean for Your Child’s Online Security?
So, what’s the big deal? Does clickbait really pose a danger to kids online?
Definitely. Here’s how:
- Viruses and malware – Links are sometimes connected to malicious websites or phishing software that can infect your computer or mobile device. Children may click these links without realizing they added dangerous software to their phones or computer.
- Identity theft and fraud – Kids can be tricked into providing personal information without realizing they’re on a scam website. They may give out passwords, addresses, names, birth dates, and other information that scammers can use for identity theft and fraud.
- Deception and misinformation – The intent behind some clickbait is to spread information that is inflammatory, negative, or false. Sometimes there are political motivations, but some scammers simply enjoy spreading false narratives. Children may struggle to understand what they’re viewing or why it’s harmful.
- Inappropriate content – Clickbait could very easily link to all sorts of adult content, including profanity, sexual content, drug/alcohol content, and more.
- Wasted time – If nothing else, clickbait encourages pointless scrolling and a never-ending consumption of content. If there isn’t a particular purpose, like education or connecting with friends, there’s no need for kids to get sucked into the spiral of clickbait.
Tips for Talking to Your Child About Clickbait
The best way to keep your kid safe from clickbait is to have a conversation with them. Now that you have a clear understanding of clickbait, all you need to do is tell them what you’ve learned. You could even pull out your phone and find some examples of clickbait together to get the point across.
It’s also important to remember that kids are going to be more vulnerable to clickbait than adults. They don’t always have the best impulse control and that’s exactly what online marketers are looking for. But explaining the motives of these marketers to your kid can go a long way when they realize not everything they see online is in their best interest.
Last but certainly not least, make sure your kid knows what information they should never give out online – no matter how cool the website or how believable the sales pitch is. Stress the importance of not giving out personal information like home address, phone number, birth dates, bank logins, and family member information. Another good rule of thumb is to have your kid always ask permission before entering any information online.
The Simplest Way to Keep Your Kids Safe Online
What does clickbait mean for your family? Potential danger! One surefire way to keep the danger of clickbait at bay is by blocking websites that contain harmful content. The best way to do that is to use Bark. Our app offers website blocking and content monitoring along with real-time alerts to help you protect your child from clickbait and much more.
Viral TikToks. YouTube how-to instructions. Highlights from football games. What do these all have in common? They’re all popular clips you can watch on video sharing apps. Young and old alike use apps for video sharing, and many kids even get in on the action by creating and sharing their own videos. Others, meanwhile, simply enjoy scrolling through videos from their favorite online creators and brands.
But are video sharing apps safe for kids? And how much should you monitor them as a parent? To help you understand what your kids are seeing, we’ve got all the details on the three most popular video sharing app options for teens and tweens.
TikTok is the leading video sharing app in the U.S. and across the world. It’s been downloaded more than 200 million times from within the U.S. and boasts an audience ranging in age from 13 to 60. More than a billion people use the app every month, and many visit daily to follow their favorite creators.
TikTok is rated 16+ but allows users as young as 13 to join. Those under the age of 16 are automatically given private accounts. This stops strangers from sending them direct messages within the app but doesn’t guarantee that young users won’t see inappropriate content. While there is a lot of clean, kid-friendly content available, there’s just as much if not more content that isn’t appropriate for younger users.
Pros for kids
- Family Pairing allows parents to link their child’s account to their own.
- Digital Wellbeing features create limits on the number of hours the app is used.
Cons for kids
- Having a private profile doesn’t block kids from seeing public videos.
- A lot of inappropriate content exists — sex, profanity, drug/alcohol, and more.
- Bullying and aggressive behavior are rampant.
- Accounts can be hacked.
YouTube has been around longer than TikTok and allows creators to upload longer, more detailed video content. Creators establish their own channels, and users follow their favorites to keep up with the latest content. There are now more than 2.5 billion YouTube users, and many consider it a search engine like Google. This is due largely in part to the incredible variety of educational and informative videos presented on the app. In fact, YouTube generates over a billion views every day.
Pros for kids
- YouTube has good parental control settings for pre-teens and older kids.
- A lot of content is suitable for kids as well as pre-teens and teens.
- Oftentimes, harmful content is removed quickly.
- It’s one of the safest video sharing apps available.
Cons for kids
- There are lots of inappropriate things for kids of all ages.
- Interaction with strangers in comments is possible.
Twitch is a video game streaming app that allows users to share video of their screens while they play popular video games. While the content usually revolves around gaming, this doesn’t mean users aren’t exposed to explicit language and other inappropriate content. Some mature video games like Grand Theft Auto are played and shared freely with no age gates that prevent younger users from watching.
Twitch allows users 13 years old and older to register without parental permission. There are also no parental controls in place. You can set your child’s account to block videos containing profanity, discrimination, hostility, or sexually explicit language, but there’s nothing stopping your child from turning those settings off.
Pros for kids
- There are tons of creative and educational video games to watch.
- Many kids feel connected to friends within the platform.
Cons for kids
- There are no real enforceable parental control settings.
- Games with violence and profanity are allowed.
- Kids may interact with adult users.
Are Video Sharing Apps Safe for Kids?
The three video sharing apps featured here aren’t safe for young children without direct adult supervision — and even then, some sketchy things may still pop up! It’s difficult to find consistently family-friendly content on TikTok because every flick of the screen brings up something new. While YouTube does offer cartoons and a wealth of educational videos, it also has some potentially dangerous content for young kids and even pre-teens. And Twitch can be incredibly hit or miss.
If you’re worried about your child interacting with video apps, Bark can help. You can block websites and apps to help keep your kids safe from inappropriate content. You can also manage when they can access them — like no YouTube until after school.
It’s that time again! Apple has dropped its new iOS 16 updates. Users everywhere now have access to brand new features and functions on iPads and iPhones. As always, Apple didn’t hold back in making their update chock-full of improvements in almost every area.
Figuring out what’s important can be overwhelming for busy parents who want to stay in the loop. That’s why we’ve put together everything you need to know — the concerning, the helpful, and the just plain fun.
iOS 16 Update: The Concerning Stuff
Text messages can be unsent
This is one of the big-ticket changes in iOS 16, and people are already talking about it. Apple users can now unsend any message within two minutes of pressing “send.” You guessed it, this opens the door for all sorts of inappropriate content — including texts, photos, and videos — to be sent to your child’s phone and quickly recalled. Fortunately, when you unsend a message, a note appears informing you and the recipient that it happened.
Note: You can only unsend texts using iMessage. Texts with Androids won’t have this option. Also, if the other person hasn’t updated to iOS 16 yet, the message won't actually be unsent even though your phone will say that it is.
Texts can also be edited
Text messages can now be edited within 15 minutes of sending. This isn’t as concerning as the unsend feature, though, because both you and the other person will be able to see a full record of the editing history, including the original text.
SharePlay now allows users to watch TV and movies together in Messages
SharePlay, which was introduced last year, lets you stream video or music in sync with others. Up until this new update, you could only use SharePlay while FaceTiming with the other person. Now, you use SharePlay within the Messages app. When someone gets your invite, they'll be able to watch the same video or listen to the same audio that you're streaming with the ability to chat simultaneously in Messages. This means that even if you block Netflix or have stringent parental controls, your kids may be able to watch TV shows and movies with no restrictions as long as their friends don’t.
Hidden and Recently Deleted photos can be locked
Currently on your iPhone, there are two photo albums called Hidden and Recently Deleted. Photos placed in the Hidden album don’t appear in your library and are only accessible by going to the Hidden album. The Recently Deleted album stores photos and videos for 30 days before being completely deleted from your device.
With the iOS 16 update, these albums will now be locked by default, requiring authentication to gain access. In other words, you will now have to use Face ID, Touch ID, or your passcode in order to see these albums. Parents, this means that your kids will now have the ability to store inappropriate content on their devices without your knowledge if you don’t have their log-in information.
Public Note links
This update lets you invite anyone to collaborate on a note in the Notes app. All they need is the link, and anyone can share content to your child’s device (before this update, collaborators had to be manually added). This makes it like a Google Doc, and that means it’s a de facto chat app. So while you may block texting or social media after bedtime, there’s a chance your kid could use this workaround to chat with friends late into the evening.
iOS 16 Update: The Helpful Stuff
Family Sharing updates
For Family Sharing devotees, Apple has improved account and device setup. Setting up your child’s account will now be streamlined with suggestions for age-appropriate media restrictions. Similarly, setting up your child’s device will have a quick start feature where certain parental controls will be put in place by default. There’s also a new Family Checklist where parents can receive suggestions for parental controls.
Approve Screen Time requests in messages
Another new Family Sharing feature is the improved Screen Time request feature in Messages. The request will appear as a text message, making it easier for parents to approve or decline when a child asks for a few extra minutes of Youtube.
Health app updates
If your child has medications they need to take daily, the updates to the Health app will be super useful. It now allows you to track medications, vitamins, and supplements as well as receive reminders for when to take them. Kids can also log each time they take a medication and receive interactive charts to help them understand how consistently they are remembering to take it.
The Health app also has educational features that could be lifesaving. The app will give you some basic information about the medication you log, including how to pronounce it, what it’s used for, and any potential side effects. Also, if you log two medications that might result in a dangerous reaction, you’ll receive an alert to warn you of the hazards of mixing.
New Focus features
The Focus features previously introduced by Apple have encouraged users to make their phone as undistracting as possible during certain times of the day. The new update makes the Focus feature even more customizable and specific to your needs. Kids and parents can choose specific Focus settings during school or homework hours, as well as create lock screen options to avoid the temptation of checking notifications.
Some Fun Stuff!
Super customizable lock screens
iOS 16 comes with a variety of ways to customize your lock screen and truly make it your own. Some of these include the ability to edit the lock screen elements and stylize the date and time with different fonts and colors. You can also choose the Photo Shuffle feature, which cycles through several pictures throughout your day, instead of just showing one.
FaceTime has a few new features that will improve the experience if you’re needing to multitask. First, you’ll be able to seamlessly move the call between devices. Thanks to iOS 16, you can now easily switch between your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Additionally, there will be a collaboration feature where the people you’re FaceTiming can collaborate on Files, Notes, Reminders, and Safari with you. All you have to do is hit the Share button and everyone will have access to the project.