girl doing yoga, smart phone in cancel symbol

Have you started to feel like your family is a little too dependent on technology? Have you found it difficult to get your kid off their iPad after school? Well, these frustrations are actually quite normal for many families. It seems the more we use our technology, the more we get the urge to throw it all out the window and get back to basics. 

That’s why many parents are finding a digital detox to be an appealing solution. It's a way to push back against the draining habits of tech and form better rhythms for the whole family. A digital detox presents many benefits for children, from improved communication to increased creativity. In this article, we'll discuss what digital detoxing is, if it’s a myth, and how how to help your kid.

What Is Digital Detoxing?

Digital detoxing is exactly what it sounds like — taking a break from tech and digital devices. Tons of people have realized the benefit of unplugging, even if only for short periods of time. Digital detoxing can involve anything from simply putting away your phone while at dinner to going on a full-fledged tech vacation.

By disconnecting, we're able to reevaluate our relationship with technology and take stock of how it affects us in our daily lives.

Disconnecting From the Digital World Improves Communication

An obvious benefit of a digital detox is that it improves kids’ communication. The more kids have face-to-face interactions, the better their communication will be. For one, they’ll be better at picking up nonverbal cues and body language, which is something that can get easily lost in texts. Less screen time will help them focus on the moment, as opposed to being distracted by notifications.

Overall, having your kids take the occasional break from technology can go a long way in strengthening their relationships. They’ll even gain a deeper understanding of people.

Digital Detoxing Boosts Creativity

Sometimes technology can serve as a crutch to creativity, giving us shortcuts to a solution we would’ve otherwise had to come up with ourselves. So when kids are left to their own devices, it gives them the opportunity to stretch their creative thinking skills.

Unplugging gives kids space to use their minds and find clarity in whatever they’re focusing on. This could be a school project, piano practice, or inventing a new game with their friends. Kids can create truly unique and meaningful things when they have the ability to use their big imaginations! 

Disconnecting for even just a few minutes each day can help reduce stress levels which in turn can lead to clearer thinking. This is an essential part of being creative. 

Ultimately, digital detoxing gives children the space needed for those “aha” moments that often come from nowhere but are much needed when trying out new ideas.

Unplugging Improves Productivity Levels

Taking a break from technology can be an excellent way to boost productivity levels. When kids can disconnect, it allows them to focus on tasks without any distraction.

One way to do this is taking short breaks throughout the day. It’s been known to increase energy levels and allows for greater creativity when tackling different projects. Just think about your kid’s school work — they could find it easier to get assignments done and maybe even get ahead of the game! 

Overall, unplugging from technology – even if only occasionally – has many benefits for both kids and parents. You’ll notice you and your children have improved communication skills and creativity. One huge advantage is the ability to improve our productivity levels in both school/work settings.

Keep in mind that unplugging doesn’t need to mean completely cutting children off from technology either; rather, simply making an effort every now and then will still give them those much-needed boosts in efficiency and creativity.

Signs Your Kids Need A Digital Detox

For kids who experience interruptions in their daily life because of their devices, a digital detox could be a healthy practice to consider!

Think your children might need to disconnect? Check out these sure-fire signs they could benefit from less screen time:

●  Not getting much school work done

●  Irritation or frustration

●  Feeling insecure

●  Constantly checking notifications

●  Depression

●  Behavioral issues

●  Losing sleep

Tips for Success with a Digital Detox

For kids who are used to spending hours a day on their screens, having success with a digital detox can be difficult at first. But it's not impossible! The key is to start small and build up.

Start by picking just one hour each day here your entire family completely disconnects. Use this time to focus on something else, such as reading, exercising, or spending quality time with each other. This will help you get into the habit of unplugging while also giving you the chance to relax without a screen. 

Be sure to plan ahead when it comes to activities so that you don’t find yourself tempted by digital devices. This could mean grabbing a book before heading out on a walk or finding a fun game to play before spending quality time with your family. 

It’s also important to have realistic expectations when it comes to going device-free. Try your best not to be plugged in more than necessary! It may take longer than expected to truly feel free from our screens, but staying consistent will make it easier to resist those temptations. Ultimately having success with a digital detox means taking things slow.

Is Frequent Use of Technology Really a Problem?

The answer isn’t black and white, it turns out. While there are definitely some potential dangers associated with spending too much time on devices, for many kids, tech is still important. It all comes down to moderation. If they use tech responsibly, then they should be able to enjoy its benefits without putting them at risk!

Overall, it’s important to remember that too much of a good thing can become problematic. So when it comes to screen time, try your best to maintain a balance between letting your kids use devices and taking regular breaks away from screens. Of course, it’s not easy to maintain this balance. You’ll have days where you mess up and revert to old habits. But it’s important to do the best you can so your kids can still enjoy the benefits of technology.

How Bark Can Help

The key takeaway is that digital detoxing doesn’t have to be a last-ditch effort when screen time gets way too out of hand. It can be helpful no matter what your current tech habits are. Whether your family decides to execute a full digital detox or simply fast from the internet a few nights a week, there is no denying the perks associated with unplugging!

If you want to reduce your children’s screen time, consider Bark. You can create custom screen time schedules, block websites & apps, and more to help sett healthy boundaries.

cartoon kid with illustrated brain, looking sad

Gone are the days of Playboy, X-rated movie stores and even the supervision of the “home office computer.” Today with every smartphone, tablet or laptop, porn beyond parental monitoring is just a click away. According to our 2022 Annual Report, 62.4% of tweens and 82.2% of teens have encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature online.

In short—it’s unfortunately very likely your kid will run across porn, willingly or unwillingly, at some point. The best way to deal with this inevitable fact is to educate yourself and your children. In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into what a child’s brain on porn looks like, and the dangers and damages porn poses. We will also give you tips and tricks for addressing porn with your family and protecting your child from content they’re not ready for yet.  

The Effects of Porn on The Brain

For better or worse, the minds of children under 18 are largely impressionable and moldable. A child’s brain on porn doesn’t just experience things differently; it can also change physically. This combination of conditioning and physiological changes means that exposure to porn can significantly impact a child’s development and long-term social and emotional skills. 

Here are just a few of the effects porn has on young brains:

The Dangers of Porn 

The effects of porn on the brain can lead to real dangers and damages in the present and long term. Surveys show that the earlier children are exposed to porn, the more likely they will regularly view it and experience more of its effects and dangers.  

Here are a few of the potential dangers that come from early exposure to porn:

How to Talk to Your Child About Porn

Experts emphasize that when talking to your child about their first encounter with porn, you should use a nonjudgemental tone and talk through some of the reasons why porn can be damaging and dangerous. 

Your plan of action may vary depending on your family’s values. Options range from making a tech contract with established rules to setting up parental controls that will make it more difficult for your child to access pornography on their device. No matter what you choose to do, make sure your child understands why you’ve chosen this course of action, and don’t be afraid to revisit the conversation.

How to Protect Your Child

The 2003 study found that blocking and filtering software reduced the likelihood of exposure to porn by 40%. Bark’s software can help block harmful content and let you know if and when your child has been exposed. With this knowledge, you can have an open and honest conversation with your child about their brain on porn and its dangers and damages.

Spotify porn header image: playlist with explicit track titles

Recently, we discovered that Spotify — arguably the most popular music streaming app today — has a large selection of pornographic content. Looking closer, our team found that nearly every music platform out there has this type of content as well. This includes platforms like YouTube Music, Amazon Music, and Pandora. Considering the amount of time the average kid spends listening to music on any one of these platforms, we figured parents needed to know about this.

This post will go over exactly what kind of harmful content is available on these platforms and how kids can find them. Additionally, we’ll take a closer look at Spotify and the newfound dangers that exist there.

First, How Can a Music App Have Porn?

Good question. There’s a wide range of ways “audio porn,” as it’s been called, can appear on music platforms. But essentially it boils down to:

All it takes is a quick search and you’ll get tons of content like this. And specifically on Spotify, there were instances when this pornographic content would come up just by searching for a single period or comma. This means kids don’t even have to go searching for it to stumble across it. 

So, Which Apps Are We Talking About?

You can find this stuff on basically every music streaming app. But here are some of the familiar ones that the Bark team was able to verify the existence of pornographic content:

Is There a Way To Block This Content?

There is, but it’s not exactly perfect. All of these platforms do have explicit content filters, but there are a few issues parents need to be aware of. 

Block playback, but not search results

You can block your child from playing these tracks, but there’s no way to block the results from showing up when searched. In other words, all of the pornographic content is still available to see in search results, it just won’t play anything when you tap it. Most parents would probably prefer this was not the case, especially considering that the album covers are likely to be pornographic as well. 

Passcode protection

Spotify, Amazon Unlimited, YouTube Music, and iHeart Radio do have an explicit content filter but they don’t have a passcode to keep that setting locked. So there’s no way to prevent kids from turning the filter off after the fact.

Inaccurate and inconsistent labeling

However, some apps do have a passcode, such as Apple Music, Pandora, and TIDAL. But here the problem is that you can’t trust these filters to accurately block all content. We found that on all platforms, there were a number of songs and podcast episodes that were not labeled “E” for explicit and therefore not blocked by the filter — despite its clear sexual and inappropriate nature. 

There’s More Than Just Porn — There Are Also Predators 

As mentioned above, Spotify’s porn problem is enough to raise serious concerns simply due to its high popularity. But unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Reports coming from the UK claim that an 11-year-old girl was groomed into posting sexually explicit photos of herself — all of this taking place through the interactive features of Spotify playlists. 

Essentially, predators can begin communication with a child through the description of a playlist and ask kids to respond by adding songs to the playlist that convey a message. In the case of the 11-year-old girl in the UK, she was asked to upload a sexually explicit photo of herself as the custom photo of the playlist. In addition, he asked for her email address, where he continued to ask her for inappropriate images. 

What Can Parents Do?

As a parent, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and frustrated that even music apps can pose a danger to your child. Our main advice would be to start a conversation with your kid about these things if you haven’t already. Cutting them off from all music apps is probably not the best solution, but parents who maintain active involvement in their child’s online life will be more likely to catch these situations before they spiral out of control. Of course, not every child will seek this type of content out. The risk is there, but that’s why it’s important to consistently remind your kids of your family values. 

And Bark is always here to help! With Bark, you can monitor for concerning content in texts, emails, and 30+ apps, as well as block harmful apps and manage their screen time. Bark can also monitor the lyrics of the songs your child streams on Spotify and sends you an alert for worrisome content. 

Screen time and sleep header image -- child holding phone in the dark

The struggle to keep our eyes off screens before bedtime is real for everyone — adults and kids alike. At some point, we all realized that an evening scroll through our phones was quite enjoyable, or that watching TV before bed was a great way to unwind. But the cold hard truth is that screen time can actually have negative impacts on our sleep and well-being. 

It's no secret that we're spending more time than ever looking at screens, and children are no exception. In fact, one study showed that as many as 96% of teenagers bring some type of electronic device into the bedroom with them.

As technology becomes more ingrained in our daily lives, it’s important to set healthy boundaries that improve your and your children’s well beings.

Keep reading as we take a deep dive into the relationship between screen time and sleep for your children. Plus, we’ll share some ways to handle screens and digital devices around bedtime.

What is considered ‘screen time’?

How your kid spends their screen time before bed can come in all shapes and sizes. But essentially, anything they are doing that involves a screen is what we’re talking about. The actual activity they are doing on these screens is less important to this conversation than the amount of time they are on their devices. But to break it down, there are about four agreed-upon categories of types of screen time.

Interactive 

Interactive consumption and exposure to screen time generally refer to any activity where your child needs to actively engage with the device. Some common examples of interactive consumption include playing video games or browsing the internet. 

Passive

Passive consumption is when your child uses a device for something that doesn’t require them to participate in the activity. This includes things like watching a movie, watching TV, or even reading a digital book.

Social

Social screen time includes anything where a screen device is used to communicate with others, whether it’s friends, family, or other people in their lives. 

This ones quite prevalent among kids and teens — not only is it a form of entertainment but it’s also how they connect with their peers and build relationships. 

Educational

Finally, there’s educational consumption. This can include things like studying, learning a new skill, or completing schoolwork.

It goes without saying that screen time is not always a bad thing, and lots of us benefit from it — if we use it responsibly during the day. But the general rule of thumb is that the fewer screens at bedtime, the better! Now let’s find out why!

Why do kids tend to enjoy screen time before bed?

There are probably tons of reasons why kids (or anyone) enjoy screen time before bed. But here are just a few.

To start us off: the scientific reason. Screen time activities that children tend to enjoy will release something called dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a natural chemical that can actually provide a lot of benefits to children and adults. It can make you feel more alert or even more motivated. But the more kids are exposed to things like social media and digital technology, the more they crave higher levels of dopamine. This cycle is what makes people ‘addicted’ to their phones and devices.

Another reason is imitation. Children tend to mimic the actions of their parents. So if you have a habit of scrolling on your phone or watching TV before bed, there’s a good chance your kids have picked up on that habit as well.

Finally, the obvious reason. Most of the time, screen time is just relaxing. After a long day of school, sports, clubs, friends, family time, and more, sometimes scrolling on social media or watching a favorite show is the easiest way to unwind. But of course, this way of unwinding comes at a cost, which we’ll take a look at now.

What are the consequences of screen time on sleep?

So now that we know the what and why, let’s talk about the how. How exactly is screen time before bed a bad thing? 

Sleep deprivation

First and foremost — screen time can cause kids to lose sleep. 

The constant stimulation of social media, video games, and other electronics can overstimulate the brain. And while stimulation for the brain is healthy, it is definitely not what the doctor ordered at bedtime. Essentially, it tricks children into feeling less tired than they actually are. As a result, they stay up for hours longer than they would otherwise and lose the rest their body desperately needs. 

More than one in three American children do not get the recommended amount of sleep — but this is no surprise, given how many children spend time on their screens and electronic devices right before bed. It significantly impacts your kids’ ability to wind down at the end of the night.

And like a domino effect, sleep deprivation brings on its own set of consequences. 

For one, it can lead to poorer academic performance. This is because sleep plays an important role in memory and concentration. In general, exhausted kids don’t tend to pay attention or retain information well in the classroom. Additionally, sleep deprivation can cause behavioral problems. Children who are tired are more likely to be irritable and impulsive. They may also have trouble regulating their emotions. Even more worrisome, many studies have shown a link between suicidal thoughts and actions with insufficient levels of sleep among teenagers.

Disturbs the circadian rhythm

Circadian rhythms are your body's natural 24-hour sleep-wake cycle.  It’s controlled by a biological clock in the brain and outside light. Children and adults are all meant to feel sleepier at night when it’s dark.

So when your child is staring at their bright, blue-light tablet at 10 pm, it makes it hard for their brain to realize it’s nighttime and that’s time to go to sleep. Once that natural rhythm gets offbeat, the result is more difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. This is true of other blue lights, which is why many experts recommend dimming the lights in your home towards the end of the day. However, screens are one of the biggest culprits.

The other result of a disrupted circadian rhythm is that oftentimes it’s more difficult to feel properly energized and wake up in the morning — which makes getting the kids up for school a bigger battle than it already is. 

Insomnia

After a while, screen time before bed can start to have more long-term effects. Your kid might experience insomnia, or the prolonged inability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. Typically this means multiple times a week they are having this problem. 

Studies have found that the light from electronic devices is linked to insomnia and here’s how it works: the blue light from screens can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. Constant screen use, even during the day, can push back the body’s natural ‘sleep time’ making it difficult to fall asleep.

While insomnia and other sleep disorders can have many contributing factors, it’s clear that screens before bed can perpetuate the issue.  

How to reduce screen time in your child’s bedtime routine

So now that we know the scary truth of screen time before bed, let’s discuss some helpful tips to get your kids to turn off all their devices. 

Remember that every family will have a different plan of attack that works for them. And no one expects a perfect nighttime routine on your first try (Rome wasn’t built in a day!). But as long as you make a solid effort, your family will surely see the benefit. 

So without further ado, here are some ways to encourage a screen-free bedtime routine for your household!

Lead by example

Kids learn most behaviors from their parents. One of the best ways to encourage a device-free nighttime routine is to lead by example.

Now, that might sound like a tall order — parents like to unwind with a little TV too sometimes! But making it a family goal to stay off screens before bed might just be the strategy that works best. And not only will your children get better sleep, but you also will too! 

Keep devices out of the bedroom

Easier said than done, but if you don’t have screens in the bedroom, you can’t spend time looking at them! The temptation to reach over for the phone or remote while in bed will eventually go away, it just takes time. 

Implementing this will look different for every family. Maybe this means not installing TVs or game consoles in any bedroom. Or maybe your family will set a rule that all phones, remotes, tablets, etc. will be kept in a designated area of the house from evening until morning.

Set appropriate bedtimes

One way to reduce screen time in the evening is by simply choosing an appropriate bedtime. Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night, and younger children need even more.

So make sure to set a bedtime that makes sense with when they need to wake up for school or extra-curricular activities. 

If you set a bedtime that’s too late, they won't get enough sleep. Too early? They won't be tired and will be more tempted to bring devices into the bedroom to kill the time. It’s all about finding the right balance. 

And the other crucial part of this is consistency! Once you find the bedtime that works best, try to make it as set in stone as possible. That way, their body will start expecting to slow down at the same time every day and sleep will come even easier. 

Have a conversation

Sometimes honesty is the best policy, especially for your teenagers and older children.

Just like you have conversations about other difficult topics, it can be valuable to educate your children about the impact of screens and sleep. This includes the consequences of devices at bedtime as well as the benefits of getting a quality night’s rest — which you’re already an expert on after reading this post! 

Inviting kids into the conversation can give them a sense of responsibility, making them want to follow bedtime rules, as opposed to dreading them. 

Set aside screen time earlier in the days

Children often gravitate toward their devices at the end of the day. This is natural, given that their day is often filled with things like school, chores, or other activities. It can feel like the only time that’s available for them to sit back and enjoy time on their devices. Taking away this time can make them feel like they’re missing out.

By setting aside time earlier in the day, you can still give your child the opportunity to do things like check social media or play a game. But this way, it minimizes the impact on sleep.

Offer alternatives

Taking away screens at night can be a great opportunity to introduce some other healthy habits.

Here are a few ideas:

Create a screen-free bedtime routine with Bark

Screen time and technology will continue to be a huge part of our lives, whether we like it or not. However, by setting boundaries and understanding the impact of screen time and sleep, it’s possible to build a healthier bedtime routine for your whole family.  

And the best news is, you don’t have to do it alone! With Bark’s screen time functionality, you can set those screen-free bedtime boundaries (and keep them!), encouraging your children to enjoy downtime away from their devices. Bark also allows you to set content alerts and filter websites to ensure your children stay safe online. Get started with a free trial of Bark today.

Characters from Euphoria and Riverdale with TV-14 stickers around them

First romances, Friday night lights, and finding yourself—it’s easy to see why tv shows about teens are so popular. As many teenagers struggle with feelings of isolation and misunderstanding, it can be helpful to relate to characters, acknowledge common struggles and learn from make-believe mistakes. 

But not all teen series are so enriching. Once you look beyond the high-school basics, you’ll find that some shows about teens aren’t made for teens at all. From inappropriate student-teacher relationships to drug use, we’ve compiled a list of shows that aren’t for teens and should be skipped or watched with an adult.

Seven Shows That Aren’t For Teens

Euphoria—Rated TV-MA for drugs, nudity, language, and mature content.

This Emmy Award-winning drama follows Zendaya as Rue and her cast of friends and foes as they navigate drug addiction, high school relationships, and societal expectations. Far from the wholesome shows of years past like Boy Meets World and Saved by the Bell, Euphoria takes teen drama to the extreme showing the cast partying with drugs and alcohol and engaging in sexual acts in almost every episode. 

While it’s important to address these very real issues that some teens may be dealing with, the extent to which the characters party and do drugs without consequences is unrealistic and can be harmful to impressionable minds who see this behavior as “normalized.” The frequent depictions of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse are also romanticized at their worst and at their best, still graphically shown and suitable only for viewers at a more mature age.

Riverdale—Rated TV-14 for sex, violence and alcohol.

Based on the beloved Archie comics, Riverdale follows key characters Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead throughout high school as they investigate assorted crimes in their quaint town of Riverdale. Comparisons to the comics stop there, though, as Riverdale often diverges from its source material, splicing in darker content like inappropriate teacher-student relations, gratuitous violence, suicide attempts, and even an underground fight club and strip club run by students. 

Gossip Girl—Rated TV-14 for sex, drugs, alcohol and mature content.

A cult classic from the early 2000’s Gossip Girl was one of the first CW shows to take teen dramas in a new, over-the-top salacious direction. The 2007 show depicts ultra-wealthy upper eastside teens who attend a boarding school where they consistently have their sordid affairs and ugly secrets outed by an anonymous source known as Gossip Girl. 

Among the general drinking, partying, sex, and drugs, one of the first episodes features an attempted sexual assault by one of the main characters, Chuck. This assault is smoothed over, and Chuck continues to abuse women emotionally and physically for the rest of the series. The show also touches on mature themes like suicide and eating disorders without providing resources or modeling realistic experiences. The series was recently rebooted in 2021 with a new cast and an even more mature rating of TV-MA. 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina—Rated TV-14 for violence, gore, sex, and frightening scenes.

Another comic book riff that deviates far from its source material, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, is very loosely based on Sabrina The Teenage Witch. However, in this iteration, things take a much darker turn as Sabrina must decide whether to remain at her normal school with her mortal boyfriend or go “full witch” and attend a dark arts school where she will learn things like necromancy and demonology. 

For many parents, the recurring jabs at Christianity and satanic rituals featured at the show's center are alarming and difficult to explain to kids or teens. Beyond that, the overt sexualization of teenagers, gratuitous violence, gore, and many frightening scenes make this show a “must-skip” for kids under 18.  

13 Reasons Why—Rated TV-MA for violence, sex and nudity, and mature content.

Since its release, 13 Reasons Why has been criticized for its depiction of suicide and its triggering content. The show follows a young girl named Hannah who recorded tapes around the “13 reasons why” she chose to end her life. 

While debate still surrounds the education versus glamourization of such an important topic, the show has moved onto other problematic themes. In the later seasons, the show touches on sexual assault, school shootings, and drug use. Parents across review sites point out that many of these topics were handled poorly and, in some cases, could hurt more than they could help.

Vampire Diaries—Rated TV-14 for sex, violence, alcohol, and drugs.

The Vampire Diaries follows the life of Elena Gilbert, a high school girl who, after losing her parents in a car wreck, falls in love with a vampire named Stefan. The show chronicles the love triangle between Elena, Stefan, and his brother and how the brothers fight (often gory battles) to protect Elena and the town from villains. 

While the vampires take on a protective role, parents cite several scenes where the trio and other high schoolers are seen drinking and doing drugs. The treatment of women is also poor throughout, with women physically and sexually assaulted in many scenes.  

Pretty Little Liars—Rated TV-14 for violence, sex, and frightening scenes.

Pretty Little Liars focuses on four friends whose clique falls apart after the disappearance of their leader, Alison DiLaurentis. The group is reunited a year later as they begin to be blackmailed by an anonymous figure who goes by “A.” The violence and frightening tone heat up as the girls race to figure out who “A” is. 

While the series is criticized for its overt depiction of dead bodies and violence, one of the most problematic storylines entails the series' long romantic relationship one of the students, Aria, has with her high school English teacher Ezra. Throughout the series, the relationship is romanticized, with the two even getting married and ending up together at the end.

How to Monitor What Your Kid is Watching

With all of the available streaming services, networks and channels, it can be challenging to ensure everything your child is watching is age-appropriate. Bark helps save you time and takes the guesswork out of finding a fun family feature by providing smart parental monitoring that allows you to observe, block and control certain apps. Find out more about your options here.

person standing on a scale

Between phones, laptops, and TV, it’s never been easier to be entertained and to connect in one place. Which is great, but it also means it’s never been easier not to move. Unsurprisingly this increasingly sedentary lifestyle means serious mental and physical consequences. One of the most damaging effects—obesity in children—and it’s on the rise. Below, we’ll talk about what is childhood obesity, what causes it, and some simple steps you can take to limit your kid’s screen time and get them moving!

What is Childhood Obesity?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) defines childhood obesity as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex. While it's the standard measure, BMI in general has come under fire over recent years for being an inaccurate measure in some cases, as it doesn’t account for muscle mass and other differences. 

When it comes to childhood obesity, it might be best to turn toward other health markers instead. Taking stock of internal workings like cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar can help more clearly determine if your child might be at risk of serious health issues related to obesity like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic conditions. 

What Causes Childhood Obesity?

Technology and screens have become an integral part of our daily lives, and this is especially true for children. According to the Common Sense Census, a report on children's media use in the United States, children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of 7 hours and 22 minutes per day consuming media. This includes watching television, playing video games, and using the internet and social media.

The amount of time that children spend on screens has been linked to an increased risk of obesity. One study found that children who spent more than 2 hours per day in front of a screen had a higher body mass index (BMI) compared to those who spent less time on screens. Another study found that children who watched more than 2 hours of television per day were more likely to be overweight or obese compared to those who watched less television.

There are several reasons why technology and screens may contribute to obesity in children. First, screens are often associated with sedentary behaviors, such as sitting and lying down. These behaviors can lead to a decrease in physical activity, which is an important factor in the development of obesity. Second, screen time is often accompanied by snacking, which can contribute to an increase in calorie intake. Finally, screens can be a distraction from other activities, such as outdoor play, which may further decrease physical activity.

How to Encourage Your Child to Live a Healthier Lifestyle

Given the role of technology and screens in the development of obesity in children, it is important to find ways to reduce the negative impact of these factors. Here are some strategies that can help:

  1. Limit screen time: One of the most effective strategies for reducing the impact of technology on obesity in children is to limit the amount of time they spend with their screens. The AAP recommends that children and adolescents should have no more than 2 hours of screen time per day. While this is a pretty big ask, it’s important to have an open and honest conversation with your child about decreasing screen time to a level where it works for both of you.
  2. Encourage physical activity: Another important strategy for addressing the impact of screens on obesity in children is to encourage physical activity. This can include activities such as sports, outdoor play, or simply going for a walk or bike ride.
  3. Promote healthy eating habits: In addition to reducing screen time and increasing physical activity, it is also important to promote healthy eating habits in children. This can include encouraging the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense foods and limiting the intake of sugary drinks and snacks.
  4. Involve the whole family: It is important to involve the whole family in efforts to address obesity in children. This can include setting limits on screen time and encouraging physical activity as a family, as well as promoting healthy eating habits.
  5. Seek support: If you are concerned about your child's health, it is important to seek support from a healthcare provider or a dietitian.

Manage Screen Time the Easy Way With Bark

Here at Bark, we don’t believe screen time is all or nothing, which is why we offer completely customizable schedules for each child. Our approach to screen time centers on the idea that different times of day call for different screen time rules. For example, when your kids are in school, you can block access to everything but educational sites. And at bedtime, you can allow apps to help them wind down for the evening. And because all kids deserve to blow off a little steam, you can designate free time hours just for play.

"What is a furry?"header image with two pink furry creatures

If you’ve ever seen a person out in public dressed up like a cartoon animal character in a fursuit, you may have been confused as to why they were dressed like a mascot out in public. You may have even wondered what they actually do. They’re called furries, and it turns out that there’s a very large community — both online and in real life — they belong to.

Many kids today are also expressing interest in furries, but there are issues and dangers that parents need to know about. In this blog post, we’ll answer common questions (like what *is* a furry) about this lifestyle, as well as provide talking points if your kid is interested in furries.

What Is a Furry Exactly?

A furry is someone who is interested in anthropomorphic art and characters. Anthropomorphic means “resembling a human,” and so with furries, it means animals that resemble or have human characteristics. A classic example of the appeal of this art style that our generation may understand is the fox from Disney’s 1973 Robin Hood.

You don’t have to dress up like a furry to identify as one, and in fact most don’t. Self-identified furries do, however, often create a “fursona,” which is like an alter-ego or character. These fursonas can have names and physical and emotional characteristics. Sometimes, they’re very different from the person’s day-to-day personality, though not necessarily.

What Do Furries Do?

Like fans of anything — whether it’s baseball, the Bachelor, or Orangetheory — furries like to read, write, and talk about their interest. Some furries like to role-play in groups or online with like-minded people. Others like to post their art and look at others. There are furry conventions that take place all over the world, where people meet up to hang out, attend panels, buy art, party, and more. Think of it like ComicCon, but for all things furry.

Does This Mean My Kid Wants to be an Animal?

Not at all! Expressing an interest in furry culture is like expressing an interest in other hobbies. Where it may get confusing is when kids want to pretend, but playing pretend is a pretty popular pastime for kids in general. So are immersive role-playing games that are also popular.

Are Furries a Sex Thing?

The short answer is not necessarily. Someone can be a furry and into furry activities without ever expressing an interest in anything sexual — ever.

There are, however, individuals that combine the furry lifestyle with pornography, sexual acts, art, and more. After doing some research, our team found that the term “furry porn” had more than 600,000 search queries, which shows just how much content there is around the more adult aspects of furry content. 

Is Being a Furry Safe for Kids?

It definitely can be! Kids can be interested in drawing furries, watching furry videos, or just playing around with friends. Danger comes into play in a few different ways. For example, when kids may be communicating with adults who use furry activity to begin the grooming process. If a child wants to attend a furry convention, you’ll want to make sure it is kid-friendly (some are adult-only) and that a trusted adult is with them at all times. But you know your child best, and some kids may not be mature enough for this type of activity. 

Another danger is exposure to inappropriate furry content, which kids can find easily and quickly all over the internet — from Reddit to Instagram. Furry porn can be images, fan fiction, and videos, both animated and in-person, and may include adults, children, and animals.

Do All Furries Wear Fursuits?

According to Furscience, a group of researchers who study furry culture, less than 25% of furries own suits. They can actually be pretty expensive! Like with any hobby or fandom, interest levels lay along a spectrum. Some people may go all out and build a suit, and some may be happy just having a furry name. Still others may just like watching furry content on the internet.

What’s a Fursona?

A Fursona (a portmanteau of furry and persona) is like a person’s alter ego in the furry world. It can consist of a name, a species, personality traits, back story, and habits. Kids especially can get super creative when it comes to imagining a character’s world and interests. 

Where Do Furries Hang Out Online?

There are so many places online where furries chat, hang out, and post content. Here are just a few of some of the more popular places:

How Do I Talk to My Kid About Furries?

If your kid has expressed an interest in furries, you may be concerned or worried. This is okay! The internet has made a lot of things more mainstream than when we were kids. Having an interest in drawing human-fox cartoon characters can be no different than being obsessed with Legos, loving horses, or wanting to read every Star Wars book. Here are a few ways to start a conversation with your child about their interest:

Once you’ve established a baseline around their interest, you may want to talk about some of the dangers they may face:

Help Protect Your Child Online with Bark

Kids that express an interest in furry culture may be at risk from predators because of the very nature of furry content — kids like cartoons and sweet animals. Predators know this and may use a child’s love of these creatures to begin grooming them. A recent case (content warning that there are graphic details) involved a grown, self-identified furry man who was communicating with a 13-year-old online (via platforms like Twitter, Discord, Oculus, and TextNow) and later abducted the child. Thankfully, the teen was found alive.

Sadly, these kinds of interactions aren’t uncommon. Bark can help you keep your child safe online by monitoring texts, apps, and popular social media platforms for signs they’re being groomed by predators — in addition to bullying, depression, suicidal ideation, and more. You’ll get an alert for concerning conversations so you can check in and make sure everything’s okay. Bark also lets you block dangerous apps like Snapchat and Discord so you can help prevent these types of conversations from happening, as well.