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Dear Bark,

I want to encourage my kids and their friends to have screen-free time while hanging out at our house. We put them in baskets when kids walk in the door. What’s the best way to communicate this to new visitors and enforce this in our home? How should we handle when friends’ parents want to be able to text and communicate with their children, and vice versa?  

Signed,

No Phones During Visits

Dear No Phones During Visits

This is a great idea! Creating a tech-free environment can be an awesome way to ensure kids are engaging with each other instead of staying glued to screens. 

There are lots of reasons parents like you might decide to do this. For one, kids won’t be tempted to do anything inappropriate online. They could accidentally watch something they shouldn’t or end up messaging strangers. Besides that, phones can keep kids from connecting with each other, which sort of defeats the purpose of the visit. So keeping a device-free visit is a totally understandable route.  

But it gets tricky when it comes to other families, especially those with differing opinions. Here are some tips to help you navigate this with the parents! 

The Golden Rule: Communication

First things first, you’ll want to clearly communicate this so that no one is caught by surprise. And the sooner the better — we’re talking before they even get in the car to drive to your house, they should know your home is device-free. 

But you don’t have to be super serious or formal about it. Just a simple text, email or face-to-face chat to let them know your expectations. Here’s a quick example:

“Hey! Just wanted to give a heads up — we are trying something a little different in an effort to keep our home distraction-free and to avoid any potential issues from kids being online. We’re asking all kids to put their phones in a basket that will be kept in the kitchen while they visit. Of course, they can get their phone at any point if they really need to reach you, and here’s my number so you can reach them quickly.”

Brace for Impact 

Be prepared that other families might not be comfortable with your rules and may even call off the visit. And it could be for good reason — some children may have medical needs, anxiety, previous traumatic experiences, or perhaps the parents just feel more comfortable with their child being able to freely communicate with them at any given moment.

Every family is different, and that’s okay. But that’s why communication with the parents is important. Some families, however, may think it’s a great idea and do something similar in their own homes. You could be a trendsetter!

Consider a Compromise

It’s also worth mentioning that the childhoods of today look much different than they did years ago. While devices have the potential to create unhealthy environments, it’s not always the case. 

Nowadays, devices are often a primary way that kids connect with one another. For instance, by playing online games while sitting right next to each other, or by creating silly dance videos together.

With this in mind, you may consider meeting them halfway by setting an allotted “tech time” in a family room — with clearly stated rules, of course, regarding what they can do and for how long. 

Whatever you decide, the two main things are: 

  1. Clear communication with the families that come over.
  2. Ensuring the parent/child have ways to reach each other when needed.

Another compromise could be that a child could keep their phone in their pocket or the bookbag — though if the kids are out of sight, they may find themselves grabbing it for a little fun. This could happen especially if there’s only one kid with a device still accessible. 

Wishing you a safe and enjoyable hosting experience! 

roblox character with frowning expression

**This blog post was updated on July 8, 2024.**

Roblox is one of the most popular online games in the world, beloved by kids all over. But there’s more to this building and gaming app that parents need to know about. We’ve researched the top five hidden dangers of Roblox — from sexual content to money-grabbing scams. Let’s dive in!

First: A Roblox Refresher

Roblox isn’t just one game — it’s a platform hosting literally millions of games that players can jump into. Other users create these games, which all take place in the Roblox world and are designed in the Roblox animation style. If it looks familiar, it’s because it resembles the blocky characters in Lego and Minecraft.

As for deciding what kind of game you want to play, there are countless options. Many of the games on Roblox are free or cheaper versions of other popular video games, like Animal Crossing or Fortnite. You’ll often find games with characters and settings from pop culture — worlds that kids like to spend time in.

Top 5 Hidden Dangers of Roblox

Condo games

Roblox isn’t just fun action and adventure games. There’s a whole subculture of users who make “games” that revolve around sex referred to as condo games. You’ll see naked avatars (the images of players) interacting in sexually suggestive ways. In other words, it’s basically interactive pornography, and it’s definitely not for children. 

Roblox Discord servers and Snapchat features

In addition to actually playing Roblox, many fans will also want to talk about it with others — and they often head to chat app Discord for that. If you search Google for “Roblox Discord servers” you’ll find links to countless groups to join. This presents a huge risk for kids, as any time there’s a huge public chat room, there’s a near certainty that online predators will be lurking in it. On top of that, many folks use these groups to share links to inappropriate content — both on Roblox and elsewhere. There's also a new video chat feature called Connect where users hang out in the form of their avatars  — i.e., as the animated versions of themselves. 

Parents should also know that some games on Roblox have features that imitate social media apps. For example, a game called “LifeTogether RP” allows users to use a smartphone with an app that looks and works exactly like Snapchat. Users can take snaps of their avatars and send text chats within this Snapchat app to anyone on the server. Roblox’s chat filters do apply to these messages, however, it opens up another way for kids to message other users within Roblox.

Inappropriate Roblox YouTube videos

If you think Roblox isn’t right for your kid and end up blocking it — beware. Even if you can’t play the game, you can watch tons of videos of Roblox on YouTube and other video streaming apps like Twitch. And yep, you guessed it: You can also watch videos of the condo games we mentioned earlier. 

Bypassed audio clips that definitely aren’t appropriate

Roblox allows users to upload audio files, but there are rules governing them. You can’t use copyrighted content, and you can’t upload sounds that would violate community guidelines. When audio somehow gets past moderation, it’s referred to as “bypassed audio” since it bypassed the rules. These clips could include profanity, violence, sex sounds, and even screeching chaotic noise. 

Scams

Robux, the in-game currency players use to buy upgrades and avatar accessories, can be obtained in a few different ways. You can buy Robux with real money, earn them through Roblox Premium, or receive them through designing games. Make sure your child knows to ignore players who are offering free Robux — they’re phishing scams.

How Bark Can Help

Bark actually monitors Roblox! On Android devices and the Bark Phone, Bark can scan content searches and sent chats. By monitoring sent chats, you can stay informed about who your child is communicating with and the nature of their conversations. Detecting potentially harmful content searches can help you identify any inappropriate searches, empowering you to address issues proactively.

In addition to monitoring, Bark also lets you block Roblox entirely or choose when your child can use it throughout the day with our screen time scheduling. Visit bark.us/signup to start your free trial today!

If your child plays Roblox on a gaming console like an Xbox or PlayStation, Bark Home can do the same thing! We've also got a handy guide to how to set up Roblox parental controls for parents that walks you through everything you need to know.

Dear Titania, 

I'm feeling so frustrated and defeated! We recently moved to a new city away from warm weather, friends, and lots of outdoor activities. My two tweens get bored when I encourage them to play in the yard and most entertainment here consists of me driving them places and spending money. I’ve noticed my kids stay inside more and spend way too much time on screens. I feel like their childhood is being robbed. They often play and chat through Roblox, and my kids claim this is the only way they can stay in touch with their long-distance friends. I’ve tried to set screen time rules but it never seems to work. Please help me regain balance in our family time. 

Signed,

Stressed by Screens

Dear Stressed by Screens, 

Oh boy, this one’s tough. Moving is never easy for anyone in the family — especially when it takes longer than expected to settle in. Also, screens are becoming an inevitable part of our daily lives. But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to reduce screen time! So give yourself grace. We see you, and we see that you just want better for your family, too. Let’s take a look at some ideas you can try with your kiddos.

Put Yourself Out There!

It sounds like your kids need to make some connections with the new community. If they haven’t made new friends yet, then it’s understandable why they are holding on to their familiar long-distance relationships. Try scheduling time as a family each week to explore your community together and find ways that your kids could meet some peers. 

Just thinking of a few, you could try…

A lot of times, making friends and building relationships is a slow process and requires stepping out of your comfort zone. Your kids may object to trying something new but hey — everyone in the family is trying something new to adapt to the new place. So if you’re in it together, hopefully, that makes it a little easier.

A Nudge in the Right Direction

As far as screen time at home, that’s also going to be a team effort. Many families have found it helpful to create clear expectations and boundaries for everyone to follow. Oftentimes, kids follow by example rather than taking explicit direction, so be sure you take an active role in managing your own screen time as well. And writing down the new screen-time expectations can be very helpful. If you all sit down and come up with a list of rules, you can hang it up somewhere in the house that’s visible to everyone. That way, you have something physical to reference when you start to hear, “But Mom, five more minutes!”

Here are some tech boundaries to test-run in your home:

And some alternative activities during tech-free time:

A Final Thought

Remember that our kids are growing up in a much different world than what we once grew up in. Much the same as we stretched the 10-foot telephone cord down the hall and spent endless hours talking to our friends, your kids are likely doing the same — except these days the chatting is done online instead of on a telephone. They still crave connection and socialization, but it just looks different nowadays. And remember, our parents were concerned about too much TV time. Now we are, too — there just happens to be way more screens than one big one in the living room.

Balance and consistency are key! It may take some trial and error, but once you know the rules that work for your family, you’ll want to stick to your guns! Your family is finding their new normal, which is really daunting — but also an exciting adventure! Best wishes in your new transition!

mother and daughter talking, illustrated text bubbles in between them

The first crush, the first kiss, the first partner—as a parent, it can be exciting to see your child starting to explore new relationships, but it can also be nerve-wracking. You want to make sure they're making safe and informed choices, and that's where learning how to talk to your teenager about dating comes in. 

While it’s never been easy to talk to your child about relationships—and it surely has gotten more complicated in the digital age—we’ve created this article as a reference to help you learn how to start the conversation, how to broach and discuss important topics and how to give your teen relationship advice that will help them find and establish healthy and fulfilling relationships.

1. Start with an Open Mind

Before you have the conversation with your teen, it's important to check your own biases and assumptions about dating. You might have your own ideas about what's appropriate or not, but it's important to remember that your teen is their own person, with their own thoughts and feelings. Be prepared to listen and learn from them, even if it challenges your own beliefs.

2. Create a Safe Space

The conversation about dating can be a vulnerable one for both you and your teen. Create a safe and supportive space for the conversation by choosing a time and place where you can both be relaxed and uninterrupted. It's also important to reassure your teen that they can be honest with you, and that you won't judge them or overreact.

3. Ask Questions

The best way to get your teen talking about their thoughts and feelings on dating is to ask open-ended questions. Here are some examples to get you started:

4. Talk About Boundaries

One of the most important things you can do for your teen is to help them set healthy boundaries in their relationships. Talk to them about what they're comfortable with, and what they're not. This might include things like physical boundaries, like when it's okay to kiss or have sex, or emotional boundaries, like how much time they want to spend with their partner. Help your teen understand that it's okay to say "no" to something they're not comfortable with.

5. Discuss Safety

As a parent, your top priority is your teen's safety. Talk to your teen about the risks and dangers associated with dating, like sexual coercion, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and emotional or physical abuse. It's important to have an open and non-judgmental conversation about these topics, so your teen knows they can come to you if they're ever in a difficult or unsafe situation.

6. Set Rules and Expectations

While you want to encourage your teen's independence and autonomy, it's also important to set some rules and expectations around dating. This might include things like curfews, limits on how often they can see their partner or requirements around communication with you. Make sure these rules are clear and reasonable, and that your teen understands the consequences if they break them.

7. Offer Support

Finally, let your teen know that you're there for them, no matter what. Dating can be a tricky and emotional time, and your teen may need someone to talk to or lean on. Let them know that you're always available to listen, and that you're on their side. When it comes to breakups or difficult moments, try to reflect on your teenage relationships and what you wish your parents would’ve done to help or console you. 

Learning how to talk to your teenager about dating can be a daunting task, but it's also an important one. By approaching the conversation with an open mind, creating a safe space, asking questions, talking about boundaries and safety, setting rules and expectations, and offering support, you can help your teen navigate the complex world of dating with confidence and security. 

If you are looking for an added layer of security as your teen enters the dating world consider Bark’s monitoring technology. Bark can help you keep your teen safe online and in real life by monitoring their texts, emails and social media platforms for explicit sexual content. 

Negative effects of video games header image - boy playing a video game

It is a truth universally acknowledged that lots of kids love video games. Gen Z had pong and Atari. Millenials had Mario, Mortal Kombat, and Goldeneye. Now, today’s generation has Fortnite, Call of Duty, Clash of Clans, and thousands of other options on multiple platforms. But with all this exposure, it’s important to talk about the negative effects of video games and what they can mean for kids. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the dangers, potential issues like addiction, as well as some of the most problematic games for kids. 

The Negative Effects of Video Games

While video gaming isn’t all bad — there can be great benefits like improved hand-eye coordination, relaxation, and socialization — there negative effects of video games can outweigh them.

Addiction

The most common issue parents need to watch out for is known as internet gaming disorder, which is also known as video game addiction.Whenever a kid plays a video game, they get a hit of dopamine. Over time, some kids may seek out video games for longer periods of time to get that same feeling. In this way, video game addiction isn’t unlike an addiction to gambling, smoking, or alcohol. Symptoms include:

Desensitization to violence

This one can be hard to quantify, and it may not even apply to all children who play video games, since not all games are violent. But for the games that are super violent (more on that below), they can affect how a child views and reacts to physical aggression. Experts are split on how harmful they can be, but many parents simply don’t want their children to have exposure  to death, violence, and more on a regular basis. 

All Video Games ≠ For Kids

Let’s face it: kids play a lot of video games because they have a ton of free time. Video game companies know this and market specifically to them, and it’s worked for years. But as technology has progressed, video games have become increasingly complex. Some games are essentially 20-hour long interactive movies, complete with character development and immersive stories. Many of these are even rated adults only, and contain nudity, graphic violence, profanity, and other types of mature content. A basic rule of thumb is: don’t assume that just because it’s a video game, it’s okay for a kid to play. 

Examples of Dangerous Video Games

Graphic violence

Realistic 3-D rendering and vivid graphics makes violence incredibly realistic in modern games. Here are two examples of two of the most popular violent titles today. You’ve probably heard of them — they’re households name due to their long-lasting succession of sequels and reboots.

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat was originally released as an arcade game in 1992, and has been making waves with its punishing violence ever since. The latest version of this fighting game, Mortal Kombat 11, builds on the original’s brutality, and is widely available on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC. The game revolves around powerful characters fighting to the death — but not before bloody mutilation and dismemberment. 

Call of Duty 

This first-person shooter franchise has been around since 2003, and it’s one of the most popular video games of all time. The games have been set in World War Two battlefields, the Cold War, the War Against Terror, and many others. The most recent installment, Modern Warfare 2, was released in 2022, and features a civilian mass shooting at an airport. These games feature intense scenes of battle with aggressive shooting and fighting. This, coupled with the fact that many players game online in real time with people from across the world, makes it fairly intense for kids.

Horror

Scary storytelling used to be the purview of films and novels, but video games, it turns out, can also do it quite well. 

Five Nights at Freddy’s

Remember Chuck E. Cheese? That’s basically the premise of Five Nights at Freddy’s. Locked after hours in a family pizza restaurant, you play as a night shift employee who must fend off the evil animatronic characters. It’s filled with spine-tingling jump scares, loads of creepy bad guys, and blood-curdling screams. The game(and its many sequels) are generally rated for teens and above, so it’s not like an R-rated movie, but for younger kids it can be a little overwhelming. 

Resident Evil 7

This franchise has been around for decades, and essentially kicked off the “survival horror” genre. Gameplay revolved around eliminating genetically engineered zombies with weapons like chainsaws, shotguns, flamethrowers, and explosives. Modern versions of the game have also incorporated VR headsets to make an immersive horror gaming experience.

Adult content

When it comes to topics, nothing is off-limits in some video games, and that can include encounters with alcohol, illegal drugs, sex, crime, and more.

Grand Theft Auto 

Another successful franchise over the years, the Grand Theft Auto franchise has been around since the 1990s. Through the various versions, your character drives around cities and completes missions related to revenge, drug deals, and crime. 

How Bark Can Help

If you’re concerned about your child’s video game usage, start by simply talking to them about it. Ask why they enjoy their favorite game and try to understand their perspective before jumping to conclusions. If your child does have a video game addiction, remind them that you are always there to support them as you take steps to get them help. 

Bark also wants to support your family when it comes to screen time and technology use. Our service lets parents monitor what their child is doing online so they can see if there are causes for concern related to video game use. It can also help parents manage screen time to ensure that their children are not using their devices more than they should be. Start your free trial today!

Ask Titania logo with search query

Dear Titania, 

My teen continuously sneaks out in the middle of the night and purposefully turns off location sharing on her phone so that we can’t track her location. Is there a way to disable this so that she can’t turn it off? 

Signed, 

Mom of the Night Watch

Dear Mom of the Night Watch, 

So you have an explorer on your hands! You’re 100% not alone, as many parents have fought the same battle for generations — though our parents definitely didn’t have to worry about a digital device being deactivated. Let’s get into it!

The Real Issue 

Depending on what location tracking tool you use — Apple Screen Time, Google Maps, or another app — resourceful kids may find ways to disable it. In addition to scouring the internet for complicated digital hacks, they could always simply just power it off or toggle it into airplane mode. 

Or, like their Gen X ancestors, they could opt for no phone and just leave it at home, where it can safely report its location as just a few feet from you. When it comes to giving parents the shake, a truly committed teen will stop at nothing. The real issue, then, comes down to why they feel they need to keep doing this, and how you can express your concerns. 

To Surveil or Not to Surveil

Some parents I’ve talked to have added digital home security alarms or external cameras to find out when their kids come and go. You certainly wouldn’t be the first family to try this, and even if it seems a little drastic, some parents find it’s worth a shot. Still others find this to be an invasion of privacy, and it won’t, after all, necessarily stop your child from leaving — you’ll just know when it happens.

Starting the Conversation

At the end of the day, many veteran parents will tell you that there’s no stopping a strong-willed teen! So let’s talk about an offensive strategy: have an open discussion with your teen about your concerns. This might seem a little underwhelming compared to iron-clad location settings and home security systems, but its impact will be far more reaching. 

Start by asking them why they are sneaking out and where they are going. For this conversation, tell them they won’t get in trouble so they feel safe telling the truth. Once you hear them out, try to come up with a solution together. Maybe you’ll consider a compromise, possibly by extending their curfew or inviting their friends over for an evening. 

Teens Can Feel Invincible

This is easier said than done, but you can try expressing your worries (without getting too lecture-y) for their safety and well-being. If they got hurt or even kidnapped while they were out, how would you locate them or even know they were gone in the first place if they snuck out?

The biggest obstacle is going to be your teen’s sense of invincibility. They aren’t going to realize half the dangers you’re worried about and the ones they do think about, they’ll say, “Yeah, but what are the chances of that happening to me?” But it may help to share real-life events and news stories as teaching examples. Not to scare them, but just to warn them that these things are not completely impossible. 

The last thing to do is make sure the rules and expectations are made clear by the end of the discussion. Whatever compromises you made or rules you changed, make sure the new (or same) boundaries are understood, as well as the consequences for breaking them. And you’ll want to be consistent in your follow-through with them. 

Keep Talking — and Talk Some More

Remember that it’s normal behavior for teens to push boundaries and assert their independence during these years. The most important thing you can do is to continue having open discussions and chats about safety. Let your teen know that you love them — full stop. At the end of the day, your end goal as a parent is just their safety. In 10 years, they’ll understand what you were trying to do — I promise.

girl on her phone, illustrated text bubbles around her

In today's digital age, sending and receiving nudes has become increasingly common among teenagers. Apps like Snapchat, which are designed to make sent images “disappear” after viewing, may make sending nudes seem harmless and even exciting or empowering at the moment. But once pictures are sent out, they rarely just “disappear.” 

The social repercussions of teens sending nudes can have a lasting impact on their future. In this article, we will explore the dangers of sending nudes and how to have an open conversation with your teen about this sensitive topic.

The Social Repercussions of Sending Nudes

Sending nudes can have serious social repercussions that can follow teenagers for years to come. Here are some of the most important things to consider and mention when talking with your teen:

  1. Legal Consequences: Depending on the age of the sender and the receiver, sending nudes can be considered child pornography and result in criminal charges.
  2. Reputation Damage: Once a nude is sent, the sender loses control over who sees it and where it ends up. It can easily be forwarded or shared without their consent, leading to rumors, bullying and damaged relationships.
  3. Emotional Distress: Teenagers are still developing emotionally, and the fallout from sending nudes can negatively affect their self-esteem, mental health and relationships.
  4. Job and College Applications: College admission officers and employers often search social media and the internet for information about applicants. Inappropriate photos can be a red flag that may cost them an opportunity.
  5. Cyberbullying: Sending nudes can make teenagers vulnerable to cyberbullying, harassment, and even blackmail by individuals who may seek to exploit them.

How to Talk to Your Teen About the Dangers of Sending Nudes

Talking to your teen about sending nudes can be an awkward conversation, but it's important to have. Here are some tips on how to approach the topic in a sensitive and safe way:

  1. Start with empathy: Acknowledge that it's not always easy to navigate the complexities of social media and relationships as a teenager. In many ways, the world of teen dating and the expectations that go along with it are radically different than they were even 10 years ago. 
  2. Explain the risks: Use concrete examples and discuss the potential consequences of sending nudes. Reference some of the dangers of sending nudes above and talk with your teen about how photos that are shared, even in trusting relationships, can find their way out into the world.
  3. Offer alternative solutions: Encourage your teen to find other ways to express their feelings and connect with others. While nude photos may be a “popular” way of showing love for someone, ask them what other creative ways they could show their devotion. Point out the many unique and meaningful ways they can connect with their peers or partner in a way that is safe for all parties. 
  4. Create a safe space: Let your teen know that they can always come to you for help or advice without judgment. If your teen may feel more comfortable talking with a sibling or friend about the topic, speak with them about ways they can guide your teen through potential problems.
  5. Set clear boundaries: Establish family rules around technology and online behavior, and make sure your teen understands them. This may include restrictions or limits on specific apps, something Bark can help you set up.

Sending nudes may seem like a harmless and exciting way for teenagers to connect, but the social repercussions of doing so can be severe and long-lasting. By understanding the risks and having an empathetic and open conversation with your teen, you can help them make informed decisions and protect themselves from the potential consequences of sending nudes.

Bark is Here to Help

While Snapchat remains one of the most popular apps for sending nudes, parents currently have no way to monitor what happens in the app on iPhones and can only monitor messages on Andriod through Bark. 

Bark's blocking and screen time tools do, however, 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 about what’s going on in their digital world. Bark’s award-winning service also enables you to monitor for sexual content in your child’s texts, email, YouTube account and 30+ of the most popular social media platforms and apps. Learn more about how Bark is dedicated to keeping your child safe, and sign up for a free trial here.

Addicted to video games header image - boy playing video game

For years, video games have dominated the free time of young people. And in 2023, there’s certainly no shortage of ways to play your favorite game, from consoles and phones to computers and virtual reality. But while video games can be a beloved part of childhood, it’s important for parents to balance how much time their kids spend playing them. 

Unfortunately, video game addiction is a real issue and can affect your child's schoolwork, relationships, and even health. But luckily there are signs parents can look for if their child needs help managing their video game time. Once you know them,  you can intervene and talk about healthy boundaries if your child is addicted to video games. 

Signs Your Child May Be Addicted to Video Games

Loss of interest in other hobbies

Hobbies play a crucial role in kids’ development, as it introduces them to new things and teaches specific skills. Video games are great as one of your kid’s hobbies — but it gets tricky if it’s their only hobby. 

If your child starts to consistently skip other activities they used to enjoy — like playing sports, painting, or hanging out with friends — it might be a sign of video game addiction. Keeping your child’s time balanced between video games and other hobbies or activities can go a long way in keeping addiction at bay.

Falling grades

School can be hard enough without the strong temptation to keep building in Minecraft or start another game of Fortnite! If your child is struggling with video game addiction, it probably won’t take long for it to show in their grades. Once homework time gets replaced with game time, kids will eventually find themselves in a tough spot with their classes.

It’s an uphill battle once the grades slip, so it’s best if kids wait to pick up the controller until all their work is done. That way video games can be a reward instead of a distraction! 

Aggressive behavior

Have you noticed your child be particularly aggressive after they’ve been playing video games for a long time? For some children, video games can cause them to exhibit increased angry behaviors. This may be because the games they’re playing are violent in nature, or they simply get overly frustrated when they are told to stop playing. 

If you find your child is getting unusually upset with you when you limit their video game time, it might be a sign they’ve become addicted to gaming. The more out-of-character their reaction, the more likely it is that they need a good break from video games. 

Mood swings

Part of growing up is learning how to control your emotions, and sometimes it takes a while for kids to develop this skill. If you feel like your kid has really high highs and really low lows, it could very well be a natural part of their growing up — especially during the preteen and teen years. However, this could also point to a larger issue if the mood swings seem more extreme than normal and they’ve been spending longer amounts of time on their games. 

Isolation

One of the biggest downsides of video games is how isolating they can be. Of course, this isn’t always true, as video games can be enjoyed with others and they often are. But it’s not uncommon for kids to get so wrapped up in the game, they end up being alone in their room for hours. Whole weekends could fly by if you’re careful.

When it comes to playing video games with others online, it’s important to exercise caution. While it’s not always a bad thing, it shouldn’t completely substitute in-person socialization. Not to mention — there’s an increased risk that your kid could start chatting with strangers and potential predators the more time they spend online. 

Building in-person relationships are crucial in a child’s development and a video game addiction can easily impede that. Be sure your’s child’s time is balanced with social activities, as well as time to relax at home when they need it. 

Increased conflict with friends and family

Of course, kids are always going to have their harsh moments even if they’re not addicted to video games. A part of growing up is learning how to handle conflicts. What parents should look for is consistent behavior where they lash out against friends and family. This — coupled with other symptoms — could point to a video game addiction. 

Again, you know your child best and you’ll know this behavior calls for a closer look into their gaming habits. 

Withdrawal symptoms

One major sign of video game addiction is how your child reacts when you take them away. If they express intense anger or any emotional distress, then it’s clear they have an unhealthy relationship with video games. This can be similar to withdrawal symptoms, which are an inevitable part of any addiction. 

Physical issues

Video games can take a physical toll as well, causing damage to eyesight, back pain, joint soreness, and headaches. This can cause severe discomfort and could even lead to permanent damage if healthy steps aren’t taken. 

Hygiene concerns

Now, lots of kids have hygiene issues — especially going into puberty when putting on deodorant hasn’t become a daily routine yet. But if your child is addicted to video games, it’ll be more intense than that. Maybe they won’t shower for days and they constantly wear dirty clothes — and this goes for their bedroom as well. You might notice things like the bed is never made and there’s always trash or clothes on the floor. 

Essentially, kids with a video game addiction will shift all their priorities so they can game as much as possible. Even if most kids don’t necessarily care about a clean room or having the best grades, addiction will make it even harder to keep up with those responsibilities. 

Constantly talking about video games

Kids always love to talk about their interests and whatever game they’re currently playing. But does it seem like it’s all your kid can talk about? If it seems like every conversation with your child goes back to their games, it could be another sign that they have an extreme attachment to their games. 

Remember that it’s actually a really good thing when kids express their interests and have a passion for something — even if it is video games. But parents will want to make sure it’s balanced and doesn’t keep them from living healthy, normal lives. 

How to Support Your Child

If you’re worried about your child’s video game usage, the best first step is simply talking to your child about it. Ask them why they enjoy video games and try to understand their perspective before jumping to conclusions. If your child does have a video game addiction, remind them that you are always there to support them as you take steps to get them help. 

Bark also wants to support your family when it comes to screen time and technology use. Our service lets parents monitor what their child is doing online so they can see if there are causes for concern related to video game use. It can also help parents manage screen time to ensure that their children are not using their devices more than they should be. Start your free trial today!

Ask Titania logo with "what to when your son is sexting" in a search bar.

Dear Titania,
I’ve just discovered that my high school freshman son has been sending sexual messages to his new girlfriend; they’ve only been together for less than a week at this point. We were alerted to these messages from our monitoring service (Bark). I am frustrated, desperate for help, and unsure of what to do next! We’ve even tried giving him a flip phone in the past, however, he really needs a smartphone for school apps and websites that they use daily. What else can we do? 

Signed,
Son Is Sexting

Dear Son is Sexting,
Thanks for your question! This isn’t an easy one, so the frustration is understandable. But to start, you need to know you’re definitely not alone. Lots of parents have gotten the same alert from Bark and asked the same question: What do I do now?

Time for the Talk

As parents, it can be distressing to discover our teens taking part in anything remotely sexual. They’ll always just be little kids in our eyes so it’s hard to view them as soon to be adults who will hopefully pursue healthy, sexual relationships in the future. But our job as parents isn’t to prohibit them from growing or exploring, but instead to guide them to ensure they go about it safely and responsibly. Their hormones are going to kick in whether we like it or not, so best to face it head-on rather than try to avoid it. 

Obviously, the main thing you’ll need to do is talk to your son. I know — this is easier said than done. Our parents only had to give us the birds-and-the-bees talk. We have to do that and talk about how it intersects with digital technology. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you discuss with your son what’s happened.

Try to approach the conversation as an opportunity to teach. 

It’s important to not shame him or make this an end-of-the-world situation. Remember, sexual desires at his age are completely normal. Start the conversation off by reminding him of that, then approach your concerns gently and informatively. 

Discuss what is (and isn’t!) appropriate to share with his girlfriend, especially in digital form

Go over sexting specifically and all of the repercussions that can come with it. Once things are shared online, they linger forever and could potentially come back to harm him later on. And many states have laws regarding sexting that could get your son into trouble. Even if the sexting occurred between two minors, some states could still prosecute. 

Tell your son that it’s important to respect his girlfriend — as well as everyone — when it comes to any sexual engagement. On the flip side, make sure he knows he shouldn’t ever feel obligated to take part in things that make him uncomfortable. Sexting in particular is a huge pressure that lots of teens face today. Some believe they will be judged or lose their relationship if they don’t do it. And for those that choose not to engage in sexting, many think they’ll be judged for this, as well. This is a good opportunity to ask your son why he decided to send these messages, which will help you as his parent better understand the situation. 

Taking away his phone may not be the best solution 

Many teens will simply sneak it or find alternate ways to continue this type of messaging. At the end of the day, taking the phone away won’t solve the problem — especially because he’ll be using a phone for the rest of his life. Part of our job as parents is to teach our kids how to uge technology responsibly. Continue to have open discussions and model healthy behavior. 

Continuing to monitor with an app like Bark can help you know when and if it’s still happening. You could also set screen time limits on texting and social media apps to help limit access to sending photos, especially at night. The Bark Phone gives you even more controls and lets you disable the camera whenever you need to — including screenshots. 

Some Parting Parental Wisdom

If we leave you with nothing else, we hope you take this to heart: Don’t beat yourself up over your teen’s actions. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. We can’t control when our teens will decide to sexually explore, but we can try to prepare for it and be ready for some hard conversations. Good luck!

Have a Question for Titania?

Titania Jordan, Bark's chief parent officer, is answering your questions about parenting in a tech world — from how to talk about Snapchat to what screen time controls work the best. Fill out this form and your question could be featured in an upcoming blog post!

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Parents, if you think about the advertising we grew up watching, it probably seems different from what our kids watch today. We remember our favorite commercials and celebrity endorsements — kids today will likely grow up to remember their favorite ‘social media influencers’, which didn’t even exist when we were young! 

If your kids spend any time on Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube, there’s no doubt they’ve scrolled past an influencer or two. But they may have also come across a ‘de-influencer’, which is a new trend that’s sprung up on social media recently. 

We are always looking for the latest trends that could pop up on your child’s social media feed so we can inform parents about what’s going on and what are the potential risks that come with it. So today, we’re going to explain exactly what the difference is between influencers vs. de-influencers and how your child could be impacted by it. Let’s jump in!

Influencer vs. De-Influencer: What’s the Difference?

Everyone knows that word-of-mouth is super effective when it comes to our purchasing decisions. If you have a friend that absolutely raves over a new cleaning product they bought and tells you — “See how shiny and clean my kitchen counters are! You have to try it!” — that’s pretty convincing, right? Especially if you were already thinking your kitchen counters could use some more attention. 

Well, that’s exactly how online influencers work — except it’s a random person on your Instagram feed and they’re getting paid by the company to say it. The best influencers know how to come off as authentic and trusting as possible, which in turn convinces us to trust the company with our purchase. 

And de-influencers work in the same yet opposite way. Instead, imagine your friend saying, “Ugh, I just spent so much money on this and it did nothing to my kitchen counters! The advertising seemed so convincing but seriously, don’t fall for it!” 

De-influencers initially came about as a stand against the influencer market and the mindset that we need to have all the latest and newest things. The earliest de-influencer content was calling out this overconsumption and urged people to think more critically about their spending habits. 

However, as noble as the de-influencer movement may have started, it’s unfortunately been muddled by influencers using the trend to push their products anyways. Essentially they’ll say, “Don’t get this, you don’t need it — but you can try this product instead!

Being a Kid in the Age of Influencers

Most adults are used to the flood of marketing ploys in our feed and we know when we’re being sold something – not to say it stops us from believing it and buying that new gadget anyways — but kids can have a different experience. 

If they spend a lot of time on Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube, they probably encounter influencers constantly. And we know that kids can often find comfort in these online influencers, especially when the creator makes content around your kid’s interests like music, beauty, fitness, or video games. And on top of that, sometimes the influencer is a kid themselves, which can make them even more trusting and authentic to your child. There’s a chance your kid could not even realize they are being sold something if the creator seems genuine enough. 

With kids being a lot more impressionable, the risk is not just that they’ll try to buy all the things that are peddled on their feed. Kids could also pick up unhealthy or harmful messages, depending on the influencers they follow. One of these messages could be that kids believe they "need" certain things and they don't want to be caught using or wearing the "wrong" thing. This could lead to an unhealthy view of themselves if they can’t keep up with all the trends. 

Kids nowadays take in a ton of content — from influencers or otherwise — so it’s crucial that kids are taught healthy digital citizenship habits, which include recognizing when a creator has a bias in whatever they are selling or pushing. 

How Bark Can Help

Keeping up with your child’s social media is a daunting task, but Bark can help. Our award-winning service monitors 30+ apps and sends alerts straight to your phone if your child encounters any harmful content, such as sexual content, violent messaging, bullying, predation, and more. Start your free 7-day trial today! 

father and son, son getting ready for school

Every parent knows the struggle of getting their kids up and out the door on any given day. Some kids need at least seven wake up calls before they can actually get out of bed and other kids make it their mission to never put on a winter coat (even in freezing temperatures). And when the mornings are frustrating, it can make the whole day seem stressful and overwhelming. 

But there’s hope yet! Believe it or not, finding a great morning routine for kids doesn’t have to be so far out of reach. Lots of parents have found themselves in the same spot and eventually created healthy rhythms to make the mornings way smoother for both the parents and the sleepy kiddos. 

So we found some of the most tried-and-true ways to improve your family’s morning routine and put it all here in one place! Let’s take a look!

Bark’s Morning Routine Checklist For Kids 

Starting with the night-before routine 

Morning-routine experts have long held that the best morning routines actually start about 12 hours before the alarm goes off. The idea is to de-clutter the morning as much as possible by completing certain tasks the night before. So maybe you pack all the school lunches the night before instead of scrambling to do it in the morning. Or perhaps you start having your kids shower and pick out their clothes before bed the night before. You might find these things are a more enjoyable experience when the kiddos aren’t grumpy and groggy from just waking up. 

Similarly, making sure everyone is getting a good night’s sleep will do wonders for your mornings. As long as your night-before-routine includes a consistent bedtime that allows for a proper amount of sleep, then you’re already one step closer to a healthier morning experience!

Don’t forget your morning routine!

As parents, it’s easy to forget to take time for ourselves. Even harder to consider doing that in the morning — which could be at the crack of dawn depending on when your kids wake up. But tons of parents have found it helpful to schedule even just 15 minutes before the kids wake up to have a little me-time. Maybe you just make your coffee and slowly drink it in peace. Or you read a book for a couple of minutes, maybe even get a quick workout in. Whatever it is, you might find you have a more clear and more positive head-space with the kids when you’ve already started the day with yourself.  

Seeing the opportunity for autonomy

While the morning routine is — more often than not — a team effort, it’s also a chance for kids to step into some responsibility and autonomy. Think about the morning chores you usually do and try having your kid do them more consistently instead. The benefit is two-fold — your kid learns responsibility and it’s one less thing that you have to worry about! 

Additionally, particularly for older kids, giving them the space to create their own morning routine can help grow their independence. Maybe you tell them they have to be up by a certain time, but after that, they can decide if they eat breakfast first or get ready first. The freedom to make these small decisions can build their confidence and even show them that you trust their decision-making skills. 

The great balance of consistency and flexibility

The more consistent your morning routine, the better. For lots of families, this means having physical written schedules for the morning, as well as who does which tasks. Could be something along the lines of …

Kids benefit immensely from this type of structure. In fact, the CDC notes that when parents build structure for their kids through consistency and predictability, kids will feel “safe and secure because they know what to expect.” 

But there’s another side to the coin. While consistency is great, it’s not always reality. As a parent, it’s important to anticipate mornings where things will go sideways, sometimes for no good reason at all. Waking up on the wrong side of the bed is real — and both parents and kids can have an off morning every once in a while. 

So that’s where the flexibility comes in. While striving for predictability, remember to keep calm and collected if the morning starts to go off the rails. There will be times when all the chores don’t get done, or maybe someone will sleep in past the alarm. It’s bound to happen, but parents who respond with a cool head (or at least try to) will teach their kids the importance of adapting to things going wrong. 

How Bark Can Help With Morning Routines For Kids 

And there you have it, Bark’s guide to a better morning routine for kids. Bark helps families by providing online monitoring, screen time management, web filtering, and so much more. We can even help with morning routines through the remote alerts feature on the Bark Phone — parents can create an alarm on their Bark app that will go off on the child’s Bark Phone. That way you can be sure they’re woken up exactly when you need them to be! 

We hope this guide helps your family reach your new morning routine goals! Good luck!

silhouette of child's head

As a parent, your first instinct is to protect your child from all of the hard corners of life. This is usually straightforward, like dealing with bullying, taking care of them when they’re sick, and helping to teach them about online safety.  But if your child is hurting themselves (known as self-harm) — or even if you suspect they may be — it can be incredibly scary and stressful. It can be hard to know what to do. In this blog post, you’ll learn how to recognize self-harm, why it happens, and how to support your child if they need help. 

What Does Self-Harm Look Like?

Self-harm is more common than many people realize, with 10% of teens stating that they’ve done it. The average age self-harm starts happening is 12–15, and it’s more common in girls than in boys.

Self-harm is when someone hurts themselves on purpose. It can be done in many different ways, including:

Many of these harmful activities can leave lasting scars, marks, bruises, or injuries. Someone may wear baggy clothes to cover up evidence of their self-harm, even in hot weather when long sleeves/pants aren’t usual. 

Why Do Teens and Tweens Self-Harm?

Growing up is never easy, but for some kids, it’s made harder by certain life events. People tend to engage in self-harm as a way to cope with negative emotions. It’s not a mental health disorder in itself, but it usually co-occurs with issues like depression, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, disordered eating, and more. Even though it may be related to suicidal behavior, self-harm may not always mean a persons want to end their life. Here are a few reasons that kids may engage in self-destructive behaviors.

Control 

For kids struggling with overwhelming emotions, self-harm may help them feel like they’re temporarily in control of something — even if it's painful and harming them. 

Punishment  

Feelings of guilt or shame may lead a person to hurt themselves as a sort of penance. It may make them feel better in the moment, but it can become a vicious cycle.

Distraction  

If a child hasn’t learned how to manage painful or overwhelming feelings, self-harm may provide an avenue to distract themselves from their emotions — albeit an unhealthy one. Replacing emotional pain with physical pain gives them something else to focus on.

The Dangers of Self-Harm Online Communities

Kids struggling with self-harm may turn to social media for advice, support, and a place to talk about what they’re feeling. This may sound like a nice idea, but in reality, these communities may only cause further harm. Instead of receiving support, kids may be triggered. They may also get tips and pointers for how to actually engage in self-harm or hide it. 

Platforms like Instagram and TikTok ostensibly prevent users from searching for content with hashtags related to self-harm. When you search for them, you’re instead served a notice for how to contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. However, there are tons of workarounds to actually get to self-harm content, so it’s not entirely effective. 

On Reddit, the community r/Selfharm has more than 100,000 members, which shows just how widespread this issue is, especially online. 

How to Support Your Child

The stigma around self-harm might make it hard for your child to come to you for help. Feelings of shame, embarrassment, and fear that you’ll be angry at them may make it even harder. The first and best thing you can do is to tell them that you love them and you’re here to help. Making sure they learn positive coping skills will help them get better.

If your child is suicidal, get them immediate help. If they’re not, the next step is to figure out how to get them treatment. Your child’s pediatrician can provide resources and referrals to specialists. Other resources to turn to include school counselors and trusted family members.

How Bark Can Help

While the physical signs of self-harm may be hard to detect, oftentimes kids discuss it online. This could look like a text to a friend, an Instagram post, or writing about it in a Google Doc. Bark’s advanced technology scans your child’s online activities for signs of self-harm  — along with other dangers like bullying, depression, and more – and sends you an alert if something concerning is found. This way, you can check in and make sure everything’s okay.

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