a mom with two teenagers, illustrated emojis

Those last four years of school are often loaded with all sorts of experiences that can be tricky to navigate — for the teen and the parent. It’s easy for parents to feel caught between two priorities: keeping their kids safe while they’re still home and also preparing them to be independent adults that are ready to move out into the world. 

To help you out, we’ve put together a survival guide that gives some guidance as you figure out how to balance these two important priorities. We’ll go over some helpful things to keep in mind about what teens are going through and what they might need most. Let’s jump in!

Tips On How To Survive High School (As A Parent) 

1. Independence is the goal 

If you have a high schooler in the house, you might notice they’ve started hanging out with their friends constantly. Or maybe they’ve started asking to have their own car. They may have even broken a few rules, like staying out past curfew or talking back. From a parent’s perspective, it might look like their sole objective is just to get away from you — which can be very hurtful. But from your teen's perspective, they’re simply seeking out new ways to feel like their own person. Just because they’re looking to leave the nest doesn’t mean they hate the nest. It just means they want to test their wings. Consider a compromise that will give them a chance to feel independent, while still respecting your house rules.  

2. The amygdala is running the show

It’s no secret that teens are hormonal. So when your teen is particularly moody or chooses to have a dramatic reaction to something seemingly small, it may be helpful to understand exactly what’s happening in their brain. 

When hormones rage, the culprit is the activation of the amygdala. This is the part of the brain where reactive emotion occurs. Teens are generally operating with a far more active amygdala than most adults, which means they are dealing with an intense amount of emotion. Unfortunately, the part of the brain that is supposed to bring logic and problem-solving (the prefrontal cortex) is not quite developed yet. Hence, the moodiness and dramatic reactions. 

3. Self-esteem may take a dip 

Along with understanding the inner workings of their brains, it might be helpful for parents to know how high schoolers actually feel about themselves. There’s tons of research about self-esteem in adolescents, most of which points to trends of low self-image. Additionally, rates of depression and anxiety are known to increase during this time, specifically ages 12–17. Naturally, researchers try to pinpoint the reasons for these trends, including school pressures, peer comparisons, hormonal changes, and — of course — technology (more on that later). 

It’s likely that all of these reasons play a role in some way, depending on each kid. But more than figuring out the specific reason, you may find it difficult to get your kid to even talk about their feelings in the first place. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, not all kids are super talkative when it comes to their feelings. But the important thing is to be aware of the possibility that they may struggle with confidence. So take every opportunity you can to hype them up! Be sure to high-five every good grade and bear hug every goal scored — because those are the confidence builders that they’ll likely remember more than anything else. 

4. Communication is your best strategy

If you take nothing else away from this post, take this: open communication is your absolute best strategy! And specifically, don’t shy away from tough or “awkward” conversations. It’s a common misconception among parents that bringing up topics such as sex, drugs, suicide/self-harm starts a snowball effect that will result in the exact opposite of what you want. But the reality is, if they don’t hear about it from you, they’ll hear about it somewhere else. So at least if they hear it from you first, they’ll hear it with accurate information and sound advice. And, most importantly, they’ll know that you are a safe place to go to if they ever find themselves in a sticky situation. 

5. The digital world is their normal

Most kids today are living in two different worlds: the real world and their own digital world. Especially by the time they’re in high school, almost everyone will have a phone and at least one social media account — if not more. So much of their social life and learning takes place on these apps without many adults realizing it. This can make it difficult for parents to put themselves in their kids’ shoes when their own high school experience was so different. 

Our best advice, hands down, is to educate yourself on all the ups and downs of the online world. If this is their normal, make an effort to familiarize yourself with what they may encounter on a daily basis. Learn about the popular apps, the potential dangers kids can fall into, and the parental controls that are available. We know it can be a daunting task when there’s so much to keep track of, but it can make all the difference in the world if it helps your family side-step some messy situations in the future.

How Bark Can Help

The good news is that when it comes to high schoolers and technology, Bark won’t leave you hanging! Bark was created for the exact purpose of helping parents keep their kids safe online. We offer a suite of parental controls, which allows parents to set healthy screen time schedules, block inappropriate websites and apps, as well as monitor texts, emails, and 30+ social media sites for potentially harmful content. 

Along with this, we also have numerous resources that teach parents everything they need to know about the ever-changing online world. And you may consider joining our Facebook group, Parenting in a Tech World, with over 360,000 parents who are all learning the ropes right along with you. 

Ask Titania: How do I stop my teen from gaming all night? in a google search box

Dear Titania,

My 13-year-old loves video games — I’d go so far as to say obsessed. I know this isn’t an uncommon issue for kids his age, but I need some serious help. If left to his own devices, he’ll play all night, either Fortnite or Call of Duty with friends or even just by himself if no else is online. How do I not only stop the marathon sessions, but also help him to understand it’s important to set healthy boundaries?


Vexed over video games

Dear Vexed Over Video Games,

Oh boy, do I feel this one. Video games are part and parcel of growing up today, for better or for worse, but that doesn’t make managing your child’s playing time any easier. And if they’re not playing games, then they’re watching tutorial videos on YouTube or watching other people play them on streaming platforms like Twitch. It’s a whole digital ecosystem, and it can be all-immersive. 

Of course, allowing your child to play video games is totally fine (and so is not allowing them, for the parents who choose to abstain!). But it’s important to know when to step in and set limits — the earlier, the better, which is true for lots of tech gadgets. 

When it comes to video games, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 60 minutes on school days and 2 hours on non-school days. (This may give you some insight into where your kid falls on the playing spectrum.)

How Gaming Is Different Today

As long as there’s been video games (and that’s about 40ish years), kids have been hooked on them. From Pong on an Atari in the family living room to Super Mario Brothers on a Nintendo to today’s virtual reality headsets, the technology has been ever progressing. The self-control part of kids’ brains doesn’t fully develop until they’re 25, which means that video games present a pretty attractive obsession. And the games today are shinier, louder, and much more intense.

When you take that into account and couple it with the fact that gaming today is way more social than just having a friend over to play NBA Jam, you’ve got a recipe for obsession. Old video games used to be two players, max. Nowadays, games harness the power of the internet and can consist of hundreds of players all together at once, with both friends and strangers from around the world playing. 

Of course, the pandemic didn’t help things, either, as kids relied on gaming as a liferaft to stay connected to friends they couldn’t see in person. Odds are, screen time rules also were relaxed, and reeling it back in can be hard. 

Gaming Console Parental Controls Can Be Your Best Friend

So, what’s a parent to do? First, look to the consoles themselves. Video game companies know how addictive their products are, which is why they all provide parental controls to help families keep some sort of balance. PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo all have fairly robust controls you can take advantage of — and you definitely should!

With each, you can manage not only the all-important gaming hours (with custom schedules!) but also privacy features, who your child can chat with, how much money they can spend on games and upgrades, and more things you may not have even thought of. 

Yes, it will require sitting down and watching a few videos on how they work, but it’s 100% worth your time. 

The Dangers of Online Multiplayer Gaming

Online gaming in particular can be a little more dangerous than solo playing because it introduces something that every parent is probably afraid of: strangers over chat. First-person shooter games like Call of Duty and Fortnite rely heavily on headsets for players to communicate, but the other players can be complete strangers from around the world.

Not only can your kid be exposed to adults screaming at them, they could also hear inappropriate content, profanity, hate speech, and more. These adults may also potentially be predators, looking to strike up relationships with children in games and then move to a different platform to chat. 

Bark Home Helps You Limit Online Gaming and More

If you’re more concerned about online gaming, the internet connection will be the most important thing to consider. The Bark Home — a small device that plugs into your home Wi-Fi router — lets you turn off the internet to Wi-Fi devices in your house. That can look like, for example, no Xbox multiplayer games after dinner and until noon the next day. 

Why I love the Bark Home is because it’s not just a one-trick pony. You can also use it to block websites and apps on any device — like TVs, computers, and more. Screen time schedules are also available, so you can create custom rules like no Netflix during dinner, along with anything else you think needs limits. 

Not only can your kid be exposed to adults screaming at them, they could also hear inappropriate content, profanity, hate speech, and more. These adults may also potentially be predators, looking to strike up relationships with children in games and then move to a different platform to chat. 

Let’s Talk About Physiology For a Minute

Sure, video games are fun and kids love them, but kids also love potato chips and candy. Both are fine in moderation, but it’s important as a parent to encourage your child to get outside and move their bodies. Lack of physical movement can lead to not only physical issues but also emotional and mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. Doctors have been saying for years now that “sitting is the new smoking,” and sitting while playing video games definitely counts.

If you’re truly worried about your child falling into the throes of video game addiction, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s pediatrician to review your concerns and next steps. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “there are plenty of safe and effective treatments for video game addiction already in use.” So that’s encouraging. 

Another helpful conversation to have surrounds brain chemistry, addiction, and emotions. Watch videos with your child that cover the pleasure centers of the brain and how powerful any addiction can be — thanks to what screens (Or sugar! Or anything else!) do to the reward centers responsible for dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline, and more. 

Help your child understand that when sleep, behavior, physical activity, and relationships suffer as a result of video game time, that’s when humans need help regulating. It’s not their fault, it’s a powerful force that, if we don’t pay attention to it, can take control of our health and well-being. Tech can be a wonderful and entertaining tool, as long as WE remain in control of IT.

More Help

We often recommend tech contracts for a kid’s first phone, but you could also adapt one for video games to help set expectations. One other tip that I recommend for parents is to sit down with your kid while they’re playing and learn what they’re doing when they game.

Ask what games they like, see how they function. You may not become a video game fan, but as you’re in the process of helping to set boundaries, you’ll also learn more about something your child loves, and that’s always a good thing. 

kid reading a book

We know that getting kids to read for fun can be like pulling teeth. Especially when they have so many screens at their disposal and they spend all day reading at school, reading can often seem way more exhausting than relaxing. 

But there are so many benefits when kids develop the habit of reading! They gain more knowledge, learn critical thinking skills, develop creativity and imagination, and improve their writing ability. And here are some benefits you might not even know about: reading can help kids become more empathetic, build better relationships, and boost their mental health and overall well-being. 

So, how do you get your kids to pick up more books? Below, we’ll dive into how you can get your kids to read for fun — from free online resources, to fun new books for all ages, and even some ideas for creating a healthy reading schedule!

Free Online Resources to Help Your Kids Develop the Habit of Reading for Fun

1. Reading Websites

One way to help get them interested in reading for fun outside of school is to introduce them to free reading websites. These websites offer tons of kid-friendly content, from books to magazine articles with topics ranging from science to sports. They have something for everyone — even teens! Not only do they provide a great way to explore new genres, but they also make it easier for parents to monitor what their children are reading without having to buy a physical copy of the book every time. Plus, many of them also provide interactive features like quizzes and games, which can help keep kids engaged while they learn.

Books are still the best way for children to develop their reading skills, but free reading websites can be a great supplement and encourage kids who might not typically dive into a physical book. Websites like the ones below are just a few of the many that can help get your kids reading more:

2. Virtual Reading Groups or Book Clubs

Consider getting your children involved in virtual reading groups specifically designed for kids and teens. They can join together with other readers from around the world to discuss their favorite books. Similarly, they can subscribe to an online book club that will help keep them up-to-date on the latest releases and provide tips on how to stay motivated while tackling longer reads.

3. Audiobooks

Lastly, if your kids aren’t interested in reading at first, a great stepping stone is to start with audiobooks! There are plenty of free options available for kids and teenagers online. Listening to stories has been proven beneficial in helping younger readers increase their comprehension skills, with the ultimate goal of getting them to read more books. It’s also an easy way for parents or caregivers who don't have time to sit down with their children but still want them exposed to engaging literature outside of school. Free websites such as LibriVox offer hundreds of titles, both new and old. Some even come with follow-up activities that make learning more interactive and enjoyable.

Quick Tip for Parents - Encouraging your kids to explore different genres may also be beneficial when trying to get them excited about reading. Whether it be comic books or graphic novels, historical non-fiction books about famous figures, or biographies and autobiographies written by influential people in our society today – exposing them to different genres can certainly help fuel those daily reading habits.

How to Find Fun New Books for Kids and Teens of All Ages

1. Your Local Library

You can’t go wrong with the old-fashioned way of finding books — your local library! Not only do they offer an extensive selection of books, but many also provide programs such as story time hours, book clubs, and author readings which can make it more fun for young readers. You can even turn it into a fun activity for the whole family to pick out their favorite books!

2. Bookstores

Bookstores are a great source of new reading material for kids and teens alike. When browsing the selection, keep in mind that many books aimed at adults may still be appropriate and enjoyable for older kids who are looking for something different from what they typically read in school. And if you don’t want to break the bank, be sure to head to a second-hand bookstore where you may be able to snag some classic titles for bargain prices. If your kids start to fly through their books, saving money is key!

3. Online Bookstores

Online retailers like Amazon have made it easier than ever to search through thousands upon thousands of titles conveniently from home. Not only do they have plenty of bestsellers, but they also have unique titles specifically targeted toward younger readers as well. Many include reviews from past customers, which makes it easy to check if the title would be a good fit before purchasing the book.

4. Kindle Kids

Kindle Kids is another great option to develop strong reading habits! Amazon has tailored its platform specifically to young readers by offering age-appropriate books with interactive features — from audio narration to game elements, Kindle Kids has some of the best books to develop the habit of reading because they’re designed to keep them engaged.

What Are the Best Books to Start a Reading Habit?

Not only are classics great for introducing young readers to literature, but modern books can be just as engaging. Have a look at some of the best books to start a reading habit below!

Harry Potter series

For several generations, Harry Potter has been one of the most popular book series among children and teenagers alike. J.K Rowling transports readers into a captivating, magical world filled with adventure and friendship.

Chicken Soup for the Soul

For those looking for something feel-good and inspiring, Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul offers inspiring stories from real-life kids about overcoming obstacles and staying positive even in difficult times. For a humorous and lighthearted read about the adolescent years, teens can opt for Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul.

Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's Web is a classic coming-of-age story that is perfect for getting your child interested in reading if they’re around grades 2 to 5 or older. It follows the adventures of Wilbur, a pig who finds himself at odds with his fellow barnyard friends until he meets his unlikely savior – a spider named Charlotte.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Perfect for kids over the age of 9 — and even suitable for teens — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland may be an interesting read. It’s full of wit and humor while exploring themes like growing up, imagination, and identity.

Non-Fiction Books

When searching for the best books to start a reading habit, don't forget about non-fiction titles as well! Whether your child is interested in science, nature, or history, there are plenty of informative yet entertaining options available out there to satisfy any curious mind.

How to Promote Healthy Reading Schedules

If you’ve been trying to limit your child’s screen time, one helpful tip is to replace their screen time with something else — like, perhaps, reading! Whenever it’s time to put the screens away, have them read a book instead to fill the time. Hopefully overtime, they’ll look forward to their reading time and won’t look at it as a lesser alternative to screen time. 

Try starting with bedtime as a designated reading time for your kids. Instead of scrolling through social media or playing video games before they go to sleep, you can allow them to read a book, an e-book, or a reading website. 

Ready to Help Your Kids Develop the Habit of Reading? Try Bark for Free Today!

Bark is a great tool to help develop your child’s reading habit. You can set screen time schedules for all their devices, making it way easier to limit their tech time and turn them to something else like reading.

Along with screen time schedules, Bark also provides web-filtering, location check-ins, and content monitoring of texts, emails, and 30+ social media platforms. Sign up to start your free trial today — and see why millions of parents choose Bark to help keep their kids safe online. 

kid on their phone, with money signs illustrated next to it

We’ve probably all experienced this — you decide to download a new app because why not? It’s free! But then as soon as you open the app you get 20 different pop-ups asking you to buy all the cool features of the app that you were initially interested in. So either you spend money on something you thought was going to be free or you just forget the whole thing and move on. A modern-day dilemma. 

These are known as in-app purchases and most of us are probably familiar with the concept. As adults who are free to do whatever they want with the money they earn, there aren’t any unknown risks to be aware of. But for kids, it’s a different story.

In this blog post, we'll break down everything you need to know about the risk to kids and more importantly, how to turn off in-app purchases on your kid’s devices. 

What Does In-App Purchase Mean? 

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here’s an exact definition of in-app purchases: a form of digital purchasing where users can buy items, services, or features within an app. This is becoming increasingly popular not only among mobile apps but web browsers as well. A typical example would be, if you play a game on your phone that allows you to purchase specific upgrades like tools or clothing to upgrade your character's capabilities, that would be an in-app purchase.

What Are The Safety Risks Of In-App Purchases For Children?

The biggest safety risk associated with in-app purchases is that kids have unauthorized access to real money, such as credit or debit cards, PayPal accounts, and even gift cards when it’s linked directly to an app store account. With each purchase, there is the potential for users (especially minors) to accidentally spend large amounts of money without realizing it.

Even worse, unmonitored access to in-app purchases could leave kids vulnerable to fraud, identity theft, and other security breaches. Kids may not fully understand that these are real sources of funds, making them more likely targets of scams or data theft.

Another huge risk posed is that they often have unrestricted access to virtual goods and other content without parental participation—allowing young users to engage with inappropriate material such as violent video games or unsupervised chat rooms, which can lead them toward online predators.

How to Turn Off In-App Purchases 

By simply adjusting the settings on your child's iOS or Android device, you can have peace of mind that your children aren’t making in-app purchases without your permission.

On iOS devices

On iOS devices

  1. Tap the settings icon on your child's device.
  2. Tap Screen Time, and enable if not already turned on.
  3. Scroll down and tap Content & Privacy Restrictions.
  4. Toggle on Content & Privacy Restrictions.
  5. Then, tap iTunes & App Store Purchases.
  6. Tap In-app Purchases.
  7. Tap Don't Allow.

On Android devices

  1. Open the Google Play Store app on your child's device.
  2. Look for the icon in the top right corner of the screen and tap it.
  3. From the pop-up menu, tap Settings.
  4. Tap Authentication from the Settings page.
  5. Next, tap Require Authentication for Purchases.
  6. Select For all purchases through Google Play on this device.
  7. Have your child's Google password ready to enter, if asked. You may want to change it to one only you know so they can't change your settings.

How Bark Can Help

Bark can easily and effectively help you keep your child safe online. Our comprehensive parental controls allow parents to monitor their child’s devices and stay in the know about what dangers their kid might face. Start your free 7-day trial with Bark today! 

mother and son with illustrations around them

If you’ve ever gone to Google to ask “How can I block websites on my child’s phone?”, you probably saw about a hundred ways to go about it. If you’ve ever Googled “Is Snapchat safe for kids?” you were probably overwhelmed by the endless warnings against kids using the app. In fact, anything related to kids and technology probably feels overwhelming — what are we even supposed to be looking for when we’re deciding on parental controls for our kids?

It’s understandable that this can be confusing (we didn’t grow up with any of this, after all), so that’s why we want to help parents in this learning process. We put together some common misconceptions that we’ve heard from parents in the hopes that you can know what to look for and what to avoid, ultimately so your child can have a safe and healthy online experience. 

1. “Flip Phones Are Safer Than Smartphones” 

We all remember when we all had flip phones and life was so much simpler, right? And if it was good enough for us, surely our kids can survive with just that? Well, life may have been simpler but that doesn’t mean flip phones are a safe option for today. What people don’t realize is that flip phones almost always come with an internet browser. In fact, flip phones may be even more dangerous than smartphones because apps can’t be installed on them. So there’s no way to monitor or restrict internet activity. 

In short, flip phones do not equal safer technology. Flip phones equal unfettered internet access. 

2. “My Kid’s Instagram Account Is Private, So They’re Safe”

Now don’t get us wrong — a private profile is a safer profile, for sure. If your kid is going to a social media account, we highly recommend making it private. However, this is not a foolproof solution to protecting your kids from what can happen on a social media platform (not just Instagram). 

For one, many of these apps have no way to “lock” the privacy settings, so it’s possible your kid could make their profile public without your permission. For another, strangers can still find their way to your child’s private profile in all sorts of ways (maybe your child thought they knew this person, so they accepted the request). In general, it’s a good rule of thumb to expect loopholes with these social media apps — especially the popular ones like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Discord — because they weren’t created with child safety in mind.

3. “Parental Controls Are An Invasion of Privacy”

At Bark, we hear this a lot. Many people feel that parental controls are a surefire way to cause problems in the relationship between parents and their kids. And we completely agree that kids’ privacy is an important thing to protect. But taking a hands-off approach to your child’s online world is an extreme and dangerous solution to protecting their privacy. Parental controls don’t have to be invasive to be effective in keeping your child safe online. 

The best way to avoid strife in your and your child’s relationship is to consistently have open communication with them. As early an age as you can, explain to them the dangers and your concern for their safety. Give them the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns they have about their privacy. Most of the time, kids just want to know they’re being listened to. Make their online safety a team effort, that way it doesn’t have to feel like an invasion on either side. 

4. “My Kid Can’t Get Around My Parental Controls”

Maybe you have all of your parental controls set up just right, but do you know all of the potential weak spots of your controls? Unfortunately, no parental control app, system, or device is 100% perfect and many kids are highly … motivated when it comes to their internet access. 

Here are some common ways kids may try to work around your controls.

5. “My Kid Would Never … ”

This is probably the most dangerous misconception. Some people affectionately refer to this as the “Not My Kid Syndrome." As in, all of the bad things that can happen online might happen to other kids — but not my kid. 

Have you ever said or thought of one of these statements before?

If you’ve ever thought of any of these things, we strongly urge you to take some time to reconsider because these things happen way more often than you might think. Just last year, Bark found that 82.2% of teens encountered nudity or sexual content online. And 64.3% were involved in a self-harm/suicidal situation. And according to ICMEC, it only takes 8 minutes for a predator to form a bond with a child. 

There’s nothing wrong with believing you have a good kid and trusting you’ve taught them well. But the reality is, the internet is filled with a thousand more temptations and pitfalls than we ever had to navigate at their age So it’s in their best interest to make sure they have a safety net to fall back on, even if you don’t expect anything to happen. 

So What Can I Do?

Well, the first and best thing you can do is educate yourself — and by reading this post, you’re already off to a great start! You may also consider joining our Facebook group, Parenting in a Tech World, where over 400,000 parents share tips, ask questions, and encourage one another about this very topic. 

Bark is also here to help you and your family navigate this ever-changing tech world. With Bark, parents can set screen time schedules, allow or block sites and apps, use location tracking, and monitor their kids’ texts, emails, and 30+ social media platforms. Bark’s powerful AI will scan your child’s device and send you an alert if it detects any concerning content such as cyberbullying, sexting, suicidal ideation, threats of violence, and more. Sign up today for a free, one-week trial

characters from popular TV shows

School is out, the sun is shining, and it's time to kick back and enjoy some top-notch summer entertainment. While there are plenty of TV shows out there catering to the teen audience, we've rounded up a selection of shows that, while featuring teens or marketed to a younger age group, are decidedly not meant for the younger crowd.

From gratuitous violence, sex, and nudity to the glorification of underage drinking and drugs, these shows each feature mature content that might not be suitable for younger viewers. Check out some of the most popular series below and consider talking with your teen about other exciting, age-appropriate shows you might watch instead this summer! 

Eight Summer Shows that Aren’t For Teens

Cruel Summer — Rated TV-14 for violence, sex and frightening scenes. Streaming Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV+.

This teen thriller follows two young women over a summer using flashbacks across multiple timelines, slowly piecing together the mystery. The show has two popular seasons, the second, released June 2023, focuses on the rise and fall of the friendship between nerdy high school teen Megan and cool exchange student Isabella and their love triangle with Megan’s long-time friend Luke. 

The show's tone is undoubtedly dark, with a mysterious death that rocks the small town and mature sexual themes. Between the reveal of a sex tape and the increasingly dangerous decisions Megan and Isabella make to prove their loyalty to each other, parents should consider supervising their teen's viewing or starting a conversation with their child about the topics addressed in each episode.

The Idol — Rated TV-MA for sex and nudity, language, violence, drugs, and alcohol. Streaming on Max and Hulu.

Lauded at festivals like Sundance and Cannes, The Idol had high expectations to be a raw and captivating drama that delves into the gritty world of the music industry. Following the journey of an aspiring musician striving for success, played by Lily-Rose Depp, the show has caught flack from critics and casual viewers alike for its gratuitous sexual exploitation and violence. While the show certainly provides intriguing commentary on the music business, the mature content and its overwrought depiction of sex, drugs and violence make it inappropriate for young viewers. 

Yellowjackets — Rated TV-MA for violence, gore, sex, and frightening scenes. Streaming on Paramount+, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

A classic plane crash drama, Yellowjackets follows a girls’ soccer team’s survival story after they become stranded in the wilderness for months. What begins as a suspenseful story highlighting teamwork and compassion quickly devolves into an intense cult-like society where cannibalism and dark rituals prevail. 

Outside of frightening and dark scenes, violence, gore and sex are prevalent as the show bounces back and forth between the months immediately following the accident and the women's life years after being rescued. Now, on its second season, the tone and themes in the show have evolved to become even darker, pushing it decidedly out of the realm of teen viewing. 

Saint X — Rated TV-14 for violence, profanity, alcohol and drugs. Streaming on Hulu.

Saint X is a new Hulu drama based on the popular book of the same name. It explores the aftermath of a young woman's mysterious death on a luxurious Caribbean island and how it has affected her sister and those last seen with her before her disappearance. The show touches on important topics from grief and guilt to class, privilege and racism. 

While these topics are great conversation starters, the violent death of the young woman whose body we see being pulled from the water early on and the prevalence of alcohol and profanity throughout make this show more appropriate for older teens and not their younger counterparts.

Black Mirror — Rated TV-MA for violence, sex, frightening and intense scenes. Streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Since its release, Black Mirror has been both applauded and criticized for its dark social commentary. Multiple out-of-the-box episodes center on the dangers of technology in the dystopian future and beyond. The sixth season, released this summer, sticks to the series’ anthology set-up focusing on different characters and situations, from a starlet dealing with a hit-and-run and a woman who has discovered her streaming service has adapted her daily life into a hit show.

The satirical subtleties and important messages make this series a consistent award-winner among adults, but the series presents several worrying elements for younger viewers. Gratuitous violence, frightening and often disturbing scenes, along with the frequent presence of sex, drinking and drugs, make this show better saved for later on in life. 

The Crowded Room — Rated TV-MA for sex, violence, alcohol and drugs. Streaming on Apple TV+.

The Crowded Room centers on Danny, a young man, played by the ever-popular Tom Holland, who is imprisoned in the aftermath of a violent crime he can’t remember. The show focuses on Danny’s mental illness, the violence that seems to follow him, and the cast of characters that have seemingly gone missing around him. 

Tom Holland’s performance is sure to pull in interest. Still, for many parents, the show’s multiple instances of gun violence, along with its complicated depiction of mental illness featured at the show's center, may be alarming and difficult to explain to kids or teens. Beyond that, overt sexual content, including the depiction of a threesome, make this show a “must-skip” for kids under 18.  

Outer Banks — Rated TV-MA for alcohol, drugs, profanity and intense scenes. Streaming on Netflix. 

Outer Banks is a coming-of-age adventure series that focuses on a group of friends who call themselves the Pogues and their hunt for a mysterious treasure around the island they grew up on. Now in its third season, Outer Banks has upped the ante from its edgy origins that focused on teen parties and class differences between the wealthier and working class on the island with an increased focus on dangerous run-ins with violent characters and unsupervised debauchery. 

From beach parties filled with underage drinking and drugs to intense scenes featuring domestic violence and the on-screen deaths of several characters, the majority of Outer Banks is a lawless romp with little to no supervision from responsible adult figures. While the wild ride may be appropriate for an older crowd, parents are advised to limit viewing for younger teens and kids. 

The Summer I Turned Pretty — Rated TV-14 for sexual content, violence, alcohol and drugs, and foul language. Streaming on Amazon Prime.

A teen-centered rom-com, The Summer I Turned Pretty chronicles the adventures of Isabel “Belly” Conklin and her love triangle with two brothers. She spends a magical summer at a gorgeous beach house and experiences romantic evenings filled with partying, jealousy, and heartbreak. This one’s similar to Outer Banks, but slightly more tame — but not by much. Throughout all of the summer partying, there’s heavy drinking, smoking, drug use, and more. Characters discuss the serious aspects of dating as well as explicit sexual content. It’s probably best for younger teens to wait a little while for this one. 

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.

Ask Titania google search "How do I explain to my kid we're waiting to allow social media?"

Dear Titania,

My son just turned 13 and is begging for social media like Instagram or Snapchat. Most of his friends have had these apps for a while, but I still don’t think it’s a great idea – even if 13 is the “official” age that many platforms say is okay for kids. How can I help him to see this isn’t just because I’m a stick in the mud, that I’m actually looking out for his best interest? I want to have more reasons than just “I said so” so he knows what I’m thinking.


Would Love Help Explaining Why We’re Waiting

Dear Would Love Help Explaining Why We’re Waiting

Oh boy, this is hands-down the hardest question I get when talking to parents. Unlike almost every other rite of passage — riding a bike, learning to drive — when to give your kid social media is hotly contested. And there’s a number of equally valid reasons because every single family (and kid) is different. 

The outcomes can be wildly different, too. Some kids will get Snapchat and just send silly selfies with dog ears to their limited circle of close friends. Others will use it to send risky messages and photos that definitely shouldn’t be sent to people they may not know in real life. It can be quite a surprise figuring out which camp your kid may fall into! 

As we begin, know that this is such a hard thing to decide and talk about with your kid. I appreciate you wanting to give reasons and talk about it openly and honestly. Many parents rely on the “because I said so” approach and while they’re not wrong (they’re the parents!), it’s not always the most effective way to get your kid to understand.

And taking the time to have a dialogue with your child can go a very long way in strengthening your relationship, especially as you approach the teen years, where you’ll probably butt heads in countless different ways. 

Start with the Objectively Good Reasons

Let’s kick this thing off with something a little eye-opening. Of all the thousands of parents I’ve talked to over the years, no one has ever expressed regret over waiting longer to give their kids social media. 

And the exact opposite is true for those that caved and allowed it earlier. Social media exposure is one of things that’s hard to roll back — you can't put that toothpaste back in the tube. 

Social media is also still relatively new in the grand scheme of human existence, and we’re not sure of its long-term effects on children’s mental health. In addition to external dangers like predators and bullying, these platforms also may contribute to disordered eating, anxiety and depression, and suicidal ideation. This is all scary stuff! 

If your child is mature enough to handle some serious topics, I highly recommend sitting them down and watching the free documentary Childhood 2.0

This film dives deep into the issues facing their generation and talks to actual teens as well as experts. Feedback from kids is generally positive, especially because they will relate to the other young people in the documentary. Plus, Childhood 2.0 is a good way to kickstart your own conversations with your child about your concerns. A TL;DR of the things discussed include:

Acknowledge That You Know This Will Be Hard

Picture this scenario: You’ve laid down the law and said no to any and all social media, no matter the platform. But —your child’s travel baseball team has decided to start a group Snapchat for team updates and messaging. 

What do you do?

This is where it’s going to get hard. Like really hard. You can try to talk to your child’s coach and see if there’s another platform like GroupMe they can use instead, and they may (or may not) listen. There’s a chance you may be the only holdout, and so the idea may not fly.

This is just one example of the many ways principles can clash with the daily reality of social media, and the little nuggets of frustration they’ll produce. 

Another way is that your child will also probably start asking because our social lives do tend to revolve around social media. Kids are no different. You probably keep up with your own friends on Facebook and Instagram. 

Granted, kids aren’t adults, and this isn’t a good reason to cave, necessarily. But as we grow more and more entwined with our smart devices, it’s going to start affecting people at younger and younger ages. 

But sticking to your guns is a perfectly valid way to approach social media, and is definitely the safest way to allow your child to grow up. But it will eventually cause some pretty heated arguments, especially as kids inch towards adulthood.  

Conversation Starters

Talking about social media and your rules can automatically put your child on the defensive before you even start. Trust me, I know very well what these discussions look like. Here are a few way to start a conversation that is productive and helpful:

If It Gets Too Hard, Consider These Compromises

In Parenting in a Tech World, our Facebook group of more than 350,000 parents, we get so many conversations about this very question you asked. In between the two poles of no social media and no rules at all, many families fall somewhere in the middle. Here are just a few of the ways parents like you have split the difference. Caveat: There are, of course, ways kids can get around even these safeguards. But some parents have found greater luck than others. You know your kid best!

Allowing certain apps only a short amount of time a day

A lot of the bad stuff that happens on social media apps occurs late at night or with friends away from home. One way to get around this is to use Bark and set up a screen time schedule where your child can only use an app at a certain time of day. 

For example, you could block Instagram for nearly the entire day, but allow it between 5 and 6 p.m. The urge to send sketchy selfies is definitely lessened when you’re sitting with your dad in the living room before dinner. 

This way, you can control when they can even open the app. To make it even safer, you could make a rule where you get to sit with them and watch what they do or spot check the account. 

Sharing login info

Some parents have found success with allowing their child to have say, Snapchat, but requiring the parent to be logged in at all times. This way, the parent gets notifications to their phone, but doesn’t open the images. You get to see what’s going on in the app, and have a general idea of who your child is talking to.

App downloads only with monitoring

Other parents allow their kids to have some social media but require Bark so it can monitor activities for danger. Unfortunately, Apple makes it really hard for Bark and other third-parties to monitor popular apps Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. But the good news is that Bark works great on Androids, and the Bark Phone even comes with our software built in for the best experience. 

How Bark Can Help

Whether or not you choose to allow social media, Bark can help. After all, there’s more to giving your kid a phone than just apps. Bark gives your child a digital safety net with you at the center, managing the things that matter most to your family. You can block websites and apps, create screen time schedules, and track their location when they’re out and about.

But it’s Bark’s content monitoring that can be an absolute game-changer when it comes to online safety. If you go the route of eventually allowing social media, I can’t imagine doing it without using Bark. 

Bark scans your kid’s social media accounts (and other apps!) for potential issues. If something concerning is found — like sexting, online predators, bullying, and depression — you’ll get an alert so you can check in and make sure everything’s okay. This is way easier than grabbing their phone scrolling back hundreds — or let’s be honest, thousands! — of messages. Bark alerts also prompt some pretty important and hard discussions that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. 

Good luck! This is one of the hardest things parents face today. By even worrying about this issue, you’re showing the care and commitment you have to raising a healthy teen.

teenage daughter with "zzz" and blocked emoji illustrated

When it comes to having phones in the bedroom, it seems every parent has a different opinion. Some parents are hands-off about it, while others have their bedtime routine written in stone. We know it can be hard to determine what’s best for your child when there are so many voices saying different things. That’s why we put together the research about what happens when kids have their phones in the bedroom — and why it’s probably better to avoid it. 

Blue Light Is the Enemy of Good Sleep 

Do you ever feel like your kid is constantly saying, “I’m so tired”? Well, it might be time to take a look at their bedtime routine. A study found that kids who were on their phones before bed were more likely to report poor sleep quality than kids who were not on their phones at all. Experts have found there’s something that happens at a chemical level in our brains that causes this correlation. Time for a quick science lesson! 

Sleep is a necessity for our health, especially for kids. With their brains developing at an exponential rate, they absolutely need a good night’s sleep to keep up with the growth! Our brain naturally produces something called melatonin which is a sleep hormone that encourages the body to sleep. But here’s the thing — our phones, tablets, and TVs give off something called blue light that prohibits melatonin from being produced. Without melatonin, it takes our body twice as long to fall asleep. Many sleep experts say the best practice is to put away all screens at least two hours before bed to allow for sufficient melatonin production. 

The Internet Is an Open Door to the World — with No Supervision 

Imagine dropping your kid off on some busy street corner in the middle of the night and saying, “Okay, be safe and don’t talk to anyone! I’ll be back in the morning!” You’d probably never do that, right? Well, unfortunately, this isn’t far from reality when kids have access to the internet alone in their rooms. 

By now, we’ve all heard about the common dangers of the internet: cyberbullying, porn, predators, violent and disturbing content, and so much more. The chances of your kid coming across these become higher when they have full access with no one else around. Kids don’t even have to be seeking these things to end up in scary situations — sometimes, it’s less about trusting your kid and more about not trusting the world on the other side of the screen. 

The Never-Ending Screen Time Cycle

A study from the University of Oregon noted an interesting effect of using phones in the bedroom. First, they found it led to poor sleep (which we already know). However, they also found what’s known as a “bidirectional” effect, where poor sleep leads specifically to more phone use at night. That may sound obvious, but essentially it creates a never-ending cycle of replacing sleep with screen time. Since you’re not sleeping well anyways, might as well scroll on Instagram for a while, right? And thus, the cycle continues. 

How To Start A Healthier Bedtime Routine 

So now it’s problem-solving time. If your kids have already started the habit of keeping their phones in their rooms, it’s no sweat! You can still implement changes now that help guide your family to a new normal. 

We suggest starting with an honest conversation. Share with your kids what you’ve learned and why you think this is necessary. Consider a tech contract that includes the bedtime routine you think is best. And then, slowly but surely, make changes and encourage this healthier nighttime routine. 

And the best news is that you don’t have to do it alone! Bark wants to partner with you to help your family create healthy screen time boundaries. Our screen time feature allows parents to set free time, school time, and bedtime routines, so your kid only has access to what you think is appropriate for that time of day. 

Additionally, Bark allows you to pause the internet at any point for all of your kid’s devices. Whenever it’s time for bed, you simply tap a button on your phone and their devices can be put away, distraction-free. Learn more about Bark’s powerful screentime features, as well as our web filtering and content monitoring, and start your free 7-day trial today! 

mom and daughter looking at smartphone

As your child approaches their teen years, it’s important to find that perfect balance of respecting their need for privacy while also providing the supervision and guidance they need. While this balance is certainly hard to strike, it's not impossible with some boundaries, rules, and parenting tools. Read on for guidance on everything from allowing TVs and gaming systems in their rooms to nightly phone habits. 

Phone Rules for Teen Privacy

Setting boundaries

When it comes to phone usage, it's crucial to establish clear boundaries from the start. Encourage open communication about technology use and the responsible use of smartphones. Discuss the importance of balancing screen time with other activities and designate device-free zones within the house, like “all phones in the kitchen at night.” By setting time limits for phone usage, you encourage a healthy balance between virtual and real-world interactions.

Gradual independence

As teens mature, it's important to allow increased autonomy and privacy with their phones. During mid-adolescence, consider relaxing phone rules and trusting them with more decision-making. Discuss privacy concerns and digital footprints, emphasizing responsible online behavior and the potential consequences of inappropriate actions. Introduce parental control apps or monitoring tools with transparency and mutual agreement, ensuring that the use of such tools is a collaborative effort rather than just a way to control everything.

Bedroom Entertainment

TV in the bedroom

The presence of a TV in a teenager's bedroom can be a topic of discussion for many parents. During early adolescence, it is advisable to have a shared family TV in a common area. This promotes shared experiences and allows for family discussions about content and screen time. In mid-adolescence, consider allowing a TV in their bedroom with clear guidelines on usage time and content restrictions. It also allows them some independence while still ensuring responsible viewing habits. 

Gaming systems in the bedroom

Like with TVs, gaming systems in the bedroom require careful consideration. During early adolescence, encourage gaming in shared spaces such as the living room or game room. This promotes social interaction and monitoring of game content. As teens enter mid-adolescence, consider allowing gaming consoles in their room with time restrictions and an understanding of game ratings. Engage in open conversations about gaming habits, balancing responsibilities, and setting priorities. By late adolescence, trust their judgment and establish ongoing discussions about gaming habits to ensure a healthy balance.

Supervision Strategies

Communication and understanding

Maintaining open lines of communication is key to effective supervision. Understand your teenager's technology interests and online activities by regularly engaging in conversations. Ask about their favorite apps, social media platforms, and online trends. This shows your interest and allows you to stay informed about potential risks or concerns.

Monitoring for potential dangers

While privacy is important, monitoring can be necessary to ensure your teen's safety. Monitor internet browsing history, social media accounts, and texts, but only with their consent and knowledge. It is essential to establish trust and open communication by discussing the purpose of monitoring and addressing any concerns or questions your teen may have. Use monitoring as a tool for guidance and support rather than strict control. The good news is nobody does this better than Bark!

Cultivating trust and responsibility

Foster a non-judgmental environment that encourages your teenager to seek guidance when facing online challenges or concerns. Focus on building responsible decision-making skills by discussing potential risks and consequences of online behavior. Encourage your teen to take responsibility for their actions and understand the importance of maintaining a positive digital footprint.

How Bark Can Help

Even after establishing your family’s rules about the internet, your child might not always follow them. That’s why having an additional safeguard in place can be helpful. Bark’s award-winning monitoring service alerts parents and guardians when there’s a potential issue they need to know about — including cyberbullying, sexting, online predators, depression and more. Sign up today to monitor your child’s texts, email, YouTube, and 30+ apps and social media platforms and get one week of our service completely free!

In 2015, Brian Bason left his job at Twitter to start a company in order to solve a problem — a very personal problem. His two kids would be getting cell phones soon, and he realized he had no idea how to help protect them with this technology. 

And so began Bark! Fast forward eight years and our company now has over 100 employees, we’ve released our own phone, and we help protect more than 6 million kids across the world. In honor of our eighth Barkiversary, we wanted to showcase just how different the world is from when Bark was founded nearly a decade ago — it’s a little mind-blowing!

Travel back with us to 2015, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens ruled the box office, zombie-filled TV show The Walking Dead was the hottest show, and Drake’s “Hotline Bling” was one of the most popular songs AND memes. 

The Tech World in 2015

The Tech World in 2023

The Evolution of Bark in 8 Years

When Bark first launched — with a small and mighty team — we only offered content monitoring. Within a few years, we expanded to other parental controls like web blocking, screen time management, and location tracking. 

We expanded to home coverage with the creation of the Bark Home, which lets families manage all of the internet-connected devices in the home. Then, in 2022, we launched our most ambitious project yet: the Bark Phone, which combined all of Bark’s features and a whole host of brand new ones all in a Samsung A-series device. 

That’s the short version, of course. Over the years, we’ve also collaborated with schools all over America, been featured on national TV shows and documentaries, and contributed thought leadership in support of legislation for online safety for kids.

We’ve also remained dedicated to helping provide resources for parents. Our Facebook group, Parenting in a Tech World, has grown from just a few hundred parents looking for advice to more than 350,000 asking questions and providing their own experiences to help fellow families. 

Looking to the Future

We’re incredibly honored to have been able to help so many families over the past eight years. Our company is incredibly mission driven, and each week we still get letters from parents telling us how Bark has helped change their family’s life. Each time, we still get emotional reading these stories. 

As Bark continues to grow, we’ll be here to help every parent in the digital age help protect their kids online and in real life. 

There’s a brand new Twitter rival in town, and it’s the Meta-backed app Threads. It answers the question, “What if you could have a new Twitter, but with all your Instagram friends?”

Over the past year, Twitter has been in turmoil with rapidly changing rules and regulations from new owner Elon Musk, causing many users to jump ship to other platforms. 

Instagram currently boasts more than 2 billion users, so this was almost an inevitable move by Meta. After all, one of the problems every new social network has is the slow rebuild of connections. People want to be where their friends are!

And this is exactly what other recent Twitter rivals like Mastodon and Blue Sky have been facing. These apps have been struggling to gain traction, but because of the ease of joining Threads with an existing Instagram account, Threads already has millions of users just a few hours after launch. The list of users includes celebrities — including Gen Z heavy weights like Jack Harlow and Karlie Kloss — with huge followings that will most likely lure Instagram users over. 


How Threads Work

To sign up for threads, you’ll need to download the Threads app. Creating an account is seamless if you already have an Instagram account — you’re required to keep your username, but all you have to do is just log in and your profile photo and friends list will be there. You have the option of following all of these connections, as it’s not automatic. 

On Threads you can have a different bio from your Instagram account, if you want. This may be seen as a nod that many folks have slightly different styles on social media platforms. Threads (aping Twitter) is a different experience than the more visual-based Instagram, and users may act a little differently. If you don’t have an Instagram, you can still join Threads, you'll just need to create an Instagram account first. 

Like Twitter, you also have a character limit, but with Threads, it’s 500 characters. You can reply, retweet (or “rethread”), and mention other users. Images and videos up to 5 minutes are also fair game in the feed. As of right now, there aren’t hashtags or direct messages, though it’s possible that may change in the future. 

Unlike Twitter, the app’s interface feels distinctly Instagram, with the well-known heart, comment, and share feature prominently placed. This may impact the adoption of Threads with younger people who didn’t use Twitter, but know and love Instagram. That’s Meta’s whole point, of course, to make this transition as organic and simple as possible for Instagram users.  

Potential Dangers

What you see on Threads is based on an algorithm — you’ll see a mix of content from people you follow as well from strangers that the app thinks you may be interested in. As with other algorithm-based apps like TikTok, Facebook, and even Instagram itself, this means some wild stuff has the potential to pop up in your feed. 

Twitter has long been known to have a porn problem, but it’s still too early to know if Threads will have the same issue. There is a search function, though the lack of hashtags makes it less than robust. Right now, searching seems to be limited to user names, which hamstrung our attempts to easily find explicit content — good news for now, but it will most likely change.

The other usual dangers common to chatting social media still apply to Threads: interacting with strangers could lead to grooming. Even though there’s no DM function yet, it’s a quick username or phone number exchange to jump to communicating on a different platform like Snapchat.

Bullying could also rear its ugly head due to Thread’s similarity to Twitter: the latter platform is known for its mean-spirited clapbacks and even more aggressive forms of harassment like doxxing, the sharing of personal information online. Mark Zuckerberg stated that Threads will have enforced community guidelines, but that same line has been spouted before with Instagram, and there’s tons of inappropriate content there, as well. 

In-App Safeguards

Threads isn’t off limits to kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for them — much like all social media.

Threads does have some parental controls, though they’re not passcode locked, which means your child could turn them off at any time. Users under 16 will be automatically funneled into a private profile, but this too can be disabled. 

 Here’s what you can control:

So, Is It Safe for Kids?

We’d recommend not allowing Threads for the time being until more of its functionality can be cemented. Poking around the app this morning, you see that users are still sort of figuring out the vibe of it all. It’s also unclear whether this app will 100% take off and remain a viable social media platform. Know that kids may likely be intrigued by Threads, especially since once their friends join, they’ll get a notification on Instagram, prompting that FOMO. 

Bottom line: If you didn’t want your child using Twitter, you probably won’t want them using Threads – yet. We’ll keep you updated with new information and when Bark can monitor the app.