child smiling with illustrated emojis around her

With the onset of social media, it’s become an increasingly difficult job to develop our kid’s self-confidence. As soon as they open Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, or any other app, they’re seeing other people’s “perfect” appearance — and then the comparison game begins. Of course, these “perfect” appearances are often altered with editing apps, but this is easily overlooked by impressionable kids. 

So our job as parents is to protect our children’s self-confidence, even when it seems social media does its best to tear it down! Below, we’ll discuss why self-confidence matters, how to build self-confidence in your children, how to talk to your kids about body image, and much more. Let’s jump in!

Why Self-Confidence Matters

Did you know that kids and young teens with high self-confidence are more likely to have success in school, relationships, and other areas of life? This is because they feel empowered to take risks and try new things. They’re also better able to handle failure since they know that setbacks don't define them — they can always try again! 

Confidence builds up over time through positive reinforcement from parents, teachers, peers, and mentors who help children realize their unique strengths and talents. It’s also important for parents to encourage healthy habits, like eating healthy and exercising regularly, to foster a positive body image. 

Tips for Parents to Improve a Child's Self-Confidence

1.   Be a positive role model

If you want to learn how to build self-confidence in children, you should start with your own habits. To inspire the same in your kids, modeling positive physical and emotional behavior can go a long way. Set a good example by staying true to yourself and speaking kindly about yourself and others. It may not always seem like it, but kids are always taking cues from their parents to figure out what to do.

2.   Focus on developing healthy communication skills

The best way to encourage healthy communication is to make sure your kid knows they can express their feelings to you without fear of judgment or criticism. This helps build trust between you and your child and builds problem-solving skills, which they can use in every part of life. Start conversations with meaningful questions such as  “Would you like me to listen if something is bothering you?” instead of the normal “How was school today?”

Letting children know they have an outlet when things get tough reinforces the idea that speaking up isn't a weakness but rather a strength — allowing them space for honest expression builds connection on an emotional level which will serve them well into adulthood.

3.   Be body positive

If your child struggles with confidence, it’s likely that they have a poor body image that contributes to this. Try to reinforce body-positive ideas, that no one actually has a “perfect” body like we see on social media, and the best body you can have is the one that is healthiest! 

Another key aspect of being body-positive is to explain that beauty comes from within, not simply what we look like on the outside. For kids, this can be hard to genuinely believe, when the desire to be accepted by others is so strong. Even adults struggle with this sometimes. But parents can be intentional about focusing on inner qualities, such as a child’s creativity or intelligence, as opposed to just focusing on physical appearance. 

4.   Celebrate their successes

You can help foster a strong sense of confidence within your children by showing unconditional love and support regardless of how successful they are at any given task or activity. Remember, never criticize them — we all make mistakes, and that’s okay! By celebrating their successes, you validate their efforts and their abilities, allowing them to develop a greater willingness to try new things.

5.   Encourage vulnerability

Encouraging your kids to be vulnerable by expressing their feelings honestly will help them learn how best to cope with difficult emotions. Unfortunately, when kids are taught to hide their emotional needs growing up, this can ultimately lead to substance use disorders and other issues in the future. Learning how to self-regulate will not only help them learn how to deal with their emotions healthily, but it will also nurture their self-confidence.

6.   Teach them to engage in self-care activities

Self-care activities such as meditation, journaling, art therapy, or engaging in other hobbies can be incredibly beneficial for helping kids boost their own levels of happiness. When kids take part in activities that help them feel emotionally balanced, they’re able to handle setbacks much easier and reduce stress. This lays a strong developmental foundation and ultimately promotes greater self-confidence in young kids.

Bringing Kids into the Conversation

Parents need to bring their children into the conversation about self-confidence, especially when it relates to body image. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but talking openly about these issues is important to help kids develop a positive mindset. Parents can start by asking questions such as “How do you feel about your body?” or “What do you think when you see images of people online?” This will create space for open and healthy dialogue with kids. Remind them that not everything they see on Instagram or TikTok is real. 

You can also encourage your children to make healthy choices that support their physical and mental well-being. Kids should be encouraged to participate in activities they enjoy, such as sports, music, art, or any other activity that allows them to express themselves freely. Helping children and young teens learn how to take care of their physical health through diet and exercise can go a long way toward developing confidence in themselves and their bodies.

When to Get Professional Help

If you’ve realized your child is struggling with self-confidence or body image issues, there comes a point when assistance is needed. If your child is struggling with depression or anxiety, extreme dieting, self-harm behaviors, or simply feeling overwhelmed by life in general, then seeking out a counselor or therapist can be beneficial. Professional help gives children the opportunity to talk through their feelings with someone who understands and has experience dealing with similar situations.

Fortunately, your help as a parent, coupled with professional guidance, can help get your child on the right track when it comes to building self-confidence and better self-esteem.

How Bark Can Help

If you need help monitoring what your kids are viewing online, the Bark app can help! Our app has helped countless parents recognize the warning signs of low self-confidence and depression in their children and helped them support their kids when it was most needed. So if you’re ready to start building your child’s self-esteem, try a free trial of the Bark app today.

one teenage girl who looks happy, one teenage boy who looks sad

As we approach September, back-to-school season is in full swing all across the country. Whether it’s going swimmingly or your family is encountering some hiccups, there’s one that’s true — back to school is always a bit of an adjustment. 

But like everything in life, there are good parts and bad parts, and for kids this is doubly true — especially in the age of social media and smartphones. In this blog post, we’ll go over the highs and lows that families can expect from this back-to-school season.

The Highs of Back to School

Getting a fresh start

Whether it’s a brand new school or just a new teacher, another school year brings with it the chance to wipe the slate clean. If your kid struggled last year — or even if they absolutely crushed it! — having an opportunity to press the restart button can help them approach the new school year with an open mind and an optimistic attitude. 

Making new friends

Kids won’t realize it until they’re older and graduated, but school is one of the best times in your life to make friends. You’re with the same group of people for big chunks of time and you see them a lot, sharing experiences and memories. Even if your child doesn’t become best friends with everyone, they'll have a community of peers to laugh and relate to. And sometimes, kids DO meet their best friends in a class, and it’s magic. 

Getting back into routines

Summer can be full of long road trips, late night Netflix marathons, and rowdy sleepover parties. With the return of the school year comes a more structured approach to life — early wakeups, commutes, the school day, homework time, dinner, and rest. It may not seem like it when you hear your kid lament the loss of summer, but kids actually crave routine. It gives them security and a sense of normalcy to know what they’re doing and when each day.

Joining clubs

There’s more to school than just academics, which is why joining clubs and participating in extracurriculars is such an important part of the school year. It doesn’t matter what your child’s interests are — from football to gaming and robotics, there are after-school activities for every kid. These clubs teach responsibility, augment your child’s socialization skills, and provide another way to help them become well-rounded young adults. 

The Lows of Back to School

Worrying about school violence

For kids and parents alike, the return to the classroom revives fears of senseless acts of violence. These fears can cause anxiety and depression in young people, especially when schools hold drills to practice in case of emergency. Here’s how to talk to your child about their fears – now’s a stressful time to be a kid. 

Dreading Bullying

Cyberbullying isn’t like the bullying we grew up with — it can happen anywhere, any time of day. Last year we found that 71.2% of tweens and 83.3% of teens experienced bullying as a bully, victim, or witness, which means that’s more than just common. It’s rampant. 

Fearing the unknown

We mentioned the positive aspect of wiping the slate clean for a new school year. For some kids, this prospect is frightening! It’s especially scary if you’re starting a new school, like transitioning from elementary to middle school. Not knowing the teachers, the school layout, and being brand new to a student body can be super overwhelming! The good news is that many of these fears will disappear as soon as your child finishes their first week and is more comfortable with their new surroundings. 

Waking up early

Even though we know that kids do better with routines, that doesn’t stop the ongoing morning wake-up battle in many houses. Fortunately, there are some strategies to get the most of the early hours! Here are some tips to get your family on track in the morning. And an even better way is to be proactive — getting a good night’s sleep is half the battle.

Feeling more anxious 

Sometimes it can be overwhelming for kids to keep up with it all — grades, assignments, peer pressure, and so much more. While making good grades can be rewarding, be sure to have realistic expectations on your child's workload and also work to help them balance it by checking in with reminders on studying and project timeframes. Scheduling doesn't always come naturally to all students, so helping to set them up for success definitely helps. Also, slumps happen! So be sure to be their safe landing place to ask questions and offer solutions when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

How Bark Can Help

When parents gear up for back-to-school, Bark is a great tool to add to the toolbelt! Parents can use Bark to create those new screen time schedules and manage when kids can use certain apps throughout the day, helping to keep kids focused on learning. 

Our content monitoring can help you keep an eye on what’s going on in your child’s digital world. Bark scans texts, emails, and social media for potential dangers like bullying, online predators, suicidal ideation, and more. You’ll get an alert if something concerning is found. 

Bark also comes with app & website blocking and location tracking for greater peace of mind. Start your free, one-week trial today of our app.

And if you’re interested in a phone that does it all plus a ton of additional incredible features, the Bark Phone will change how you think about kids’ phones — and parents can’t stop talking about it. 

family looking at a computer

Contracts play an important role in the professional world. These pieces of paper set expectations, create boundaries, and lay down rules. With them, difficult situations can be avoided or solved in the workplace.

But if you are having trouble navigating complex dynamics at home, it might be time to think outside the box with a family contract. They can provide much-needed structure and bring clarity to common arguments.

Whether you’re just checking in, aiming to curb screen time, or solving a bigger problem, learn more about family contracts below. From what they are to how they benefit family dynamics and more — the solution to your family problems is signed, sealed and delivered! 

What is a Family Contract?

A family contract is a mutual agreement between family members that outlines shared goals, responsibilities and guidelines for various aspects of family life, from tech boundaries to curfew times, chores and more. By engaging in open conversations and collectively setting rules, families can strengthen their bonds and create a harmonious environment.

How Can It Benefit Family Dynamics?

When you set expectations, everyday situations and inevitable hiccups are more likely to be resolved smoothly. Here are just some of the many benefits of setting up a family contract:

Improved communication

Crafting a family contract encourages open and honest communication about well, nearly everything! Regular discussions help family members express their thoughts, concerns and needs, fostering a sense of belonging and respect.

Collaborative decision making

Involving all family members in the contract's creation promotes a sense of ownership and teamwork. This process of working together can teach compromise, a skill that is valuable in all aspects of life.

Conflict resolution

When arguments and tension arise, your family contract serves as a reference point for resolving disagreements. This minimizes disputes, enabling family members to work together towards solutions.

How it Can Help Promote a Healthy Lifestyle for Your Kids

Beyond establishing peace, mutual respect, and better communication, family contracts can also help your children establish a healthy lifestyle by:

Establishing priorities

A family contract aids in defining priorities, ensuring that screen time doesn't overshadow other important activities like outdoor play, family meals, and quality bonding time.

Setting healthy boundaries

With electronic usage rules clearly outlined in the contract, children learn to manage their screen time responsibly, reducing the risk of excessive exposure to digital devices.

Encouraging well-rounded development

By putting boundaries on screen time or other activities, children may have more chances to engage in physical activities, explore creative interests and develop crucial social skills.

How Bark Can Help

In a world dominated by screens, a family contract can be a beacon of balance, fostering strong family relationships while promoting healthy lifestyles. By involving all family members in its creation and tailoring it to individual needs, a family contract becomes a powerful tool for achieving harmony in the digital age and beyond. 

To enhance your family's journey towards a healthier screen-time balance and safer online experiences, consider incorporating Bark's parental control features. Start your free trial of Bark today and embark on a path to a more connected and balanced family life.

app logos for snapchat, google docs, discord, kik, and wizz

The way kids communicate nowadays is worlds different than when we were kids. For many young folks, social media and texting are how they feel connected to their friends and classmates. This isn’t always a bad thing, but when kids can communicate on secret messaging apps without any parental supervision, that can mean lots of trouble. 

To help parents out, we’ve put together a list of the top 5 power players in the social media space for secret messaging apps. We’ll break down what the app is and the danger it poses for teens and tweens.

It’s important to talk to your kids about safe internet use, whether or not they use these specific apps that we’ve listed. Kids can always find themselves in tricky situations on lots of different apps, these are just some of the most popular. 

1. Snapchat 

This app is always at the top of the list for the most popular — and most dangerous — messaging apps. The biggest grief Snapchat gives parents is the disappearing messages feature. Kids can send texts, images, and videos to each other that “disappear” after 24 hours. Kids may think this gives them license to send inappropriate or harmful content to each other, believing there will be no repercussions. But in reality, all of this content can easily be saved and distributed. And a lesser-known danger of Snapchat is the drug dealers who use the app to target kids. It’s incredibly easy to get connected with strangers on Snapchat, making it very dangerous. 

2. Discord 

Discord is probably a close second to Snapchat, but definitely the most popular in the gaming world. This app has different “servers” to join that are either private or open to the public. If your child only uses it to communicate with friends and family, the risk is minimal. But kids can easily end up talking to complete strangers where grooming and sharing inappropriate content is very likely. 

3. Wizz  

Imagine if there was a dating app for kids. Sound safe? Absolutely not! That’s essentially what the Wizz app is. It doesn’t claim to be a dating app for kids, though — it claims to be an app to “make friends” with people online. You can swipe through profiles of people from all over the world and start a conversation. Kids quickly started using it as a dating app, making them vulnerable to encountering inappropriate content or chatting with an online predator. This is one app we definitely do not recommend for kids. 

4. Google Docs

You might not expect to see this one, but trust us, kids have been using Google Docs to send and receive secret messages for a while now. If you don’t already know, Google Docs allows you to share a document with other people to collaborate on a project together. Kids used this to write messages out in the doc, and then quickly delete them without ever leaving a trace. Sadly, this has happened in cases of cyberbullying at school. It’s very easy to simply share the doc with a whole class or even a whole school so that everyone sees the revealing or harassing content. 

5. Kik

Kik is another app that’s similar to Discord where kids can either chat with friends or join public group chats full of strangers. This app highly values anonymity so it’s easy for someone to pretend to be someone or something they're not. Kids can encounter predation, inappropriate content, and cyberbullying from Kik. And their lack of parental controls makes all of this even more likely that your child may experience these things. 

Stay in the loop with Bark

The good news is that Bark can monitor many of the platforms listed above! We’ll send you alerts for things like cyberbullying, sexual content, predation, suicide/self-harm content, and more. Additionally, we'll provide help with creating screen time schedules as well as blocking apps and websites entirely.  Start your free, one-week trial today! 

kid on his phone, Bark's screen time schedules screen grab

As a parent, you’re probably familiar with the concept of screen time — generally, that kids get too much of it. You’ve also probably heard of (or used!) Apple Screen Time or Google Family Link, which are free tools that can help you manage your kid’s device use. But these apps aren’t perfect, and kids are ingenious when it comes to finding workarounds. 

Here at Bark, we pride ourselves on our powerful screen time management tool that comes included when you download our app or buy a Bark Phone. In this post, we’ve laid out 5 ways Bark parents actually make measurable differences in their child’s screen time — for the better! 

5 Ways Parents Use Bark’s Screen Time to Set Healthy Boundaries

1. Keeping the school day sacred

Regardless of whether your kid’s allowed to have their phone at school, the chances that they’re being distracted by it are pretty high. It’s even common for teachers to wish parents were proactive and blocked access to games and social media during the school day. The good news is that Bark lets you do just this.

You can create a custom school day screen time schedule that begins the minute they walk into the building to the second they step on the school bus. An example schedule would look like a complete block on all non-educational sites during the school day. This way, your child can log into Gmail or, but won’t be able to visit YouTube, Fortnite, or Instagram. When they know they don’t have access until say, 3 p.m., they can focus on what really matters — learning. 

2. Encouraging rest at lights out

We recommend that all kid’s devices be charged in the kitchen overnight, but if that’s not an option for your family, there’s a way to help keep your child from watching videos or scrolling on TikTok all night. Rest for growing kids is super important! 

When you create a bedtime schedule, you can block nearly everything but keep apps that you know won’t cause them to stay up all night. For example, you could keep podcasts or meditation apps so they can wind down comfortably without the addictive nature of social media or games. 

3. Making time for play

In between resting and learning, it’s important for kids to be able to kick back and relax with their devices occasionally. Our free time setting lets you carve out dedicated time for the things your child enjoys most when they’re online. You decide exactly how long the break is, as well as what apps and websites they can visit. It’s not completely hands-off — if you’ve noticed that your kid is generally good with games but gets a little too into Minecraft, you can create exceptions in the allowed or blocked category.

4. Creating different daily schedules that repeat — or not

You can choose the screen time schedule that works best for your kid because only you know the daily ins and outs of their activities. You could set it up so Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday have one set of rules, and leave Saturday and Sunday more open. Or, if your child has drastically different Tuesdays and Thursdays because of practice, you could set those up differently. You could even have different schedules every single day!

5. Pausing the internet anytime

Sometimes, you just need to pull the internet plug for a few minutes and give your kid a hard reset. Think of this feature as a Wi-Fi timeout. The best part is you can do this right from your Bark parent app — and you don’t even need to be in the same house as your kid! When things have cooled off a bit, you can toggle it back on and resume your normal screen time schedule.

Learn More About Bark

Bark’s screen time scheduling is an important part of our product, but there’s so much more that comes with it. You can also track location and block websites and apps, but it’s Bark’s content monitoring that makes it an absolute game-changer when it comes to online safety.

Bark scans your kid’s social media accounts, texts, emails, and files 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. Start your free, 7-day trial today, or learn more about the Bark Phone, which is our phone designed specifically with parents in mind that comes with Bark built in, along with a host of cool features like contact approvals, daily time limits, and much more. 

two kids with back packs and illustrated emojis around them

It goes without saying, but the back-to-school season can be more than a little stressful. And the stress can build up so much that the new school year feels more like entering into battle as you switch gears into survival mode. But— it doesn’t have to be a losing battle! 

There are plenty of things parents can do to prepare the whole family for back to school. Here are our tried-and-true recipes for success: our top 5 tips for starting off strong.

5 Things Parents Can Do to Prepare for the New School Year 

1. Create a routine for success

Routines, routines, routines! This is a common tip you’ve probably heard a lot around this time of year. As we come out of summer, where any sense of routine often fades into oblivion, the question becomes how do you switch to a rigid school structure out of the blue? That’s why it’s a good idea to take time before summer officially ends to sit down with your family and discuss expectations for new routines. 

To start, we suggest creating and committing to a solid morning routine. There’s tons of research that shows there’s much to gain from a quality morning routine. Secondly, we highly suggest a screen time routine as well. No matter what your kid’s daily schedule looks like, it’s important to find a happy balance that doesn’t impact your child’s health or learning. (Bonus: Create a tech contract that includes your family’s expectations for screen time!) 

2. Set goals for a new and improved year  

The new school year is a great time to reflect on the year before and set goals for what your family wants to accomplish this time around. And this doesn’t just have to be your child’s academic life, although it’s always good to encourage your child’s study goals. But think about things like health, extracurriculars, friends, and more. 

If you feel like your kid spent too much time on video games last year, talk to them about trying a sport or club at school. Or if your child had trouble making friends, encourage them to try sitting with someone new at lunch this year or joining a new club. Consider writing down whatever goals your family comes up with and refer to them throughout the school year. 

3. Acknowledge the heavy emotions and fears 

Back-to-school time can be an emotional and maybe even fearful time for kids. Perhaps they’re starting at a new school and have anxiety about making friends. Or maybe they experienced some form of bullying the year before. No matter what, it’s always important to check in with your child’s feelings and let them know you care about what’s going on in their world. Not all kids are great about sharing their emotions without being prompted, so be sure to check in before the first day. And if they are feeling scared or anxious, let them know you’re there to help through it. 

4. Combat the stress with something fun 

Just because the back-to-school season can be stressful, it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to make it fun! Take a second to think of some ways you can spice things up a little bit. Maybe plan on putting a note in your kid’s lunchbox for the first day of school with a funny joke. Or promise an outing for ice cream after school once they’ve finished their first week. Or, if you really want to make a splash, plan a big back-to-school sleepover with their friends on the first weekend — that’ll give them something to look forward to!

5. And finally, breathe! 

Lastly, but most importantly, breathe! Seriously, the best thing parents can do is realize that at the end of the day, some things are out of our control. Even with the perfect routines and plans and goals, something is bound to go awry. But that just means it’s a great opportunity to model for our kids that life is about rolling with the punches — and that makes life interesting! So to all the moms, dads, and guardians, this is your sign to not put so much pressure on yourself. You’re already doing great, just keep it up! 

How Bark Can Help

When parents gear up for back-to-school, Bark is a great tool to add to the toolbelt! Parents can use Bark to create those new screen time schedules and manage when kids can use certain apps throughout the day. To help with those moments when everything seems out of control, parents can pause the internet with just one click when the kids need a breather. Bark also offers content monitoring, app & website blocking, and location tracking for greater peace of mind. Start your free, one-week trial today! 

Google search bar: Ask Titania: How Do I Get My Kid In Back-to-School Mode After Summer?

Dear Titania, 

After a long summer of relaxed rules over video games and screen time, the new school year is proving to be quite the challenge — for both my son and me! Do you have any suggestions for making this transition a little less painful? I’d also love general tips for balancing the overwhelming amount of information and activities the school year brings with it.


Big Stressing Over Back to School

Dear Big Stressing Over Back to School,

Summers are important to families, but they definitely cause abrupt habit changes twice a year — and this can be hard to weather! In an ideal world, kids would keep roughly the same routine year round, but when the daily habits of class and sports are gone, everything goes out the window. Not to mention family trips and camps!

The good news is that getting back into the school swing of things isn’t impossible, and thankfully, once you’re there, it lasts for about 9 months, give or take. To help parents get through this time of year, we’ve even compiled an entire page of back-to-school resources for parents, too — check it out

My Go-To Tips for Making Back to School a Little Easier

Here are some of my tried and true pieces of advice that can make your family’s life less hectic when the school year starts up again. Take what you need, and if something doesn’t work for you, skip it!

Try and prioritize your child’s sleep schedule

Have you heard of sleep hygiene? It’s not about clean sheets (though those definitely help!), but rather all of the good sleep habits that help set you up for success. For kids, it’s especially important as sleep is so essential to growing bodies. Make sure your child is going to bed at a reasonable hour and keep phones and gaming consoles out of the bedroom so there’s no distraction. And if your kid needs the occasional nap during the afternoon, that’s cool too!

Manage screen time rules for maximum focus time

One of the biggest problems you’ll run into when it comes to the school year is the battle against screens — TVs, phones, tablets, laptops, video games, you name it. If it’s shiny and fun, it’s always going to be a more tempting option than an algebra textbook. Fortunately, you can set up rules on your child’s phone — and the Bark Phone makes this super simple — that automatically block apps and websites during certain times of the day. 

This could look like no YouTube or Fortnite during the school day, or only school-related apps during homework time. When your kid knows their phone will eventually be a brick, they’ll be less likely to pick it up and get distracted by it. 

I’ve talked to many teachers, and they’ve all told me that if more parents were proactive and blocked distracting apps on phones during the school day, they’d have a much easier time keeping kids’ attention.

Create a dedicated quiet study and homework space

You don’t have to have a state-of-the-art, Pinterest-designed study room for your child (though that’s great if you do, I’m definitely jealous). Just make sure there’s a space where you child can associate their            school work with home — it can even be a usual chair at the kitchen table that’s their go-to spot.

Turn off notifications at key times

Even with an iron-clad screen time schedule in place, your child may still be distracted by texts or phone calls — maybe even by you! Every phone and smart watch, however, has the ability to mute notifications for periods of time so you’re not constantly getting dinged by friends and family. Teach your child to get in the habit of muting them during the school day or after class ends. The messages will still be there!

Sit down and save all of your kid’s teachers contact info

This one’s for the parents, but it’s definitely a lifesaver, especially as kids get older and have more than one teacher. Sit down, grab a cup of coffee and sift through all of the paperwork and emails and create a list of the contact info for coaches, teachers, specialists, advisors, counselors, nurses, and save them in your phone. This way, when you need to get in contact for something important, you won’t be frantically searching through your inbox for the right email or phone number.

Create a shared family calendar

Live by the family calendar. Breathe by the family calendar. Honor it! This is the best way to keep track of literally everything for your entire brood. If your family has Gmail addresses, the Google Calendar is free and works great. This may seem like a simple thing, but the more you put it into, the more you’ll get out of it. Don’t just put big, no brainer things into it like BASEBALL GAME. Put reminders, too! Like “One week until science project is due.” This way, you have ongoing countdowns so things don’t sneak up on you.

Follow school, staff, & groups on social media to stay up to date

I know — it can be a lot juggling all of the different ways to get info on a million different social media platforms. But as a parent, find the ones that are the most important to you and make sure their content shows up in your feed. Sometimes social posts are the quickest ways to find out what’s going on in real time. 

Contribute to teacher’s wish lists if you’re able

This may seem like a little thing, but teachers deserve our help if they need it, and I highly encourage you to grab a few things from your kid’s teacher’s lists if you’re in a position to help. So many teachers use their own money to help supply their classroom, and they already do so much. We’re also collecting lists to share with our community to help clear, as well!

Become familiar with the apps and sites your child uses

When your child is at school, they’re going to be exposed to all of the online habits that other kids have, which means they’ll be learning about new apps and websites. Odds are, many of these are going to be ones you probably don’t want them using. 

That’s why I recommend doing research about things your child asks to download (and yes, it's still a good idea to approve all of their apps). Bark has incredible app reviews written especially for parents, so you can learn in a matter of seconds whether an app is a dud or something worth having. 

Create a tech contract

A technology contract is a great way for your family to collaborate on rules for using devices and accessing the internet. It can help make sure the whole family is on the same page about what’s expected of them, as well as what can happen if rules are broken. 

How Bark Can Help with Back to School

I mentioned the Bark Phone earlier, but I can’t stress enough what a game-changer it is for kids, both in school and at home. By managing screen time, blocking websites and apps, and getting alerts for potential dangers, you can not only keep them on track but also help keep them safe. 

In addition to the Bark Phone, Bark also offers a free product to every public and private K–12 school in the U.S. It’s called Bark for Schools and it allows districts to monitor school-issued student accounts at absolutely no cost.   

We’ve also launched the Bark Community Partners Program to help schools educate families in their community about online dangers. Ask your child’s school if they’re using Bark and taking advantage of these free offerings!

If there’s one thing almost everyone has experienced at one point in their childhood, it’s peer pressure. As kids (and even as adults), it’s hard to resist the temptation of looking “cool” in front of peers. Especially in developing years when kids are still learning what’s right and wrong, peer pressure can be an easy trap to fall into. 

It’s difficult for kids to navigate, but it’s just as difficult for parents as well. How do you effectively protect your kids against peer pressure without holding their hand in every decision? Well, there isn’t one exact, easy answer. But we’ve put together some tips that can become helpful tools in your kid’s toolbox if they ever encounter pressure from their peers. Our hope is that both kids and parents will feel more confident in their child’s decision-making skills as they go through childhood!

What Is Peer Pressure?

We’ve all heard the term, but what is peer pressure exactly?

In general, peer pressure is considered to be external pressure from peers (or friends) to act a certain way or do something they wouldn’t do otherwise. 

It’s worth noting that not all peer pressure is bad. Sometimes you need extra pressure from friends to do something good, like try out for the school play or sports team. Peer pressure can simply be friendly encouragement. But obviously, we’re more concerned with peer pressure that leads to wrong, dangerous, or generally ill-advised behavior. 

Peer pressure can happen in a few different ways:

  1. Everyone else is doing it: Your child can feel pressured to take part because everyone around them is doing it. This can be because they feel like they’re missing out or because they feel like they’ll lose friends if they don’t. This type of peer pressure is more indirect.
  2. Someone is telling them to do it: This type of peer pressure can be more direct. A friend or classmate might be pushing your child or coercing them into doing something. This person may be threatening them or simply being overly pushy, impacting your child’s decision-making skills.

Regardless of how your child is being peer pressured, it’s important to empower them with strategies and tools to stand up for themselves.

Tips for How To Deal With Peer Pressure 

1.   Build trust with your child

The most important thing when it comes to navigating tricky situations with your child is to give them a safe place to turn.

If your child feels like you might get angry or judge them, they probably won’t feel comfortable confiding in you if they’re in trouble. At Bark, we like the saying, “Good kids make bad decisions.” Make sure your kid knows they’re allowed to make mistakes and you’ll be there for them no matter what. 

2.   Practice saying no

When it comes to peer pressure, the key is saying no. But this is often easier said than done. Standing up for what’s right, even when it’s easier to give in, is a trait we praise heroes for (think Gandhi or Rosa Parks). So we can hardly expect a child to do this easily without some instruction! 

Role-playing can be a very helpful tool to give your child the confidence to say no when they’re being pressured. Take time to think up some pretend situations together and help your child practice.

3.   Be a role model

Kids are like parrots — they’re always watching their parent's behavior and mimicking it, whether they realize it or not. 

Consider your real-life interactions with friends and family where you had to set boundaries. These can be great opportunities to model what saying no looks like and show your child that it’s simply a normal part of interacting with others. 

 4.   Teach them what it means to be a friend

Learning what to look for in a good friend often comes with trial and error. Most of us have experienced a bad friendship where they treated us wrong and pressured us to do things we didn’t want to do. It can be helpful to teach your child what it means to really be a friend so they can make smart choices about who they spend their time with.

Some things you can discuss include:

A parent’s intuition is real and strong! Be sure you take the time to get to know your child’s friends and look for indications that they may influence your child the wrong way. 

5.   Discuss dangerous behavior

As a parent, it’s part of the job to teach your child what’s right and wrong. It’s important to always encourage the behaviors you want to see, and discuss the behaviors that are wrong or dangerous. These conversations will vary depending on their age. 

For example, a younger child can understand that pushing other kids is bad. But an older kid or teen is likely older enough to understand the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Another piece of advice is to tell kids to trust their gut. If something doesn’t feel right, there’s a good chance it isn’t.

Preventing Digital Peer Pressure With Bark

Peer pressure is never fun to face as a kid or parent. But luckily Bark can lend a helping hand! 

Created in partnership with parents and schools, Bark helps parents monitor their children’s digital world. With Bark, parents can schedule screen time, block inappropriate sites and apps, and monitor for concerning content in texts, emails, and 30+ social media apps.  Start your free Bark trial today!

Back to school image of teacher and student

Ever wish you had the real scoop on what teachers think about back to school? So did we! That’s why we reached out to the teachers, counselors, and administrators in our lives to ask them one simple question: 

“What’s one thing you’d want parents to know about back to school?”

They were free to interpret it as they wished. How each teacher responded reflects the community they serve and what’s most pressing on their mind.


10 Teachers, 10 Different Responses

  1. “I want parents to know that most of our drama right now is coming from social media and group chats. If your kid has a phone, you need to be talking with them about digital safety and you as the parent need to be aware of how much trouble they can get in when they put everything in writing. We have so many kids go from no behavior records to a behavior tribunal because they type a threat or they’re bullying virtually. I also want parents to know that we need them here! We want them to volunteer as field trip chaperones, classroom helpers, lunch monitors, PTO members, helpers at sporting events, anything. Parent volunteers are SO important!”
  1. “I always wish parents would be more communicative in all the ways…talking with their kiddos about all the goings on of their school and social lives other than “How’s school?”— as well as communicating with teachers and realizing how much that helps them feel seen, heard, and loved through all the anxieties of school. Be open and listen to their concerns about school! Help them build up the confidence to find solutions to their concerns. 
  1. “I think that parents have much more influence over their kids than they might think. Teachers, peers, celebrities can be role models, but their parents are usually #1 — even if they won’t admit it.”
  1. “One thing I have learned, especially as a homeschooling mom & teacher, is that every kid learns differently (even within the same family) — some are visual learners, some are auditory learners, some are self-led, and some just need that one-on-one instruction to best absorb the information. If you dig a little deeper to find out how your kid learns best, you’ll be way ahead of the game when it comes to helping them with homework, projects, or even explaining those life-lessons along the way.”
  1. “Something that’s important to me is that parents stick to the specialized classroom supply list. It’s so helpful when they buy things from my wishlist. I know this sounds crazy, but the school doesn’t provide any supplies, so having parents get everything you need (including wipes and cleaning products) is essential. It’s also really important to check in with the teachers in January or February to see if they need any other supplies because so many things run out.”
  1. “The first week of school is about getting back into a routine of waking up early and the schedule of classes. It’s about undoing all of those summer habits. The staff and kids are usually exhausted. It’s hard adjusting to being in class all day. Some kids can get really emotional.”
  1. “I want parents to understand the love and energy that we as teachers are putting into their children. We have our own families and worries but their children are usually front and center in my mind. We spend our own money — not the board of education’s money — to help wherever we can. My main concern is helping these children grow and develop into happy, healthy adults. Some parents need to remember that when they start to weigh down on teachers.”
  1. “Treat the first month as a time of adjustment. New teachers, new friends, new schedules…it can be a lot! Let your kids know you’re all learning together and enlist their advice in finding the best way forward. It’s not just the kids starting a new school year - it’s the whole family! Stick together and go easy on yourselves while you get into the groove.”
  1. “Every year is different, and with a new beginning it is helpful for everyone to have an open mind to a new classroom environment for your student. Reach out to your new teacher if you have questions, and don’t be afraid to advocate for them. And of course, be patient in the carpool line — everyone is just trying their best to get everyone home safely each day.”
  1. “I would love them to know that grades are just one metric of success and the life long skills your children receive from school is learning how to grow, and learn, and be a good friend, and to cope, and have ups and downs. Parental anxiety sometimes gets displaced on our kids. The more we can stay calm, the more calm they will be. If anxiety about going back to school appears, their emotions get big. In these moments, don't get bigger with them, stay small and encourage big deep breaths.”

Some Common Themes

You’ll notice that there are some common themes from the answers teachers provided, despite being from all across the country and in different types of schools. Teachers want to hear from you, and they want you to be involved in your child’s education. That can look like showing up occasionally to school or just asking more detailed questions about what your child does every day.

Teachers also need help! Their job is incredibly taxing and also so, so important. Whether it’s wishlist items or just a little extra grace in stressful situations (or just parent pickup).

How to Help Prepare Your Child For Back to School

Along with helping your child get back into a schedule with regular bedtimes, we recommend using a combination of relationship-building tactics and tech tools to ensure your family can fully adjust to the new normal. 

We highly recommend making a tech contract to help set expectations for the school year and place it on the fridge (or another high-traffic area) so everyone can be reminded of its contents. All night video game sessions — here’s how to put a stop to those, by the way— and unlimited YouTube marathons may have been the norm in July, but now it’s a whole different ball game.

Kids need sleep in order to 1). Grow 2) Stay healthy mentally and physically and 3) Focus! Don’t be afraid to set limits and boundaries, and use tech to support you in those efforts by limiting time spent on certain apps or blocking apps and sites altogether.

Another issue that is top of mind for parents is smartphones in schools. If it’s time for your child to have a smartphone, there’s no better phone for kids than the Bark Phone, and that’s because it lets you manage what your child can do on it during the school day. With our screen time settings, you can block everything but educational websites to help keep them on track. 

Finally, it’s really not a matter of if but when your child is going to encounter problematic content or people (a.k.a. bullies). Bark’s monitoring feature can help you know what’s really going on in your child’s world because even if you have a super solid relationship with your child, they just might not have the energy or desire to fill you in when things aren’t 100%.

 Our advanced technology scans texts, emails, and social media for potential dangers like bullying, threats of violence, online predators, and more. You’ll get an alert if there’s an issue so you can check in and make sure everything is okay. We can’t clear all the obstacles in their path, nor should we. But with Bark, we can get an alert about a potential obstacle and help our kids build coping skills to successfully navigate the rocky path that is growing up in a tech world. Good luck out there and let us know if you have any questions.

illustrated school supplies and smartphone

The classrooms of today are so, so different from the classrooms we grew up in. In many places, old whiteboards and write-on overhead projectors have been replaced by interactive touch screens. Desktops and laptops have replaced pen, paper and textbooks in upper grades. Amid all these tangible technology advancements, there’s an even bigger change — cell phones in the classroom.

As cell phones have become increasingly ingrained into everyday life, teachers have entered into a battle of policing usage during class. The ultimate question being — should students be allowed to use them at school? Below, we dive into how cell phones can be useful in school, why some say they shouldn't be allowed, and how Bark can help establish a happy medium. 

How Can Cell Phones Be Useful In School?

Enhanced learning opportunities

With access to the internet and educational apps, cell phones can provide students with a wealth of information at their fingertips. They can quickly research topics, access ebooks, and use educational apps that promote interactive and engaging learning experiences. Having an on-the-go answer to questions can help creativity blossom in the moment. 

Communication and collaboration

Cell phones enable students to connect and collaborate with their peers and teachers more efficiently. They can use messaging apps and email to discuss assignments, seek clarification, or work on group projects, fostering communication skills and teamwork. Live interactive discussions can be easier for students that might not feel confident speaking up in class but can type out their responses and share them with the group.

Emergency situations

Cell phones allow students to quickly reach out for help in emergency situations. In the event of an accident, illness, or acts of violence, having a cell phone can provide a lifeline for immediate assistance and a way for parents to quickly connect with their teens to check in. 

Reasons Why Cell Phones Don’t Belong at School

Distractions and disruptions

The primary argument for not allowing cell phones in school centers around the potential for distraction. Students may be tempted to engage in non-educational activities like gaming, social media, or texting. This can divert their attention away from learning and disrupt the classroom environment. Kids have always been masters at not paying attention when bored, from passing notes to drawing and even sleeping. Cell phones make it a thousand times easier to zone out instead of listening to the lesson. 

Academic integrity

Cheating is an age-old problem, but with the invention of AI apps and the ability to look almost anything up on Google, it's never been so hard to crack down on academic dishonesty. Teaching kids that can’t rely on a phone ensures that they learn what they need to. 

Social and emotional impacts

Time spent at lunch and in between classes used to be a valuable time to connect with others and have face-to-face interactions. But nowadays, with more heads down in phones and headphones in ears, school life can become increasingly isolating. Some worry that excessive cell phone usage can lead to decreased social skills, diminished concentration and increased anxiety or cyberbullying incidents.

Finding a Middle Ground

While the debate over cell phones in schools continues, finding a balanced approach can help parents and educators address the concerns while harnessing the benefits. Here are a few suggestions:

Establish clear guidelines

Schools and parents can implement policies that outline when and how cell phones can be used during school hours. Setting restrictions during class time while allowing limited use during breaks can help minimize distractions. Parents can also establish a tech contract with their kids, outlining when it’s appropriate for them to use their phone during school and when it isn't. 

Promote digital literacy

Schools can incorporate digital literacy programs that educate students about responsible cell phone usage, including ethical considerations, online safety and proper research practices. Consider talking with your kids about digital citizenship and how they can be respectful to others online.

Provide alternative technology

Schools can provide students with access to school-owned devices, such as tablets or laptops, that are specifically designed for educational purposes. This ensures equal access to technology while minimizing distractions associated with personal cell phones.

How Bark Can Help

If you are still trying to find a middle ground in making sure your child has access to their phone in school but isn’t distracted, Bark can help! Our Bark Phone is the best option out there for families. Parents can set screen time limits, make certain apps off-limits at certain times (looking at you, YouTube), and get alerts for potential dangers. Learn more about all of the amazing features of the Bark Phone.