Whether you realize it or not, AI — artificial intelligence — influences almost every part of our lives now. However you interact with AI platforms in your daily life, you may not be aware of the different ways your child encounters it in their online world. 

To help you stay ahead of the AI game, we put together the top five AI platforms kids are using. We’ll discuss what they are and the dangers presented with each. 

Top 5 AI Platforms Parents Should Know About

ChatGPT 

Now the go-to AI platform for most, ChatGPT has a vast database of information allowing it to address tons of topics. Once it was released in 2022, kids quickly realized it could be the one-stop shop for all their homework needs. In response, many schools opted to ban ChatGPT from their devices to prevent cheating. 

Outside of the classroom, kids may still use ChatGPT just for the fun of messing with an AI bot. ChatGPT does have NSFW filters, but people have proven they can work around or “trick” the bot into having inappropriate conversations anyway. 

Character.AI 

Character.AI is a super popular platform among Gen Z. This conversational AI platform allows you to have a text conversation with just about any fictional character or celebrity you can think of — anyone from Taylor Swift to Napoleon Bonaparte. You can also create your own characters and make them public for others to chat with. 

Some content on Character.AI is concerning, as people have made characters such as “Toxic Boyfriend” to chat with. The app does have NSFW filters but again, these are not fool-proof and kids could still encounter inappropriate content here. 

Aside from inappropriate content, there is a risk of kids relying on these bot conversations to receive emotional support instead of going to family or friends. While chatting with AI can be fun, it’s important that kids understand it can’t ever replace real-life relationships.  

MyAI - Snapchat 

Snapchat, in a never-ending effort to keep kids tapping away on their app, released MyAI — essentially Snapchat’s version of ChatGPT accessible right inside the app. This chatbot is considerably more risky, and Snapchat itself says as much. They warn users that the bot could give responses that are “biased, incorrect, harmful, or misleading.” While kids could use it to ask harmless questions, there are simply not enough guardrails to prevent kids from being exposed to inappropriate content. 

Pro tip: Bark can monitor MyAI chats on Androids and the Bark Phone! If your child uses this feature and ends up in a concerning conversation, you’ll be sent an alert right away. 

Replika 

Replika describes their chatbot as “the AI companion who cares.” Essentially, you can create your very own AI companion and make it fit any archetype you want — friend, romantic partner, sibling, mentor, and more. You can give your companion a backstory, detail their preferences and history, and even decide if it acts more like an AI or a human. 

This one is not only offered on mobile devices but also as an app for VR headsets. So kids can now talk to their AI companion standing right in front of them. They can even interact with the avatar, such as making the avatar move around the room and tossing a tennis ball back and forth.

This might seem a little too far into the AI world for some, and you may be thinking about movies like Her. But it’s worth noting that AI companions are not super widespread yet and it’s not clear that tons of kids are flocking to apps like Replika at the moment. 

Schoolhack 

Aptly named, Schoolhack is a chatbot that helps students with their homework. You can ask this bot any school-related questions, upload pictures of your assignments, and get answers quickly. The platform tries to emphasize using it as a tool to learn and to be fair, the bot often explains answers, as opposed to just spitting them out. But it’s hard to say how many kids are actually reading through the explanations and not just skipping straight to the answer. 

Another concern with Schoolhack is that they have the option to create groups with other users and send direct messages to each other, making the app much more concerning for kids to use. They also directly link to a SchoolHack Discord server and encourage students to join it, giving kids another platform to interact with strangers.

How Bark Can Help

If you want to make sure these apps are blocked on your child’s devices, you may want to use Bark’s powerful web-filtering features to control what your child can access. Bark allows you to fully block any of these platforms — both as an app and a website. 
Or, you can limit what time of day your child has access to these. For instance, you may want to make sure ChatGPT and Schoolhack are blocked during school and homework hours so they won’t be tempted to rely on them for quick answers. Start your free, 7-day trial today and see how Bark can give you peace of mind about your child’s online world.

Here at Bark, we see tons of popular apps, so we know all the red flags to look for if it’s too dangerous for kids. Telegram is one of those immediate red-flag apps, which is why parents need to know about it. Today we’ll go over what Telegram is, what exactly makes it unsafe, and what you can do to protect your child. 

What is Telegram? 

So, just what is Telegram? It’s a messaging app that has more than 900 million users, making it one of the most popular apps worldwide. Its function is simple — you can message, call and video chat with other Telegram users, create group chats, and join channels based on an interest or subject. It probably doesn’t sound much different than any other messaging platform, such as WhatsApp or GroupMe, and you’re right that they’re very similar. But Telegram’s free, simple, and private platform has been garnering loyal users since 2013. 

Two of Telegram’s main selling points are its cloud features — you can seamlessly use one Telegram account across multiple devices — and its privacy policies, which are strict.

Just how strict? Telegram offers end-to-end encryption, which means that messages can’t be accessed by anyone except the participating users. Even Telegram as a company can’t view them. 

This level of privacy can be a good thing for adults,  but it can also lead to tricky situations for kids. If messages of harassment or grooming are sent and then deleted, Telegram would not be able to retrieve the messages (even with law enforcement involved) to use as evidence in the victim’s favor. This and their other privacy features expose kids to potential internet dangers on the app. 

Is Telegram Safe?

It’s not. Telegram has many features that make it one of the riskiest apps we’ve seen. Here’s what you need to know. 

Location

This is one of the main reasons that makes Telegram dangerous: You can find users who are physically near your location and message them. Conversely, strangers can also message you. In the hands of a predator, any child on Telegram becomes vulnerable to being found on the app and in real life. 

Self-destruct messages 

Any app with disappearing messages immediately makes our red-flag list. Telegram has what they call “self-destruct” messages, where you can set a timer for messages to automatically disappear.

They also have something called Secret Chats, which has the same self-destruct feature, and these are the ones that are end-to-end encrypted. So any messages sent or received in a Secret Chat are only accessible to the users involved.

Public groups  

Telegram also has public groups or channels where users can join and share any content they want. You can search for groups based on location or subject, though some groups do have admins who can moderate messages in the group. While reviewing this app, our team found that Telegram immediately suggested local groups to join. Some of these were explicitly soliciting drugs or sharing pornographic links and images. 

Lack of privacy settings

While Telegram may protect the privacy of the messages you send, it leaves much to be desired in protecting your profile and personal information. By default, all profiles are visible to everyone. Any person can message, call, or video chat with you at any time. Want to keep it so that only contacts can reach you or nobody can reach you? Telegram actually makes you pay for this. You have to sign up for Telegram Premium to customize your privacy settings. 

What Parents Can Do 

It might go without saying, but this is definitely not an app we recommend parents allow their kids to use. If this is an app your child is asking for, we suggest having conversations with them about the dangers of the app and explaining why it’s in their best interest to keep them from it. 

While these conversations are absolutely crucial, it’s also important to have certain safeguards in place in case your child is tempted to try the app out for themselves. Bark can help parents by using our powerful web filtering tools to block any app or site that you deem inappropriate for your child.

If you need a safe way for your child to message family and friends, Bark’s content monitoring is another powerful tool to have for your child’s internet safety. Our monitoring allows us to scan your child’s device and send you alerts if they send or receive any concerning messages. Bark can monitor texts as well as many popular messaging apps like GroupMe, Kik, WhatsApp, and more. Sign up for your free, 7-day trial to see how it works. 

If you’re considering sending your kids to summer camp, you’ve probably found yourself asking the same question that parents all over are also thinking about — should my kid have a cell phone at summer camp? Most camps have figured out their specific summer camp cell phone policy, and it ranges from screens-galore to an analog-only party.

So, what kind of camp should you look for? The University of Michigan actually did an extensive study about the pros and cons of cell phones at summer camp. This was back in 2018, but the findings are only more relevant today as teen phone use has persisted. The study looked at cell phone use at summer camps and evaluated kids and staff’s experiences based on surveys. 

While the study had many interesting findings, it ultimately noted that it’s more about the type of camp experience you want your child to have, which is different for every family. So keep that in mind as we discuss the pros and cons in this post, and we hope it helps in your search for the perfect summer camp for your kid!

Pros of a Cell-Phone-Free Summer Camp  

Less distraction from camp

This is the first thing most people think of in response to this cell phone and summer camp debate. For many generations, camp meant you were disconnected from normal life in a good way, with days full of fun outdoor activities and new friends. With a cell phone, however, kids can be pulled into games, worry about things at home, and more. 

No cyberbullying to worry about 

Just like at school, phones can divide or isolate campmates in multiple ways. Cell phones at summer camp may make kids who don’t have one feel left out. Other kids may even make fun of peers for not having a phone. Additionally, kids may use their phones to be mean or bully other kids through texting or social media, someplace where camp staff may not be able to see. 

One study from the University of Michigan illustrates how kids are thinking about this possibility, too. It noted that some kids were too nervous to participate in activities like a talent show because they were scared other kids would take embarrassing photos or videos of them and put them online.

Kids get the screen break they need — and may even want

As much as most kids would likely prefer to have their phone with them at camp, sometimes they just don’t realize how much they’d actually enjoy the break. The same goes for adults — sometimes we need external circumstances to help us experience something different and better. Kids may realize that without their phones, they can be more present and not worry about anything going on anywhere else. It may even help them decide to regulate their phone use differently after camp, remembering what they enjoyed about it over the summer.

Cons of a Cell-Phone-Free Summer Camp

Honestly? None

As long as your child has a way to contact you in an emergency, there are no real cons to going analog for a summer adventure. If you're worried about knowing their location, you can always attach an unobtrusive GPS device like a Tile to their backpack.

It can be scary letting your child go away from home without the security blanket of a phone if you're used to it. But camps have trained staff that are always present, and it's their only job to keep your child's safety top of mind. Plus, think how fun getting old-school letters will be from your kid!

How the Bark Phone Can Help

The decision to bring a smartphone is totally up to each individual family. But it may not be a completely black-and-white decision — you could consider sending your child with a device that has very limited functionality so that it’s not a distraction but still allows you to communicate with them. And that’s exactly what the Bark Phone can be! 

The Bark Phone is a kid-friendly smartphone created to fit the needs of any child who uses it. The parental controls are customizable so that you can allow or block access to a whole host of things, including the internet, the app store, adding new contacts, deleting text messages, and so much more. So if you want to send your child to camp with a non-distracting phone, simply send them with a Bark Phone that has everything blocked except calls, texts, and location tracking! Then after camp, you can easily add back in more features like apps or social media.

Ready to get your very own Bark Phone? Plans start at just $39/month and include unlimited talk and text. Order yours today!

It's pretty amazing when technology and education come together to give kids an interactive boost in their learning. There’s an app for nearly every area of education and for all ages, but since strong reading skills are crucial in early development, these are the ones we’re focusing on today. So if you’re a parent with a young kiddo entering the exciting world of reading, we suggest checking out some of these reading apps for kids to help them grow those skills!  

Best Reading Apps for Kids 

Khan Academy Kids

With the wealth of free educational content that Khan Academy provides, it’s no surprise that they have a reading app dedicated to beginner students — specifically ages two through eight. They have a guided program full of activities to build foundational skills and understanding, led by colorful and cheerful animal characters. They also have a library where you can choose the specific topic you want your child to work on. The app offers reading as well as math content, but you can find activities for vowel sounds, reading literature, sight words, and more under reading.

Starfall 

Starfall is a popular app for kids to practice their reading skills. Aimed at kids in pre-K through fifth grade, Starfall has tons of engaging games that will help kids grow way more confident in things like spelling, reading comprehension, and even poetry. And the best part? It’s free to use! 

Teach Your Monster to Read

This one has a cute premise where kids get to “teach” their chosen monster avatar how to read. The program doesn’t have many individual lessons or games — it’s just one long game where kids build on skills in each level. It starts very foundational with recognizing sounds and goes from there. 

Teach Your Monster is a non-profit organization that works closely with academic partners to provide formative, accessible content for all kids to grow their skills. Their reading game (as well as their other games that include math content) is free online or you can download the app for $8.99. 

Epic!

Epic is an extremely popular book app with access to tons of titles for kids up to 12 years old. This app is less about teaching kids to read and more about giving them an endless supply of fun books to practice their reading skills with. However, each title has an accompanying quiz to test kids’ reading comprehension. Epic! will also keep track of your child’s activity and award badges based on how many titles were read or how many minutes were spent reading per day. And it’s also a win for multilingual families — they offer titles in Spanish, French, and Chinese!

Epic has a 7-day free trial, then users can purchase an annual subscription for $79.99. 

ABCmouse 

Another go-to option among parents with young learners is ABCmouse. This program has created a very well-researched and comprehensive curriculum for kids in their toddler years through second grade. The app has over 11,000 activities for kids to explore, each with a learning goal for kids to take away. For reading specifically, they have over 450 books as well as lessons in fundamentals like phonics, sentence structure, parts of speech, and more. 

ABCmouse offers an annual subscription for $59.99 or a month-to-month subscription for $12.99.

Bark As Your Safety Net 

As your kids start to use technology for educational purposes, you may be worried about it opening the door to other, more risky parts of the online world. This is why many parents rely on Bark to be their “safety net” as you and your child navigate tech for the first time.

Whether your child is on a phone, tablet, or computer, Bark will scan for concerning content and send you an alert if they come across anything that requires your attention. Bark can also help block inappropriate content, ensuring that only your approved apps and sites can be accessed by your child. Sign up today with a free, 7-day trial and see how Bark can bring peace of mind to your family!

Snapchat has been a long-time favorite for Gen Z (and now Gen Alpha!) and as they’re constantly adding new features, that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Instead of banning it completely, many parents have found themselves trying to understand Snapchat and its dangers. It’s a “know thy enemy” stance, which we fully support! The more parents know about the internet, the more prepared they are to help protect their kids. 

Consider this parent’s guide to Snapchat as your starting point for answering the question “What exactly are kids doing on Snapchat?” The app has come a long way from when it was just an instant photo messenger. So we’re going to take a step back and explain all its various features. This post won’t go into much detail about the dangers that kids can face, but you can easily find that on our blog

Get the Lay of the Land 

First, let’s start with an overview of the bigger features and where you’ll find them on Snapchat.

If you pull up the app on your phone, it’ll open up to the camera. This is Snapchat’s first and main attraction, where you can take a photo or video to instantly send to your friends. You can also play around with tons of filters. This screen is also where you can access Memories by tapping the photo icon in the bottom right corner. Any photo or video saved on Snapchat will be collected here. 

Then, if you swipe your screen to the right,  you’ll see a list of your friends and group chats. If you tap on a name, this will take you to the chat where you can send texts. If you double-tap a name, this will take you back to the camera screen to send a photo or video to that person. 

Swipe right one more time, and this takes you to the Snap Map, where you can see the location of your friends and post to a public story based on your location. 

From the camera screen, if you swipe left instead, you’ll see the Stories page. Here you can post photos or videos that only stay up for 24 hours at a time. You can have public stories (where all your friends can see what you put on your story) or private stories where only select friends can see what you post. 

If you scroll below stories, you’ll find the Discover page, which is Snapchat’s public feed for celebrities, brands, and publications. You’ll see vlog-like content from prominent YouTubers as well as interview clips from Vanity Fair, Wired, and more. 

Swipe left one more time, and you’ll see the Spotlight page, which works similarly to Instagram reels or TikTok’s for you page. They’re short video clips from other Snapchat users and just as any good social media algorithm works, the most popular ones will float to the top. 

What to Look For: A Parent’s Guide to Snapchat

Decoding Snapchat icons 

When you swipe to see your list of friends, you’ll notice there are little icons under each name. These indicate whether or not the latest message with that person was delivered and/or opened. The symbols are slightly different depending on if it’s a chat, photo, or video. But if the message was sent by you, it will be a sideways triangle. If the message was sent by the other person, it will be a square. When the triangle or square is filled in, it was delivered but not opened. If the shape is not filled in, it was opened. Simple enough, right?

What is a Snapchat streak?

A streak is simply the number of days you message someone on Snapchat in a row. Snapchat will keep count of this with a little number next to the person’s name. Kids can get quite serious about this, having streaks in the hundreds with their closest friends. 

Streaks are also connected to Snapchat’s Best Friends feature. The people you Snapchat the most will show up on your Best Friends list, denoted with a specific emoji next to their name. The friends who make your list will know that they’re on it, but they won’t be able to see your full list. 

Parents might get confused about the specific Snapchat emoji meanings, but you can customize what emojis each friend gets in Settings, so it’s different for every user. Here are the “types” of friends you can have on Snapchat with an accompanying emoji:

How do stories work on Snapchat?

Everyone on Snapchat can post a story, which is just a photo or video that only lasts for 24 hours. It’s just like Instagram. You can post a story for all your friends on Snapchat to see, or create a private story so for only select people. 

You can also post a public story — but this is only for users 18 and older. These stories can be seen by people who follow you but are not necessarily people you’re friends with. In other words, public stories are for people wanting to create content on Snapchat and gain a following, not just share personal moments with friends. 

Snapchat’s My AI feature

Found in the Chat section, you can chat with Snapchat’s built-in AI bot about anything and everything. It works similarly to ChatGPT and it’s been known to sometimes give kids inappropriate or even harmful answers to their questions. 

Extra features in Memories 

Aside from storing your saved Snaps, this section has a couple of extra features. There’s actually a second AI feature in the Memories section called Dreams. You can upload a handful of selfies and the AI will generate a series of images based on a theme or pack you select. This is anything from Victorian vibes to classic Hollywood. To fully utilize this feature, you have to upgrade to Snapchat Plus, but you get a trial with a one-time free pack before forking over a monthly payment.

The second and more concerning feature within Memories is My Eyes Only. Here, you can save photos and videos and lock them away with a passcode. So even if someone has your device and Snapchat account, they can’t see this saved collection without the code. This creates a privacy concern, especially if kids try to use it to hide inappropriate or harmful content from parents. 

Keeping Kids Safer on Snapchat With Bark

We hope this parent’s guide to Snapchat has helped you understand what kids actually do on Snapchat. But you may feel a bit overwhelmed about keeping your child safer on this app. So we want you to know that Bark has powerful parental controls that can give you peace of mind with popular apps like this one.

On Androids and the Bark Phone, Bark can help you monitor content in Snapchat’s text messages, AI chats, and searches. You’ll be sent an alert almost instantaneously if any inappropriate content is found. 

Bark can also help with blocking Snapchat on all devices so that it’s not a distraction during school or other important hours of the day. Or Bark can ensure Snapchat is blocked from your child’s phone completely if you don’t feel it’s appropriate for them. 

Try Bark with our free, 7-day trial and see how it can help you protect your child’s digital world. 

If you have an older high schooler, you’re probably swimming in information about SATs, ACTs, GPAs, college applications, and more. Not every kid may have plans to go to college, but if it’s something your family has decided on, it’s understandable if you all feel overwhelmed during test season. 

As a quick reminder for both you and your child — take a minute and breathe! As a parent, you want to encourage your child to do their very best, but it’s also hard to see them stressed out or even anxious about their test performance. Don’t forget to remind them that you’re proud no matter what, and you’ll support them the best way you know how. 

And we want to help, too! We surveyed tons of educational apps that claim to help students with standardized testing and picked the top five for your high schooler to try out. Whether your teen needs material to study or some practice tests, they’ll be able to find it in this list. And the best part? All these apps are free to use! 

Best Educational Apps to Crush the Exams 

My Study Life

To start us off, this app is less for studying and more for students to organize their academic lives. It allows them to add their class and study schedule so that all their important information is in one place. Managing homework for multiple classes can already be a lot for kids, let alone adding SAT/ACT studying outside of it. If your child needs an easy way to structure their academic time, this is a great app to look into. 

Khan Academy 

Hands down, Khan Academy is always one of the go-to's for reliable study content. And luckily they have great resources for those preparing for standardized tests. In fact, Khan Academy has partnered with the College Board to provide SAT practice tests and answer keys that will give kids real experience before the big test day comes.  

If your child has taken the PSAT through the College Board, they can upload their test to Khan Academy and it will recommend specific practice areas based on their results. Students can find everything from videos that break down difficult concepts to guides that will help them put together a study plan for the SAT. 

SAT Exam Prep & Practice by Magoosh

Magoosh has tons of apps to help with standardized testing, but this main one focuses on getting kids prepared for what their SAT or ACT journey will look like. Then, they can scroll through Magoosh’s other apps for specific study material, depending on what test they’re preparing for. For example, they have a flashcard app that will give teens a litany of need-to-know SAT terms and concepts. Whether they need to practice geometry or grammar rules, this educational app will give them a good idea of what they already know and what they need to freshen up on. 

Princeton Review — SAT/ACT/AP

The Princeton Review is another reputable test prep program. They have tons of helpful courses that usually come with a hefty price tag, but their free-to-use app has quality practice tests for reading, writing, and math. 

The practice tests offer two options — they will either give you explanations for answers as you go or allow you to take the whole thing and review the answers at the end. The explanations for each question are thorough and rely on helpful test-taking strategies. Princeton Review’s study material will definitely boost your kid’s study game, no matter what test they’re preparing for! 

Quizlet 

If your child is looking for just a general flashcard app where they can create some of their own material, Quizlet is a must-have educational app. Sometimes writing out your own material helps commit it to memory much faster and Quizlet allows you to easily make your own digital flashcards. It can also take your material and create practice tests and memory games for a variety of study options. 

Students can also look through decks that other students have made public and study those — just make sure your child knows the content is accurate before they start practicing with it. 

Need Help With Study Distractions?

While your child is studying for a big test, it can be understandably hard for them to focus if their phone or laptop keeps dinging with notifications. Or if their “study break” of scrolling on Instagram for 10 minutes accidentally turns into an hour (it happens to the best of us!). So to help limit those distractions, consider using Bark’s screen time controls, which allow you to block apps and sites at certain times of the day when you know they’ll be studying — but still allow the ones they need access to. 

Bark can also help monitor their content, so even if they have to use apps like YouTube to study, you’ll be alerted if they come across any inappropriate content. Try Bark with a free, 7-day trial today! 

One of the most concerning and troublesome features to come out of the social media space is disappearing messages. No matter how you feel about social media for teens, most parents can quickly see how disappearing messages lead to tricky and dangerous situations. 

This risky feature prompts many questions from parents. Exactly what apps have disappearing messages? When do they disappear and is there a way to recover them? We’re going to cover five popular apps with disappearing messages, how it works, and what you can do. We’ll also cover some important points to discuss with your kid about the dangers of disappearing messages. 

Snapchat 

We have Snapchat to thank for introducing disappearing messages to the world. Here’s how it works: Chats are defaulted to delete 24 hours after viewing. You can go into settings and change this to delete right after viewing or to never delete. Group chats work a little differently, as they’re only deleted after 24 hours once everyone has viewed them. Otherwise, photos are deleted after seven days. 

Users have the option to save Snaps whether or not they’re the ones who sent them — and this goes for texts, pictures, and videos. So if you send something risky, the other person can still choose to keep it and it’ll stay visible in the chat for both parties, no matter what your disappearing settings are. You’ll receive a notification whenever they save something. 

Snapchat has parental controls but none of them apply to disappearing messages, unfortunately. You can have your child set their account to never delete messages, but there is nothing stopping them from changing this later — Snapchat’s built-in parental controls don’t let you password protect your settings.

WhatsApp

Luckily, WhatsApp’s disappearing messages are not on by default, although it’s still easy enough to change this in settings. Users can set messages to disappear after 24 hours, seven days, or 90 days. Similar to Snapchat, users can keep a message even if it’s set to disappear. But interestingly, senders have the option to “upkeep” a message if someone else tries to keep it. 

Another important note for WhatsApp regarding media: All media (pictures and videos) are automatically saved to your photos. So media can be set to disappear in the chat, but they’ll still exist in your photo library — as well as your friend’s.

Instagram

Instagram has what’s called Vanish mode, which allows you to send disappearing messages, photos, videos, and more in Instagram chats. Things disappear whenever someone leaves the chat or vanish mode is turned off, however. In contrast to Snapchat and WhatsApp, users don’t have the option to save disappearing messages (but don’t forget they can always be screenshotted). You’ll receive a notification if someone tries to screenshot or screen record your vanish mode conversation. 

Telegram

Telegram is a hodge-podge of concerning features — and the disappearing messages feature is just one of them. First, Telegram has a message option called “Secret Chats” where you can message using end-to-end encryption so that no one else can intercept or view these messages. These messages will self-destruct after a preset amount of time for both people in the chat. 

Telegram also allows this self-destruct feature for normal messaging outside of Secret Chats. And if someone tries to take a screenshot of your message, you’ll get a notification. Parents can have their kids turn off the self-destruct feature, but again, there are no parental controls to lock this. 

iMessage

We know this one isn’t an app, and iMessage doesn’t technically have a disappearing messages feature. But they do have an “Undo send” feature. Kids can use this in the same way as disappearing messages – sending risky messages and then unsending them within the two-minute limit. Currently, there is no way to disable this feature on iPhone, nor is there any way for parents to manage it using Family Sharing. 

The Disappearing Messages Dilemma

Now that you have the specifics about disappearing messages, here’s what you need to make sure your child knows. Disappearing messages present a dilemma since they don’t actually disappear most of the time. As we mentioned, people can screenshot anything that is sent to their phone. And some platforms like Snapchat and WhatsApp give you the ability to save messages directly to your phone, which overrides the disappearing feature. 

This is important because kids need to know that what they say online always matters, regardless of whether or not it disappears. Just as words in real life have an impact, their words online do, too. Remind your kid that if they’re sending messages that disappear, they should not use that as permission to say anything hurtful or inappropriate. 

On the flip side, in cases of bullying or predation, it’s detrimental when the messages disappear in case it’s needed to turn in to authorities. So consider also reminding your child that if they are sent something that makes them uncomfortable, they should show it to you first so you can decide if it needs to be saved or not. 

Monitor Your Child’s Messaging With Bark

The good news is that Bark’s monitoring covers tons of these popular apps! If your child sends a risky text, our powerful AI will scan it looking for specific context that indicates a problem. You’ll then get an alert so you know to investigate. It can even catch messages and send you an alert before they disappear on apps like Snapchat. Sign up for a free, 7-day trial today to see how Bark’s monitoring can bring peace of mind to your family’s online world! 

In 2023, it was reported that about 87% of teenagers in America have iPhones. No one can deny the brand loyalty Gen Z seems to have with Apple, but this puts many parents on the hunt for the best parental control app for iPhone devices.

You might be thinking, don’t iPhones already have built-in parental controls? They do, it’s called Family Sharing and parents can use Apple Screen Time features to control some aspects of their kid’s device usage. However many parents have quickly found these controls to be lacking when it comes to properly protecting their child.

Fortunately, Bark offers Apple families a far more robust and comprehensive parental control app for iPhones! At Bark, we know the features that give parents peace of mind about their kid’s smartphones. As a result, tons of Apple families feel Bark is the best parental control app for iPhones — in this post, we’ll show you why. 

Why Bark is the Best Parental Control App for iPhone Devices 

Customizable screen time management 

Apple Screen Time can only take you so far when it comes to parental controls. You can manage how long your child can use certain apps or block them altogether if you need. But there are a few holes in their controls that make it difficult for parents actually to lock down the risks that come with a smartphone.

For example, Apple Screentime allows you to block web content in two ways — either block everything or you can “limit adult websites”. The problem with the latter is that it doesn’t actually catch all inappropriate sites. Some easily fall through the filter’s cracks, making it possible for your child to encounter adult content online. 

Bark’s screen time features were created to give parents far more granular and customizable options. Bark has tons of categories so that parents can decide more exactly what content they want to allow or block. For example, you can block all sexual content and ensure they can’t access this content through an app or site. You can also block all social media, but make exceptions for the ones you’re okay with your child having. 

Content monitoring as the healthy middle ground   

But what about the apps and sites you do allow? You might approve some apps but recognize there’s still a risk for inappropriate content. With Apple Screen Time, you can either block them or allow them, all or nothing. But with Bark’s parental controls for iPhones, you get the happy middle ground — you can allow it and supervise it.

Bark’s powerful AI will scan your child’s activities, looking for anything that needs a parent’s attention. Let’s say you allowed your child to use an app like GroupMe to communicate with their sports team. But on this app, your child received a message from a stranger outside the chat. When Bark scans these messages, it’ll look for concerning content, such as grooming or predatory language. If detected, it’ll send you an alert so you can quickly investigate and talk to your child about it.

Bark can monitor texts, emails, and 30+ social media apps. On iOS devices, we can cover tons of popular apps like Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Reddit, X, Kik, and more. We can also monitor your child’s Safari visits and searches. Paired with our screen time, Bark’s content monitoring is why so many parents find Bark to be the best parental control app for iPhones. 

What If My Kid Has an Android?

If your child has an Android, that’s no problem! Bark is compatible with both Android and Apple devices. In fact, we even recommend parents get an Android as opposed to an Apple device. Despite its popularity among kids, iPhones weren’t built to protect them from most online dangers. 

Apple’s privacy policies are not very friendly toward third-party apps like Bark, but Androids give Bark much more room to monitor data on their devices. This is why we can monitor Snapchat on Androids but not on iPhones, for example. 

If you want more coverage for content monitoring, an Android is definitely your best bet. And if you want a smartphone with our powerful parental controls built-in, then check out the Bark Phone. No installing extra apps, just reliable parental controls right out of the box. 

Ready to Try the Best Parental Controls for iPhone Devices?

We believe Bark will be a great tool for your family in keeping your child safe on their iPhone. But just so you can see for yourself, you try Bark for a free, 7-day trial. After that, you can keep all of Bark’s award-winning parental controls for your child’s iPhone and other devices in the home for just $14/month. 

teen girl on her phone with illustrated flowers around her

It’s spring break season and many kids feel the drag of school and are counting down the minutes to their week of freedom. But as a parent, you might feel the pressure mounting as you try to figure out what your child’s week is going to look like — specifically how much more or less device time they should get. Even if you have a trip or fun activities planned, most parents still have to address the question of screen time.

We’ve put together four simple yet constructive screen time tips to make sure your child’s spring break is full of non-tech fun. At Bark, we’re all about balance and moderation — the way you implement these things might look completely different from another family, and that’s okay! As long as your kids can say they feel rested and made some fun spring break memories by the end of the week, you can call it a success! 

Our Top Four Screen Time Tips For Spring Break 

Consider a temporary change to your tech contract 

First, if you don’t already have a tech contract with your kids, we highly recommend making one! It goes a long way in starting communication with your child, as well as setting expectations for healthy tech use in the home. But for spring break, it’s natural if previously established rules fluctuate a little bit. After all, it’s their time to enjoy and relax from the stresses of school. So revisit the contract and pick out the rules that can be more flexible during the break.

Pro tip: If you use something like the Bark Home to set household screen time rules on a schedule, don’t forget to switch back to regular rules when school starts again. This will help avoid an accidental Netflix marathon session the Sunday night before break ends.

Have a game plan for non-tech hours 

For whatever time they’re not going to be on tech, try coming up with some ideas to help fill the screen-less hours. Of course, it’s beneficial when kids can come up with these on their own and entertain themselves, but it’s okay to help them get the ideas flowing. 

For younger kids, this may look like a list of activities like arts and crafts or planned playdates with the neighbors. For older kids, this might be letting them ride bikes to their friend’s house. Here’s just a quick list of non-tech activities kids can do during their free time: 

Be mindful of location sharing while traveling

Most parents will want to make sure they can track their child’s location, no matter what their spring break plans are. But if your child is posting on social media — which is likely especially while they’re on their spring break adventures — it’s easier than ever for online strangers to find your child’s location. 

Apps like Instagram, Snapchat, BeReal, and more have location-sharing features. Snapchat has the most concerning location feature called Snap Map, which allows users to publicly post stories linked to a specific location and see stories of other users posting from the same place. In essence, this broadcasts your child’s real-time location to total strangers.

Whatever platform your child posts on, make sure you’re both on the same page about their location — strangers don’t need to know where they are in real time. Remind them to not tag their location in posts and to consider not posting in the moment at all. 

Use Bark for the best screen time features

Whether your family is going on a grand, once-in-a-lifetime expedition, or your teen is just adventuring through the neighborhood this spring break, Bark can help make managing screen time a breeze. With just one app, you can set daily screen time routines, block inappropriate sites and apps, and turn off Wi-Fi to their phone with a single tap.

Additionally, Bark’s powerful content monitoring can scan their texts, emails, and 30+ social media apps to send you alerts forany concerning content they may come across. Try all of Bark’s parental controls with our free, 7-day trial and see how it can transform your family’s approach to tech. 

android logo with illustrated emojis around it

Many parents have realized that making an Android phone — or any smartphone — safer for kids isn’t always easy. Whether you're trying to manage screen time or keep tabs on potentially inappropriate messages, it can be a complicated and ongoing task for parents to add to their already long list of responsibilities. 

But with the Bark app, it’s different. We offer parents the best Android parental control app that’ll give you peace of mind when it’s time for your child to have a phone. Parents can scan for concerning content, block distracting or inappropriate sites and apps, and seamlessly track location — all in one app! 

Bark: The Best Monitoring App for Android Phones

When parents use Bark, they don’t have to spend time digging through their kid’s phone looking for dangers. Most parents don’t have the time or energy for this, and kids don’t like the idea of their parents seeing all of their messages. So instead, Bark scans the kid’s phone using AI technology to look for contextual signs that something may be off or need adult help — things like bullying, predation, sexual content, suicide/self-harm content, and much more. If something is detected, an alert is sent straight to your phone.

These alerts are great for giving parents insight into their child’s online world. But it’s not all Bark can do! Bark also offers comprehensive and reliable web filtering to help you manage what your child has access to and when. More distracting sites, like games and social media, can be put on a schedule so that they’re blocked or allowed exactly when needed. And Bark’s location tracking can ensure you know where your child is while they’re exploring the world offline. 

So why is Bark the best monitoring app for Androids? Because with one app, you get all the controls you need to support your child in their online journey. And the cherry on top? Any alert you may receive from Bark also comes with advice from real child experts so you know how to best handle the situation. Bark doesn’t want to just help you protect your child, we also want to help you build a strong, trusting relationship with them. 

What Bark Monitors on Android Phones for Kids

Bark can monitor over 30+ platforms, but here are just a few of the popular apps that Bark can scan and send you alerts for:

Check out our full list of platforms and learn more about what content we monitor on each. 

The Bark Phone: The Best Android Phone For Kids

The only thing that could make Bark an even better Android parental control app is if it came with the phone itself — so that’s why we made the Bark Phone! We took a Samsung A series and gave it an unmatched level of security by building our parental controls directly into the phone. It’s the only Android phone for kids that actually gives parents the peace of mind they need when it comes to their child’s safety. 

The best part about building our phone is that we get to decide on certain device settings that with just the app, we don’t have much control over. And we made sure that every step of the way was guided by parents like you. We spent years listening to what parents wanted in a safer smartphone and we put all that feedback into the Bark Phone. Features such as requiring parent permission to delete text messages and our robust location tracking came from what we know both parents and kids need in this online world. 

Not an Android User? No Problem!

Generally speaking, we recommend Androids for parents who are looking to get the most out of parental control for their kid’s phone. Androids are more friendly to third-party apps like Bark, which allows us more capabilities with their software. Apple, on the other hand, highly prioritizes user privacy. This is great for adults — but not for kids. Parents often have a harder time monitoring content and keeping Apple Screentime locked down from common loopholes that kids find.

But if you happen to be an Apple user, no reason to stress! The Bark app is available for iOS devices as well. Tons of Apple families have found Bark to be an invaluable tool in their digital parenting kit. You get the same robust context monitoring, screen time controls, and location tracking. 

Try Bark for Free Today

If you’re ready to try the best Android parental control app for your child, you can sign up for our free, 7-day trial today! We believe Bark will be a great fit for your family, but we’d love for you to see for yourself at no cost. When you see how great it is, you can continue to use Bark’s powerful tools for just $14/month. 

health app icons with colorful background

Most teenagers have a lot on their plate — never-ending school assignments, extracurriculars, part-time jobs, and social lives to keep up with on and offline. Because of all these, it’s easy for their health to fall by the wayside. So you or your child may have found yourselves looking for a health app for teens to help them keep track of certain habits. School and friends are important commitments, but those become much harder to keep up with if their body and mind aren’t properly taken care of!

We’ve tracked down the best apps in the most important areas of health: physical fitness, mental health, sleep health, nutritional health, and menstrual health. These are great places to start if your teen needs a helping hand in their health education and practice. Let’s take a look!

Physical Fitness: Seven — 7 Minute Workout 

iOS

Android

Some teens may have a workout already built into their schedule from a sport. But if not, they may need a good resource to learn self-guided workouts that will get their heart rate pumping. This 7-minute workout app is great for teens who want to build a habit of exercise that works with a busy schedule. The app allows you to set a workout plan and choose your preferred area of focus (full-body workouts, upper body, core, etc.) These exercises are great whether it’s a home workout, at the gym, or just in any open space. 

The app lays out your plan and progress clearly, and it also keeps track of any achievements or badges you earn. You can earn these by hitting a certain milestone or completing one of the in-app challenges. The app does allow you to invite friends with a text link, but there’s no messaging feature or way to communicate in the app. There’s a free version of the app, or you can join the “7 Club” for $9.99/month or $59.99/year.

Mental Health: Calm app 

iOS

Android

The Calm app has been well-loved by its users for a long time now, and we can see why! The app is chock-full of quality mental health content, from courses and meditations to playlists and more. Whenever teens need to bring the intensity of life down a little bit, the Calm app can definitely help. Reducing anxiety, getting better sleep, and growing in gratitude are just a few of the goals that this app can help with. There is a limited free version of the app or a premium subscription for 69.99/year. 

Sleep Health: BetterSleep 

iOS 

Android 

There’s no question that teens need good sleep — and at least 8–10 hours of it. But sleep can be elusive for teens, which is not surprising considering how many teens struggle with anxiety these days. BetterSleep helps teens turn off the mental chatter and drift into deep REM sleep with music, sleep stories, and meditations. There are also guided sessions that teach things like how to get the best sleep with certain sleep positions or through breathing exercises. Teens can also track their sleep each night to see what may be helping their sleep or disrupting it. BetterSleep has a one-week free trial and then a yearly subscription for $49.99.

Nutritional Health: MyPlate  

iOS

Android

MyPlate takes the cake (pun intended) when it comes to nutritional apps for kids. The main function of the app is all about learning healthy habits and tracking your progress as you make better food decisions. The best part is that there’s no content about body image or eating in order to look a certain way — it’s all about eating quality food for quality health. 

The app gives you some easy goals to start with, like adding veggies to your lunch one day during the week or eating fruit as a sweet treat. MyPlate is a great way to get teens thinking about their food goals in an achievable, no-pressure way. Not to mention, it’s free to use! 

Menstrual Health: Period Diary Ovulation Tracker 

iOS

Android

If you’ve tried looking for a menstrual tracking app for your child, you may have noticed that tons of them were not necessarily made with teens in mind. It’s common for these apps to have adult content about more than just periods (think sex and masturbation tips, including suggestions to watch porn in some apps). But teens really just need a simple calendar and a place to track their symptoms. And that’s what the Period Diary offers!

There is a discover tab with content but it’s much more health-related and straightforward. Articles include topics like, “What is PMS?” and “Ease Your Cramps With These 3 Teas.” Period Diary has a limited free version or a premium subscription for $8.49/month or $33.99/year. 

Digital Health: Bark

The last area teens may need some help is their online life, and that’s where Bark can help! Bark offers a whole suite of parental controls to ensure teens are having a healthy and positive tech experience.

Bark can help you manage their screen time, block inappropriate websites, and scan their messages to look for potentially concerning content. If your teen is expressing feelings of anxiety, depression, or disordered eating, Bark can alert you so you can address it right when your support is needed. Start your free, 7-day trial today.

kid looking at his phone, illustrated lock to symbolize privacy

It’s a simple fact of nature: Kids will eventually want more privacy as they get older. It’s only natural for young people to want more independence from their parents, like having a later curfew or using a popular app to connect with friends. But they might not be considering their safety in the same way their parents are. Parents have to walk a thin line between protection and privacy, and it can be hard. 

At Bark, we’re a team of parents who’ve walked the same exact line. That’s why we take a unique approach to your child’s privacy with our content monitoring. In this post, we’ll explain what that approach is and why so many parents find it to be their favorite part about Bark. 

Why Bark Values Your Child’s Online Privacy  

Bark’s ultimate mission is to help parents foster healthy relationships with their kids, both on and offline. Privacy for kids — or rather, giving your kid a healthy amount of space as they get older — accomplishes two things. One, it builds their confidence in their own decision-making. And two, it creates trust between you and your child. 

Allowing your child to have a popular app like Instagram means you have to trust them to be responsible while they use it. And it also means your child can trust that you recognize their ability to do so. But it doesn’t mean they won’t make any mistakes with their newfound independence —it just allows them to remember what you’ve already taught them. 

This is something the experts have long advocated for, even as they’re calling for legislation to crack down on better parental controls in tech. The American Psychological Association notes that parental controls for social media such as adult monitoring should be “balanced with youth’s appropriate needs for privacy.” 

If you think about it, kid’s conversations online are likely similar to the conversations you had growing up when you hung out with your friends at the mall. Generally speaking, your parents were probably not privy to all these conversations. For many kids today, apps like Instagram and Snapchat are their version of meeting up at the mall. It may seem different now, but kids today can still have a healthy level of privacy online and be safer — the two aren’t always mutually exclusive.

How Bark Strikes the Perfect Balance 

When you look at the current options for monitoring apps, it can feel like an all-or-nothing approach. You can either use an app to spy on and access all of your child’s messages or use an app that only really focuses on how long your child spends time on an app. It’s either zero privacy or not enough.

Here’s how Bark strikes the perfect balance — we created a technology that will scan your child’s messages for you and alert you to the concerning content you need to know about. If your child is messaging a potential predator on Instagram or receiving texts from a friend that indicate suicidal ideation, Bark will notify you. This helps you keep them safe. 

But all the innocent conversations about favorite Fortnite skins and the boring school assembly that day? Bark simply passes over those, just as you would if you were manually checking the phone yourself. This helps you give them privacy. 

Bark as the Fan Favorite 

So why do parents love Bark’s monitoring so much? Because they don’t have to waste time digging through the harmless messages just to find the one that may be concerning. They don’t have to sacrifice their child’s online privacy and independence just to keep them safe — they get the best of both worlds. 

Tons of kids prefer Bark, as well. Most of the time, they don’t even realize it’s there as it runs quietly in the background. However, despite the level of privacy they get with Bark, you may find your child apprehensive about the idea of monitoring. If this is the case, we have some helpful resources about how to best address it with your child. Once they learn how it really works, kids often understand it’s better than a lot of alternatives — like spot-checking or spy apps.

Ready to Get Started With Bark?

If Bark sounds like a good fit for your family, we’d love to offer you a free, 7-day trial so you can get a feel for how our monitoring works. In addition to content monitoring, Bark also has a host of other parental controls, including screen time management, web filtering, and location tracking. You may even consider checking out the Bark Phone, our smartphone built with children’s safety in mind. 

Important note: You might be curious about how Bark manages all of the data we analyze. We recognize this is an important concern for child’s safety and privacy. When Bark scans your data, we immediately encrypt it so it can’t be traced back to you. Additionally, we purge data every 30 days (and parents can request us to purge their child’s data at any time). We hold ourselves to the highest security standards for the safety of you and your child. 

different kids all texting on their phones

We can all probably agree that group chats are one of the most convenient parts of texting. Instead of messaging each of your kids individually, you can simply throw them all in a group chat and say things like “We’re having tacos for dinner tonight” or “Don’t forget to tell Grandma happy birthday!” But when it comes to kids being in their own group chats with friends, it can be a little trickier to manage. 

For many kids, group chats are simply the way they communicate with each other. That’s why there are so many apps dedicated to messaging, like Snapchat, Messenger Kids, Kik, GroupMe, Discord — it’s just what the kids are doing these days.

Some friend groups naturally pick up on “group chat etiquette” without much coaching. However, kids can sometimes get carried away with the influx of notifications or find themselves at the center of group chat drama. 

We’ve picked the top five most important topics around group chats that parents should keep their eyes on. Consider talking with your kids about these, whether they’re about to join their first group chat or even if they’re already a part of several.

Top Five Things Parents Should Know About Group Chats

1. More notifications mean more pressure

Sometimes, when some kids join their first group chat, they feel they need to send a message for every single thought they have. And sometimes, they decide to send one thought in seven different messages. Suddenly, a group chat could be sending and receiving dozens of messages in the span of a few minutes — which is a notification nightmare for some parents! 

But for children, it’s not only just distracting, it can put a lot of pressure on kids to keep up with every new message and feel like they need to be sending just as much as their friends. It can quickly turn into a real fear of missing messages anytime they're away from their device. Make sure your kid knows it’s okay to put some group chats on “mute” or even put the whole device on Do Not Disturb mode.

2. Misunderstandings over text can be intensified in group chats 

We all know what it’s like when we send a text — and because you can’t send tone or facial expressions with it — your message gets taken the completely wrong way. With a group chat, you now have multiple other people who can misread your message in tons of different ways. Now add in kids who are often not mature enough to consider all the different meanings of a text, and you’ve got a radioactive zone for tons of unnecessary drama. 

It’s a common scenario for kids to start group chats with an entire class or even an entire grade. This means your kid could be messaging with people who don’t know them well enough to interpret their message correctly. The drama becomes ten times more complicated when the misunderstanding happens with someone totally outside your child’s social circle. 

3. When the chat makes a kid feel left out

Group chats can bring friends together, but they can also be very exclusionary. Sometimes this happens on accident with no ill intent, other times it’s done on purpose as a form of cyberbullying. Kids will create a group chat just for the sake of having one without a certain person and use it to talk behind their back. 

Kids can also feel left out even if they’re in the group chat. It’s one thing to not be invited to a certain event or just simply have to miss it for various reasons, but it’s another thing when your phone starts blowing up with pictures and messages about said event and you’re not there. FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. 

4. Hot spot for spreading inappropriate content

Speaking of impulse control, sometimes when kids come across something interesting on the internet, their first impulse is to share it with their friends. Kid group chats often function as a trading space for memes and funny videos, which can be totally innocent and harmless. But sadly, it’s not uncommon for kids to think it’s funny to send something inappropriate and get a reaction from the group. It’s easy to be exposed to things like porn links or disturbing videos from YouTube or TikTok while in a group chat.

Group chats are also a hot spot for swapping nudes. A study by Thorn reported that 1 in 6 kids (ages 9–12) admitted they had seen non-consensually reshared nudes of other young people. Sadly, in the age of sexting, this seems to be increasingly common among kids and teens. 

5. Group chats have become a normal part of growing up

While group chats can certainly be high risk, it’s important to remember that not all group chats will have these problems. In fact, they’re just a normal part of friendships for kids nowadays. Group chats can be used to plan in-person hangouts or share funny memes and say “this is you!” Or it can be just a space to talk about the things they didn’t get a chance to during school — like how we grew up calling our friends to chat after school in the 80s and 90s. 

The best thing to do as a parent is to consider if your child is ready for the responsibility of group chat. And, if they are, use it as a teaching opportunity for online safety as well as how to be a good friend in the digital world.

Group Chats Got You Down? Let Bark help! 

Giving your kid free rein on group chats can be scary, considering the potential dangers they come with. But Bark’s got what you need! Our content monitoring can keep an eye on your child’s texts without having to scroll through hundreds of messages yourself. 

Bark uses a highly trained AI to look for issues such as cyberbullying and inappropriate content, and this includes things in texts, images, and videos. We can also monitor many of the popular messaging apps like GroupMe and WhatsApp. You can take the Bark app for a spin with our free, 7-day trial

Also, consider the Bark Phone — our kid-friendly device that comes with Bark’s parental controls built in. With it, you get the added protection of contact approval, the ability to prevent text message deletion, and so much more. If you only want your kid texting certain people, texting at a certain time, or both, you have the power to create those settings with the Bark Phone — which can greatly increase your peace of mind when your kid is online. 

Video games are an undeniably entertaining pastime, not just for kids but for all ages! It’s no wonder why tons of family game nights now look something like a Mario Kart tournament or a Minecraft building session.

The trouble with all these games is that there can be some that are not meant for all ages. Or the appropriate ones are created to be addicting and kids find it difficult to manage their game time on their own. So the question becomes:  Are there any safe gaming consoles where kids can play with the necessary boundaries? 

We took a deep dive into that exact question and came up with the top 5 safest gaming consoles for kids! This review will focus mostly on the level of parental controls you can expect from each console. Let’s jump in! 

Nintendo Switch 

Taking the number one spot for best gaming console for kids is — hands down — the Nintendo Switch. The Switch has parental controls that no other console seems to match. And not only that, it has all the popular games kids actually want to play like Super Mario Bros, Animal Crossing, Minecraft, and more. All the while, parents can have peace of mind that their child’s gameplay will be uninterrupted by chats from strangers or inappropriate internet searches. Parents can also set play time limits, customize their child’s communication settings, and do all of this straight from their smartphone with the Nintendo Parental Controls app.

Xbox Series S

Geared towards the 13+ crowd, the Xbox Series S is a great option for kids as they get a little older and expand their gaming world. Xbox uses Microsoft Family Safety, an app that parents can add to their gaming console to apply a selection of helpful parental control features. You can put restrictions on content, messaging, and privacy. And for the cherry on top — you can password-protect your settings with a PIN code! This means kids won’t be able to go behind you and change any of the parental controls. 

Razer Kishi V2 

If your kid is an avid mobile gamer, this on-the-go console is the perfect way to step up their gaming experience. The console comes with pieces that you can fit on either side of your smartphone, effectively turning it into a game controller. To use the Razer Kishi, you have three options: play games downloaded on your smartphone, play games from the cloud (stream the game, as opposed to is being downloaded), or connect it to a PC or other game console and play games from there. 

The best part about the Razer Kishi is that it doesn’t have to have its own parental controls — as long as you already have parental controls set up on the device it connects to, you’re all set! Pro tip: Looking for the best option for a safer kid's phone? Check out the Bark Phone which has all of Bark’s powerful parental controls built right in.

PlayStation 4 

Another popular option is the PlayStation 4 that — when using the available parental controls — can make your teen's game time both fun and safer. It has many of the features we’ve already seen from other consoles such as restricting internet access, choosing age-appropriate content, restricting communication with other players, and creating a settings passcode. One thing the PS4 has that may excite some parents is that you set a monthly spending limit — so no more surprise discoveries of too many game purchases on the credit card bill! 

Nintendo Super NES Classic Edition 

Now hear us out — what can be safer than a retro gaming console with no internet and pre-loaded games? On the parental control side of things, there’s technically none with this console. But it’s hardly needed when there’s no secret games or internet for kids to access. It only comes with 21 games that are mostly family-friendly (parents may want to know that it comes with Street Fighter II and Earthbound, which are rated “T” for teens due to a higher level of violence). 

If you grew up playing Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, or Kirby Dream Course, we promise this console will give you fond nostalgic feelings, while giving your kids a unique gaming experience. 

Bark Home: Your Video Game Sidekick 

It’s great when gaming consoles and other technology come with their own parental controls, but it can be easy to lose track of how each device needs to be set up. Luckily, parents can use the Bark Home as their trusty screen time sidekick! The Bark Home allows you to manage all of the internet-connected devices in your home and set custom screen time rules for each one depending on what kid is using it, what time of day it is, and what it’s being used for. With the tap of a button on your phone, you can block the internet to the PS4 during homework time and only allow the shared family laptop to have internet. Then once homework’s done, simply switch rules! Order the Bark Home for your family today.

girl with a drawing tablet and illustrated emojis

One of the best things about technology is the art we can make with it! If your child is creatively inclined, it wouldn’t be surprising if they had an itch to explore the world of digital art. Digital art allows you to create anything you can think of without having to find the time, money, and storage for in-real-life art supplies. 

The two things your child will need for digital art are a drawing tablet and a quality design app. There are lots of options to choose from, so we rounded up the top three tablets and top three apps for teens ready to take their virtual drawing skills to the next level. And who knows? This could be the next step towards your child’s future career as an animator for Pixar or a graphic designer for a multi-million dollar company! 

Top 3 Drawing Tablets for Kids and Teens

iPad Pro 

If there’s one drawing tablet that seems to be the most highly recommended for the average digital artist, it’s the iPad Pro (specifically using Procreate, see below for more on that app). From its high-resolution display to its accuracy and responsiveness with Apple Pencil, your teen is sure to find their art groove with the iPad Pro. 

Wacom One 

Wacom is a well-known and highly reputable brand for its drawing tablets. The Wacom One is user-friendly and offers tons of different options to create any piece of art your child desires. It’s also one of Wacom’s more affordable options, which is great for beginners. Parents should know that it requires a home computer to connect to, but fortunately it’s compatible with Mac, PC, Chromebook, as well as certain Android smartphones and tablets. 

Huion Inspiroy 2 m 

Another top dog in the digital art space is Huion Inspiroy. This model is aptly named, as it will surely inspire great works from your teen! Unlike the iPad and Wacom One, this Huion tablet doesn’t have a display, it connects to your computer, phone, or tablet where the image will appear. It’s a little different to get used to, but rest assured artists can pick it up quickly. The Inspiroy’s look and feel is all your kid needs to feel like a professional.

Top Three Drawing Apps for Kids and Teens

Procreate 

As mentioned before, Procreate is a highly recommended drawing program, but it’s only available on iOS products. So keep in mind you’ll need an iPad as well as an Apple pencil for this app. For some artists, the iOS requirement is well worth the complete package of intuitive creative tools that Procreate comes with. With all the available options, it can be a learning curve to take advantage of everything it has to offer. But Procreate can certainly help your child’s art dreams come to life! 

Adobe Fresco 

Adobe Fresco is another loved drawing program that has the features any aspiring artist needs for their digital masterpieces. Both professionals and amateurs alike have utilized Adobe Fresco for their projects. Not to mention it’s compatible with both Apple and Windows drawing tablets. Whether your child is honing their skills in realistic portraits or Bob Ross-like landscapes, Adobe Fresco is a great sidekick to their art adventures! 

Sketchbook

Sketchbook is a perfect fit for true beginners. Its interface is simple and tools are easy to grasp no matter what ideas you bring to the platform. One cool feature it has is the drawing aids and stabilizers that help young artists get those smooth and steady lines. Sketchbook is compatible with Windows, Apple, and Android products. 

How Bark Can Help

Even if your child is using their tech time to enhance their art skills, it’s always good to have balance around screen time. And Bark can help you structure your teen’s screen time in a way that’s the most beneficial for them! With the Bark Home, you can create schedules for any internet-connected device in the home and have it shut off when it’s time for a screen break. So whether it’s your child’s iPad Pro or their Chromebook connected to their Wacom tablet, you can be sure your teen is following a healthy tech routine! Learn more about the Bark Home and order one today.

If there’s one question every parent has to answer, it’s this: Are you going to allow your child to use social media? This, of course, begets several other questions, like how do you introduce it to your kid? When’s the best time? What are the pros and cons of social media? Parent opinion varies widely on all of these questions. And if you didn’t grow up with it, it can be hard to know how exactly this decision will impact your child.

To put some of these questions into context, we’ve compiled a list of the most important pros and cons of social media for parents to consider. Of course, there are tons of positives and negatives, many based on your unique situation with your child. But these are some of the more broad, researched areas that can get you started as you make this decision for your family.

The Pros of Social Media  

Social connection

This seems to be the biggest draw for parents to get their kids social media at perhaps a younger age than originally intended — the social connection it provides between peers. The average childhood nowadays is more intertwined with screens than ever before. It may seem silly to us as adults, but for kids, sending memes back and forth on Instagram is just one way they show affection in a friendship. And it’s hard for parents to sit back if they feel their child is being left out of these social interactions that all their peers are having. 

It’s certainly a fine line between allowing social media for that crucial connection-building and allowing it simply because of peer pressure. But remember, your child’s social needs are just as important to take care of as their physical, mental, emotional, and academic needs. 

Access to information 

Something true of social media (and the internet at large) is the wealth of information it provides. Whether it’s new cooking recipes on Pinterest or fun science facts on TikTok, kids can learn so many cool things from social media. And who knows? Perhaps something they come across online will spark an interest that leads to a hobby, skill, or even full-on career one day! 

Creative expression

One of the most wonderful things about social media is how it allows people to express themselves. If you have a passion or a skill, now you can share it with a real audience. While singing a song in front of a live audience may not be the same as posting a video, it can still give you butterflies to think of people listening to a performance you worked hard on. For kids, it can be extremely formative to use social media as a means of putting their talents out there and building confidence.

The Cons of Social Media 

Exposure to harmful content 

Remember how we said social media gives access to a wealth of information? That’s actually more of a bittersweet aspect of social media. With all that information, there’s inevitably inappropriate content that is not safe for kids. But you can’t get the good without the bad for almost all popular social media platforms. And even as social media companies have tried implementing community guidelines and explicit content filters, it’s still all too easy for a child to stumble across this while scrolling. 

Just one example of this is the prevalence of porn in these social media apps. Many parents don’t know just how accessible porn can be today. You can even find it on less assuming apps like Pinterest. Other apps like TikTok say their algorithm doesn't allow for explicit sexual content, but users have quickly found loopholes that allow them to post content without getting flagged by the filter. It’s called “algo-speak," and people use certain words or emojis to evade the algorithm (i.e., people will type corn or 🌽 instead of porn). 

Online predation  

With kids freely interacting in the public online space, it creates a wide open door for bad actors and predators to access and cause harm to your child. Online predation can sometimes be overlooked because of something we call the “not my kid syndrome.” As parents, we do our best to teach our kids to be smart and responsible, so naturally, we believe our child wouldn’t even engage with a stranger online. But the fact is, all kids are capable of making mistakes or having a lapse of judgment — including talking with a stranger online.

Addiction

Experts have found that social media can impact our brains in the exact same way as any other addictive substance. When we swipe through content on our feeds, dopamine is released in our brains. Soon enough, our brains start to crave that dopamine release, which constantly sends us back to our scrolling without hardly a conscience thought. If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to stay off Facebook for too long, imagine how much harder the temptation is for the not-yet-developed brains of our kids. 

Increased mental health struggles

As more research comes out about the impact of social media on teens, we’re seeing more evidence that social media can contribute greatly to mental health struggles. Studies have found that adolescents who spend more than 3 hours per day on social media are twice as likely to experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression. And remember, social media can be highly addictive, so 3 hours a day is hardly out of the ordinary for many teens. 

Outside of general anxiety and depression, we also see a higher likelihood of things like suicidal ideation, self-harm, and disordered eating among kids who frequently use social media. 

Still Not Sure If You Should Allow Social Media? Let Bark Help! 

The good news is that, as we said, this is a question all parents are having to face. Which means you’re not alone! And at the end of the day, the most important thing is making an informed decision based on what’s best for your child. So if it differs from other parents, that’s okay! But no matter where you land, Bark can help support you in your parenting tech journey. 


With Bark, you can block all or just specific social media apps that you don’t want your child to be on. If you do allow social media, Bark can scan 30+ popular apps and send you alerts if it detects any type of harmful content. This includes things like sexual content, predation, anxiety, depression, and much more. Start your free, 7-day trial today!

incognito tab with warning sign next to it

Chances are you’ve heard of incognito or private browsing, and possibly even used it yourself. But you might not have thought about how it could impact your kid as they begin to use the internet on their own. 

Our goal at Bark is always to educate parents on all things Internet to ensure they’re prepared for potential online dangers for their kids. And incognito browsing certainly poses a threat, so let’s take a look at everything parents should know about this feature.  

First, What Is Incognito Mode?

Incognito mode (or private browsing) is a feature on web browsers that allows people to use websites without their activity being saved or tracked. It won’t save any log-ins or passwords you use while in this mode. 

After you close out the private tab or window, the search history is gone with it and can’t be reviewed — at least by consumers. (When you work in an office, the company may still retain this information.)

Naturally, incognito mode has been one of the longest-standing hacks that kids have used since it was first introduced by Apple in 2005. It’s an easy way to avoid the parental gaze when kids become curious about the less family-friendly side of the internet. 

This doesn’t mean, however, that there are no legitimate reasons for using incognito browsing. It can be a good thing when used by well-intentioned, responsible internet users. 

For instance, imagine you were planning a surprise birthday party for your kid who frequently uses your computer — you wouldn’t want the surprise to be spoiled the next time they pulled up Google for homework! So a private browser would ensure your planning didn’t pop up again after you’ve closed it out. Incognito mode can also help with avoiding targeted advertising, as long as you don’t log in to any sites while you browse. There are even some browsers out there that are exclusively private — like DuckDuckGo — that were created mostly to avoid those targeted ads.

But when it comes to kids' online safety, incognito browsing will likely cause a lot more grief than needed, though.

What Parents Need to Know  

All browsers have a private mode option 

Parents should know that no matter what browser their child has access to, they will have the option to browse privately. It goes by different names depending on the browser — incognito mode, private mode, private browsing, hidden browsing, guest mode. But it’s essentially the same feature. 

Private mode isn’t as private as you think

Some may think that when you use private browsing, you’re invisible online. But that’s not the case — it’s that you’re anonymous. Using private browsing on your laptop or phone means that anyone else who uses the device won’t see the activity — but the websites you went to will know you were there. This is also true of your internet provider, employer, or school. It's especially important for parents to know if their child uses any kind of school-issued technology. 

This is a good way to talk to your kids about the golden rule of the internet: Nothing you do online ever completely goes away. Whether this is a disappearing message on Snapchat or a search history on an incognito tab — it’s safe to assume it’s being recorded somewhere. 

YouTube has an incognito mode

Did you know that YouTube itself has an incognito mode? All you have to do is click or tap over to your account and you’ll see the “Turn on Incognito” right at the top. It works just like an incognito tab on any browser: any videos you watch in this mode will not saved after it’s turned off. Seeing as YouTube continues to be one of the most used social media sites among teens, this is especially important for parents to know. 

We do think it’s important to make parents aware of incognito mode within the YouTube App; however, there isn’t currently a way to permanently disable or block that platform setting as far as we know. Please do reach out to YouTube to request this desired feature! Bark can certainly help to limit/restrict YouTube to certain hours, or block YouTube all together, in case that helps.

You can disable the option for private browsing (and here’s how)

Every browser has a private mode, but they also have ways to disable it! Here’s how to disable incognito browsing for Safari, Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox. 

Safari 

Chrome 

Microsoft Edge 

REG ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Edge /v InPrivateModeAvailability /t REG_DWORD /d 1

Firefox 

Want to Monitor Incognito Browsing? Bark Can Help! 

The last thing you need to know is that Bark can help you monitor incognito browsing on Androids and computers. On Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and even YouTube, Bark can still scan for inappropriate content while your kid is browsing in private mode. And if your child tries to access inappropriate sexual content, you’ll be sent an alert so know what’s going on.

Bark’s monitoring covers texts, emails, and 30+ platforms and will alert parents if their child encounters anything concerning online. Our advanced machine learning technology is trained to look for context — not just keywords — to alert parents to instances of cyberbullying, sexual content, predation, suicide/self-harm content, violent content, and much more. We also have comprehensive parental control options to manage screen time and block inappropriate sites and apps on your child’s device. Try Bark for your family with a free, 7-day trial today! 

family reviewing bark alerts

If you’re a parent in the digital age, you’re probably aware of different parental control options that claim to protect your kid online. Whether they’re apps, routers, programs, or podcasts, they all claim to be what you need for your family. It goes without saying that at Bark, we’re confident in all that we offer to help parents raise protected and educated children online. But what exactly sets us apart from the rest? Here are just a few of the things parents have told us they love about Bark. 

Our Unique Approach to Monitoring  

At Bark, we have our hand in tons of different areas in the parental control space. But our pride and joy is the content monitoring technology we’ve spent years developing and perfecting. This is the part of Bark that you can’t find anywhere else because we hold it to the highest standard possible. 

We use AI-powered technology to scan a child’s device or social media account to look for concerning content. This can be things like cyberbullying, sexual content, predation, suicide/self-harm content, or any of the other 45+ categories the algorithm is trained to find. 

If something is detected, parents will be sent an alert straight to their phone. Monitoring like this is easy to underestimate until you’re a parent who’s received an alert crucial to your child’s safety. Sadly, it’s far too easy for kids to end up in tricky situations online, and tons of parents have learned that the extra set of eyes is an absolute game-changer. 

It’s important to note that other parental control apps may use the word monitoring, but they all mean something different. Parental controls like Google Family Link and Apple Screen Time can control when and how you’re child is using their technology, but they can’t give you any insight into what they’re actually interacting with. When most companies use “monitoring” they mean “keep an eye on” — like when you get a Screen Time report from Apple that says your kid spent 2 hours on Fortnite yesterday. 

We Offer Parental Controls to Cover All Bases 

But make no mistake, monitoring is certainly not the only thing we offer. Bark was built on the idea of providing a solution for all the obstacles parents may face while raising their kids in this tech era. So we aim to hear from real parents to know what they’re looking for and know exactly what to build. That’s how the Bark Phone was created — based on real feedback we had collected from parents over the years about what they were looking for in a kid’s smartphone. Even now, we’re constantly improving the Bark app and the Bark Phone to reflect the needs of parents in all areas, including monitoring, filtering, screen time management, GPS tracking, and more. 

We Value Healthy Parent-Child Relationships 

Behind everything we do at Bark is our heart to see healthy parent-child relationships. Ultimately, we believe that parental controls can only go so far in protecting your child and supporting them in all aspects of their life. The real impact comes from a trusting relationship between parents and their kids. This is why we only alert parents to potentially harmful content as opposed to showing parents all of their children’s messages and online interactions. The alerts create space for the parent to initiate important conversations with their children. 

We also make sure to provide parents with as many resources and tools as they need when those tough conversations come up. Parents who’ve received alerts from Bark know that when it’s something severe, such as predation or suicide/self-harm content, we make sure to send tips and resources from child experts about how best to approach the situation. 

We hear stories from parents daily about how Bark alerted them to a problematic situation in their child’s life and as a result, they were better able to understand and support their child in the process. This is why the Bark team works hard every day, to ensure that each family has the tools and knowledge they need to navigate anything the tech world throws their way. 

If Bark sounds like something you’d like to try for your family, we’d love to offer you a free, 7-day trial to get a taste of what Bark can do. You may also consider getting the Bark Phone, which is the whole package of all of our parental controls in a smartphone your child will love. If you’re interested in more resources and support in online safety, check out our resource center for more information.

Girl looking at the child location tracker app on the phone

There’s a new trend among Gen Z that is throwing parents for a loop — teens are using apps like Life360, Find My, and Snapchat (through the Snap Map feature) to share their locations with their friends. It’s now common practice for kids in a particular friend group to share their locations indefinitely so they can know where everyone is at all times. Location sharing is sometimes a battle between parent and kid, but just between Gen Z? That’s the new normal. But what are the dangers of sharing location?

This is something that we definitely didn’t grow up with this as part of our friendships. If your friend didn’t answer their home phone or your IM, that was the end of the story. But our kids can check their friend’s Snapchat, Instagram, BeReal, and see their exact location if they don’t get a response. 

If you’re feeling uneasy about this, you’re not alone. So we’re going to discuss everything parents need to know about the dangers of sharing location, as well as why kids may feel the need to partake. We hope this helps give you a firm understanding of the trend and some next steps to consider for your child's safety.

Why Share Your Location?

While this may seem strange at first, it’s no different than how social media works. We go on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat cause it’s fun to see what your friends are up to. And location apps let you see where your buddies are at any given time. It also makes planning hangouts more convenient — if you can see that your friend Jesse is at dance practice, you know she can’t go to the movies right now, so no need to text her and wait for a response. 

Location sharing among friends can also be used for the same reasons parents use it for their kids — for safety reasons. This is particularly true among college-aged kids. After a night out or when you’re on a date with someone new, it can bring peace of mind that your friend can see your location and know that you made it home safely. 

It’s also worth noting that kids may feel pressured to participate even if they don’t want to, simply because it’s a trend. It could be seen as offensive or even a betrayal if a friend decides not to share their location. So understandably, kids may choose to do so to avoid tension with their friends. 

What Are the Dangers of Sharing Location?

Privacy violations   

The obvious concern with this trend is privacy. Your location is one of the most dangerous pieces of information about yourself if it’s in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, convincing kids to share their location is a common grooming tactic we’ve seen before. That’s why kids should know to never share their location, the school they attend, or any other location-specific information with strangers online. 

But even sharing location with friends can be a privacy concern. Social media already blurs the lines of what personal information is appropriate for others to know, and this trend is another example of that. Especially with kids, they may not have the maturity to know which friends they can actually trust with that information. On the flip side, kids may not be mature enough to use that information responsibly. 

Drama inducer 

Location sharing can easily feed into or even create unnecessary drama between friends. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, location sharing can be very exclusionary and be a huge source of FOMO. Kids can see their friends all hanging out at places and they immediately know they weren’t invited.  

If it’s not FOMO, there are still tons of other drama situations that can come out of always knowing your friend’s location. There are a whole lot of assumptions to be made about seeing where someone is at a certain time. If you see your friend is in your crush’s neighborhood, that could be your worst fear – or it could be absolutely nothing. Suddenly, you’re worrying about something that, without having this piece of information, would’ve been a non-issue. 

How Do I Talk To My Kid About This?

These concerns may seem logical to you, but possibly not for teens. As a teen, your friends become more and more your priority, so it only makes sense that you want to share everything with them. But as parents, it’s our job to watch out for their blindspots and give them the tools they need to navigate them. 

The best thing is to start with questions. Why do they think they should share their location with their friends? Why do they feel they need to know their friend's locations? Do they actually want to or do they feel pressured? Try to ask these, not as an interrogation, but simply to help them explore the reasons behind their actions.

Then, you can explain your concerns and why you feel location sharing may not be in their best interest. There’s a high likelihood that they won’t see your side of things right away, so be prepared to have the conversation a few times before they see the potential issues themselves. 

Track Your Child’s Location Safely With Bark 

If you feel it’s important to track your child’s location but don’t want to give them an app they could use to do the same with friends, Bark can help! Bark’s child location tracker feature allows you to keep tabs on your child’s location using real-time GPS tracking, and kids can’t use it to track their friends. With Bark, you can also block apps such as Life360 and Snapchat to ensure they aren’t sharing elsewhere.

Bark also offers award-winning content monitoring to help parents stay in touch with their child’s online world, without having to search through hundreds of messages themselves. If your child is struggling with something like cyberbullying, predation, or mental health issues, we’ll send you an alert. Sign up today to start a free, 7-day trial! 

parent on a smartphone with illustarted parental control screens

Being a parent usually means you have to wear tons of different hats — parent, cook, therapist, Uber driver, tutor. But nowadays, you can add full-time IT specialists to the list. With all of the tech that kids get their hands on, parents now have the task of not only learning how these devices work but also how to use parental controls to keep their kids safe. 

One parental control that is a must-have in many households is web filtering, or the ability to block access to websites and apps. It seems simple enough, but how does it actually work? Knowing some of the basics can give parents some peace of mind about what exactly their kids can (or can’t) access and how Bark can be a vital tool when it comes to keeping them safe online. 

How Web Filtering Works  

If you think of the internet as a physical place, then each site you go to is like a specific location, like a house, building, etc. Each of these places has an address, just like in the real world. The address is the URL, like “www.facebook.com.” 

Web filtering will intercept the internet connection for the specific “address” or URL in order to block access to that location. It’s sort of like how you have to call the power company to turn on the electricity for your home when you first move in or have them turn it off when you move out. So web filtering services, like Bark, will either “turn on” or “turn off” the internet going to the specific URL. Sites you don’t block will stay open!

Web Filtering: The Two-Way Street 

Web filtering can get you a long way in terms of limiting what sites your child can visit, but unfortunately, no third-party web filtering service can filter content within the site. If we go back to the house analogy, you can filter which houses your child can and can’t go into, but you can’t filter which rooms they enter. And some websites have “rooms” that should definitely only be for adults. 

In an ideal world, web filtering would be a two-way street. Popular apps like TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat, would provide adequate web filtering within the platform to keep kids from accessing inappropriate content. Sadly, this is not always the case. If you choose to allow Instagram, it’s binary: all content or no content. That’s how kids can still view inappropriate things.

Another example is streaming apps. Tons of kids are on these apps, and yet almost all of the popular music platforms have porn content easily accessible. Some of these apps have an explicit content filter, but when our team tested these filters, we found them to be inconsistent or inaccurate. Parental control tools like Bark try their best, but these apps seem to not be too concerned with what’s out there, unfortunately.

What Bark Can Filter 

Bark offers robust and reliable web filtering that parents can rely on. Here are just a few things Bark’s web filtering can do:

Tons of families have depended on Bark’s filtering to keep their kids safe. When a kid tries to access something that Bark has blocked, they’ll likely see the app or site trying to load or say something like “This site can’t be reached.” This means our web filtering is doing its job. 

Families can also use the Bark Home to apply Bark’s web filtering controls to all of their home devices. This includes phones, tablets, computers, gaming consoles, smart TVs, smart assistants, and more! 

What Bark Offers That No One Else Does 

And when it comes to content within sites and apps, we got that covered, too. We offer powerful, machine-learning content monitoring that scans your child’s device for texts, emails, and 30+ platforms. If your child does encounter something inappropriate, like sexual content on a music app or extreme violence in a YouTube video, you can be sent an alert. This way, you can be there in those moments when your child needs you most. If you’re interested in seeing how Bark can help your family, you can get started with a free, 7-day trial today.

illustrated books and house plant on a shelf

No matter how inundated we are with social media, video games, and TV shows, nothing will replace curling up with a good book. Sadly, the percentage of kids who read for fun has decreased in recent years. But it’s certainly not for a lack of good books! We hand-picked a list of excellent books for teens that will really capture their attention. It’s a wide-ranging list, including fantasy, non-fiction, history, romance, and more.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys is a beloved historical fiction author whose writing explores the would-be-forgotten tales of people who lived through some of the most memorable events in history. In this novel, readers are transported to World World II. Specifically, the book takes place leading up to the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German ship evacuating civilians and wounded soldiers. There are four main characters, all unrelated to each other and yet share the same fate of being on this ship. The story explores their lives and the hardships they faced that led them to this tragedy. For any teen who’s a history buff, this should surely be their reading list.

Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam by Thien Pham

Memoirs are a fantastic way to get kids interested in history and the different cultures around them. And this memoir in particular has a special flavor to it. The author, Thien Pham, tells his story of fleeing Vietnam and ending up in California through his experience of food. From his descriptions of salty salmon to crispy American potato chips, the reader gets a feel for how his family processed this huge culture shock. 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Who would’ve thought that a coming-of-age story that takes place in the Civil War era would still be popular among teens today? That’s certainly what we see with Little Women. It’s a story that follows four sisters and the all-too-relatable struggles of entering adulthood. The book explores family bonds, romantic relationships, and societal expectations in a way that teens will find approachable and captivating.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer Stone by J.K. Rowling

There’s hardly a book list for teens that won’t feature this magical, seven-book series. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone follows Harry as he discovers a magical world that exists in plain sight. In fact, he learns that he is actually famous in this world he didn’t even know existed. This book and the rest in the series follow his death-defying adventures as a young wizard, as well as the experiences of a teenager navigating friendships, school bullies, and lots of homework. 

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner is a story about Amir who tells the story of his time growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, when the Taliban was gaining power. In his childhood, Amir had a very close friendship with a servant’s son named Hassan. As Afghanistan began to face trouble from the Taliban, Amir faced a decision that ultimately led to him betraying Hassan. The book follows Amir as he lives with the guilt of this decision until something happens that brings him the redemption and forgiveness he’s hoped for. It’s a deeply emotional story of personal reflection and the lasting impact our decisions can have. 

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

A good high-school summer romance novel will always be a go-to for teens! This story follows Belly and her life-long crush on a childhood friend, Conrad. They’ve spent every summer at the beach with their families for as long as she could remember, but for the first time, she wonders if Conrad may reciprocate her feelings. Readers will certainly get lost in this easy-to-read, relatable teen drama.

The Giver by Lois Lowry 

Dystopian novels are great ways to simultaneously escape into a good story while also considering philosophical themes that apply in real life. The Giver takes place in a society where all emotion and individuality are essentially outlawed — every step of one’s life and development is structured by the leaders of this society. That is until the main character Jonas discovers the beauty of diversity and emotions and realizes the “utopia” he grew up in is far darker than he ever thought. This is also a series with four total books for teens to dive into! 

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson 

This nonfiction book is highly relevant to face the harsh and present realities of the American justice system. Bryan Stevenson is a defense attorney who has seen countless disheartening examples of men, women, and children being mistreated in the system. The book is full of eye-opening statistics and anecdotes that paint a clear and sometimes hard-to-swallow picture. But the real draw of the book is how Stevenson urges readers to not just see the numbers, but consider the real people experiencing these injustices. This is definitely a must-read for any young person with a huge heart.

LED lights, backpack, water bottle, game, blanket, painting

If you ask your teen what they want for their birthday or the holiday season, chances are they’ll ask for something tech-related. A better laptop for school, different headphones for music, a new phone to keep up with friends — things like that. And while tech gifts are certainly awesome to give, there’s nothing wrong with going a little old school and giving them something analog. So we put together some popular non-tech suggestions that’ll make the best gifts for teens. Let’s take a look!

Top Gifts for Teens 

Burrito blanket 

$20 on Amazon

Who doesn’t want to feel like a tightly wrapped burrito when they curl up for movie night? The burrito blanket is certainly a simple and silly gift that’ll make a great addition to your kid's bedroom. Not a fan of burritos? No problem, you can also find ones that look like a pizza or a donut!

Stanley water bottle 

$45 on Nordstrom 

For whatever reason, there always seems to be a new water bottle brand that becomes a must-have among young people. This year, that brand is Stanley. It’s the 40 oz tumbler cup in particular that’s all over TikTok and Instagram. It comes with a reusable straw and a big handle for easy transportation between classes. It also comes in tons of different colors for your teen to choose from. 

LED lights for their room 

$12 on Amazon 

LED lights became popular on TikTok a couple of years back, and the popularity has not yet gone away. Luckily, most LED light strips are fairly easy to put up and not too expensive. They can turn your teen’s bedroom into a raving rock concert or give it a soft ambient glow. 

Paint-by-number kits

$19 on Amazon 

This is a great gift for any artsy teen out there. Paint-by-number kits come with a canvas with a printed picture, brushes, and paints. It tells you exactly where to paint and with what color, allowing your teen to create a masterpiece — without needing too much skill. It’s a great past time and the result is a beautiful work of art! And if you’ve noticed your teen has been a little anxious lately, paint-by-numbers is a recommended anxiety-reducing activity. 

Exploding Kittens card game 

$20 on Amazon 

You can never go wrong with adding to your family’s game collection, and Exploding Kittens is a must-have. This is a fast-paced game of chance that’ll get your teen and the whole family laughing. The goal is to not be the one who pulls an “exploding kitten” card. If you do, you’re out — unless you happen to have a “defuse” card. It’s a game with a comically ridiculous premise and makes for a hilarious experience!

Fjallraven Kanken backpack

$54 on Amazon 

If your kid wants a new backpack, look no further than this Sweden brand, Fjallraven Kanken! Their bags have a simple style yet have become quite trendy among teens. They’re also functional and spacious enough to allow your teen to carry their laptop and notebooks to and from school comfortably. 

Experience gifts 

If you don’t want to get your kid more stuff, you could get them an experience instead! This can be a lot of different things, but here’s a few suggestions to get the ideas flowing:

Gifts cards

Gift cards may not seem like a super exciting gift, but to a teen, gift cards mean freedom! If they don’t yet have a job or don’t have a great budget, gift cards let them pick out what they want without having to worry about the price as much. And it saves you stress from guessing what they want, all you have to do is figure out what places they shop from most! 

Books 

It’s never too late to inspire a love of reading if your teen doesn’t have one already. You can try finding some popular books for teens, or you can find something that matches your kid’s interest or ambition. If they love to cook, get them some fun cookbooks to test out. If they have a favorite sports team, try finding a book about the history of that team. 

Photo album 

Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that take you down memory lane, especially for teens getting ready to leave the nest. A photo album is a thoughtful gift that they’ll probably appreciate more than they let on. There are tons of platforms like Shutterfly or Mixbook that make creating a photo album with your digital photos easier than ever. It’ll be a fun project for you to comb through old photos and give them something cherished to keep with them as they become an adult.

kid with a VR headset on. green check and red X illustrations around him

VR (virtual reality) headsets are a relatively new mode of gaming, which can be equally intriguing and intimidating for parents. VR technology takes the 2-D world we’re used to on our phones and TVs and turns it into 3-D simulation. It’s certainly a unique way to game, but as with any new tech, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons.

Whether you’re considering a VR headset as a gift for your kids or you simply want more information about it, you’re in the right place! We did the research and put together the best (and worst) parts of VR gaming.

Pros 

Introduces an interactive and unique gaming experience

There’s no doubt that VR experiences are cool. The first time you try it it feels like you jumped 100 years in the future. And it’s only going to get better and more advanced from here. For particularly game-savvy families, this is definitely a train you’re going to want to hop on! 

Promotes physical activity 

This is probably the best part about VR headsets, they get kids up and moving! No more slouching on the couch with a game controller. VR allows kids to play games that make them dance and jump around the living room. Looking for things to do in the winter with a particularly active kid? Try a VR game! Need an intriguing way to get a particularly non-active kid’s blood pumping? Try a VR game! 

Improves hand-eye coordination

Video games in general are good for helping improve hand-eye coordination, but VR headsets take it to a whole new level! Knowing where your body is in space — even when you can’t see what’s really there — is a skill that can be improved upon with VR headsets.

Cons 

Creates a high risk for inappropriate content

Now for the worst part about VR headsets: almost all of them come with a web browser. This should be a red flag for parents that there’s a high risk of their kid encountering inappropriate content. Note: One of the first industries to take advantage of the new VR tech was the porn industry.

Opens the door to predatory behavior

Sadly, we’ve seen many reports of predators using their avatars to groom and then sexually “assault” kids’ avatars in VR chat rooms. At Bark, we’re no stranger to the threat that chat rooms pose to kids online. However, VR chat rooms are an exceptionally dangerous and disturbing risk for kids, as it's experienced far more vividly than other online abuse.

Impacts vision and causes potential motion sickness 

The research on this is very preliminary and it's hard to say for sure how VR experiences can impact one’s vision. However, it’s not a far leap to assume it may not help your child’s developing brain. Our brains are not used to perceiving things “far in the distance” when in reality it’s only inches from our face. Some families may consider keeping a shorter time limit on their kid’s VR use to help mitigate any potential harmful effects.

Additionally, there are many anecdotal reports of those who easily feel motion sickness from using a VR headset even for a short amount of time. These reports come mostly from adults rather than kids. However, it’s a good idea to remind your kid to take notice of how they’re feeling physically while playing. 

Pro tip: Most VR headsets have an “IPD adjustment” setting (IPD stands for interpupillary distance, which refers to the distance between your eyes). Adjusting the IPD on your headset to match your own IPD can help make the VR experience more visually accurate and therefore less likely to cause vision strain or motion sickness. 

Our Tips 

Monitor through TV or phone 

The best way to ensure your child is playing safely is to keep an eye on their activity yourself. The good news is that most headsets allow you to cast the VR game to your TV or phone so you can see what your child is seeing through their headset. 

Consider singleplayer games 

One way to avoid unwanted behavior from strangers through VR is to have your child play single-player games. This way, you can have peace of mind that your child is purely gaming — not interacting with any potential bad actors. 

Research parental controls  

It’s important to always research the parental controls for any new tech or platform before your child interacts with it. Use the parental controls at your disposal and be sure to pair these controls with frequent talks with your child about online safety.

Use the Bark Home

Our last tip for parents is to consider using web filtering at the router level to keep their kids safe on VR headsets. And Bark has just the thing! The Bark Home is a small device that plugs into your router and filters all web traffic for internet-connected devices in the home. This includes tablets, computers, gaming consoles, smart TVs, and of course VR headsets. The Bark Home allows you to set screen time limits and block inappropriate sites and apps, either individually or by entire category. Learn more about how the Bark Home can help protect your kids on their home devices. 

bark phone with "starter plan" sticker

At Bark, we’re hypervigilant about hearing what real parents need for their children’s digital safety. We’re constantly updating our app and the Bark Phone with new features that come directly from parent suggestions. So that’s why we’re thrilled to announce our brand new starter plan for the Bark Phone! 

The starter plan was designed for families looking for a simplified, limited-capability smartphone. For just $39/month, parents will get a phone with zero access to the internet or the ability to download apps. Perhaps this will be your child’s first phone, or you have a teen that needs some extra guardrails. In either case, this is the perfect phone for kids who need a well-structured digital environment without any potential workarounds. 

This is not to be confused with the other plans for the Bark Phone. With those, parents still have the ability to turn off (or turn on) access to the internet and app store from their parent app. The difference with the starter plan is that it comes already locked down without this access, right out of the box. Let’s dig into some specifics! 

The Perfect First Step for Kids

For many kids, their first step into the digital world doesn’t require much. Simply talk, text, and maybe a camera will suffice. So that’s exactly what the starter plan offers — no internet and no access to the app store. But it’s also packed with Bark’s tried and true parental controls that make it a parent favorite. Here’s a rundown of features you can expect from the starter plan:

Upgrade Whenever Your Family Is Ready

What if later down the line you need to add access to the internet or the app store to your child’s phone? Not to worry! You have the flexibility to upgrade and keep the same phone as your child grows and becomes ready for more responsibility. Our advanced plans, starting at just $39 per month, allow you to introduce games, internet access, and additional features when the time is right. In just a matter of minutes, you can have the exact type of phone your child needs, without having to order an entirely new phone. 

Our advanced plans give parents the option to require (or not require) things like app approvals and contact approvals. With the ability to download apps, parents will also have Bark’s monitoring for 30+ platforms, including Snapchat, TikTok, and Roblox. Additionally, parents can create screen time rules and schedules to help kids follow healthy boundaries when it comes to device usage. 

The Bark Ecosystem

By choosing the Bark Phone, you gain access to more of the Bark ecosystem. This starter plan, along with all other phone plans, includes a Bark Premium subscription. This means you can add Bark’s robust parental controls to all other devices and accounts in your home at no extra cost. Do you have a tablet in the home or perhaps an email account for a younger child? Bark’s got those covered!

No matter what your family’s online safety needs, Bark’s got you. The premium subscription covers content monitoring and screen time controls for all mobile devices in your family. Need screen time controls for things like computers, smart TVs, and gaming consoles? In that case, the Bark Home is your solution. Learn more about how Bark can partner with you to keep your kids safer in the digital age.