Age-appropriate sexual curiosity image with bird and bee

**This blog post was updated on August 27, 2021.**

Part of growing up is learning about and interacting with aspects of human sexuality. For parents, this can be stressful, confusing, and even scary — but rest assured it’s a normal part of being a kid. Children learn about the world through exploratory play, and that includes exploratory sexual play. Because of this, it’s important for parents to support their kids through every stage in their development, from preschool to high school. Knowing what to generally expect for age-appropriate sexual curiosity will help you gauge where your child is at. In this post, we’ll provide you with guideposts for what’s considered common behaviors for kids in each age range — as well as potential dangers like sexting and grooming.

Stages of Sexual Behavior in Children

Preschool (ages 0-5)

Common Behaviors

Uncommon Behaviors

Early school-age (5-9)

Common Behaviors

Uncommon Behaviors

Preadolescence (9-12)

Common Behaviors

Uncommon Behaviors

Adolescence (13-16)

Common Behaviors

Uncommon Behaviors

Important Conversations to Have About Potential Dangers

Online predators

Sexual abuse by online predators is a danger that no parent wants to imagine happening to their child. Because of this, it’s important to educate yourself and your family about what these threats look like. One of the most crucial things you can do is make sure your kid knows they can always come to you for help no matter what’s happened.

Sexting

1 in 4 kids today is sexting — it’s essentially become the new first base for Gen Z. Whether you’ve discovered that your kid is sending nudes or you just want to be ready in case it happens, preparation is everything. One of the best ways to get ahead of this issue is to talk about it and discuss the dangers children may not always think about. Our blog posts about sending nudes and potential legal problems can answer your questions and provide you with support.

Consent

It’s never too early to talk to your kids about the concept of bodily consent — the conversation can always grow more comprehensive as they get older. For example, younger kids can understand not wanting to be tickled or always having to hug Aunt Martha. Older kids, on the other hand, can grasp more serious concepts regarding sexual boundaries. Our consent blog post is filled with conversation starters and advice for navigating this important subject. 

Sexual assault

It may be difficult to tell if your child has experienced sexual abuse, but watching out for some potential warning signs can help. If your kid has started wetting the bed again, avoids getting undressed, starts having extreme nightmares, or has new knowledge about sexual topics that aren’t usual for their age, something may be wrong.

Promotion for Bark showing concerned mother looking at phone

How to Respond

If you see your child engaging in sexual behavior respond in a calm manner and ask open-ended questions. Not all sexual behaviors, even uncommon ones, are an indication of abuse. A healthy response by a parent can have positive long-term effects on guiding sexual development and eliminating problem behaviors. Ways to manage the interaction include:

It may feel uncomfortable talking about sex with your children, but a healthy parental response provides education and direction. As you set boundaries for your kids regarding their sexual behavior, the use of resources and information on the stages of sexual development are key in understanding how to react. Using an online safety service like Bark can help you start a conversation about healthy sexual behaviors. Positive, clear messages about boundaries, privacy, and consent are an important part of creating open communication on your child’s sexual development and experiences.

Resources for Learning More About Age-Appropriate Sexual Curiosity

I’m Brandon Hilkert, dad of two and Chief Technology Officer here at Bark. I’ve noticed some misconceptions and rumors online about how Bark Home slows down internet speeds, and I wanted to address them directly.

I use Bark Home to help protect my own kids (6 and 8) and haven’t experienced a noticeable impact on my family’s internet speeds. Like most families, our TVs all stream Netflix and Hulu, and my wife and I are on Zoom calls for much of the day.

Bark Home will affect one small portion of your internet’s speed — namely, upload capability. I’ll get into more detail about what this means below, but generally speaking, most people have a good experience, even with upload speeds under 20 Mbps (upload speeds usually range from 1–15 Mbps).

However, homes that have custom networking setups for very specific uses may be more affected.

Check out the Bark Home

How Bark Home Works

Bark Home works by telling all the devices connected to your Wi-Fi network that it’s actually your router. This is important because, in order to make decisions about what can be accessed online, the Bark Home needs to be able to handle all of your traffic. It basically says to the devices (phones, TVs, Xboxes): “Hey, I’m the router, check in with me before you allow or block anything.”

When you try to access a website or app like Facebook or Instagram, a “request” is sent to facebook.com or instagram.com to access their content. This flows through the Bark Home for a check-in based on the settings you’ve applied in your Bark dashboard.

While it’s asking Bark if it’s allowed, it’s also asking your internet service provider’s DNS for the address of facebook.com. These requests are lightning fast. Often single- or double-digit milliseconds — that’s imperceivable to humans!

If your Bark Home settings allow the request, the request to download content from the website goes out as usual, and at that point, the website’s server will respond straight back to you.

This is important — it means that Bark Home will NEVER affect your download speeds. This allows users to perform the tasks they want on the internet without any negative effects. The majority of a typical consumer’s activity consists of downloads, so upload speed reductions will have no effect on the majority of your online activity.

Understanding Internet Speeds 

When you purchase internet service from an internet service provider (ISP), it’s common to choose a plan based on speeds. Most packages include a speed for downloads that is larger than uploads. For example, I pay for 40 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload. When I run a speed test, these speeds are generally confirmed:

But most folks don’t use all of their bandwidth

However, this isn’t always the case. There have been plenty of times I’ve run a bandwidth test on my home network and only gotten half of what was expected. While that’s disappointing, it’s rare for it to limit my ability to perform common internet tasks — and I’ve worked remotely for Bark for 5 years in an exclusively technical capacity. Plus, if devices in your home are using up some of the total bandwidth available, the speed test will reflect that and return lower numbers than expected.

The average family isn’t uploading much data

The good news is that most consumers don’t need to upload much data at all. The most common uses for uploads would be something like participating in a video chat (you’re uploading your video stream). Even then, a typical Zoom video chat might use up to 3 Mbps. So while my internet is limited to 10 Mbps (as shown in the benchmarks above), a single video stream would consume only 5% of that (based on my ISP speeds — most are significantly faster).

Starting points matter for measuring speed

The speeds I get from my ISP are a little slower compared to the rest of the industry. As a result, my speeds aren’t affected by including Bark Home in my home network. The decrease in upload speeds will be proportional to the total throughput from the ISP. The larger the upload speeds, the more significant of a decrease you’ll see. It’s not unreasonable for 500 Mbps from the ISP to reduce down to 250-300 Mbps with Bark Home connected. While this seems like a lot in proportion, the reality is that it shouldn’t affect everyday use of the internet with any perceptible difference — 250 Mbps is still incredibly fast (and several times faster than my own home internet speed on the best of days).

If these speeds aren’t sufficient for your family, it’s likely Bark Home isn’t a good fit for you — you’ll probably need something high-tech and much more expensive to manage your devices. Which is cool! For Bark Home, we focused on designing a piece of hardware that helps keep our customer’s kids safe at an affordable price.

Finding the right balance for your family

Even if Bark Home would limit my uploads, the question remains: How important is that? Are slightly faster uploads (again, likely not important to 99.9% of consumers) worth more to you than allowing your children unfettered access to the internet? For me, the answer is no. Bark Home provides the perfect balance of minimal interruption, increased safety for my kids, and an affordable price.

Many factors affect internet speed, and they’re constantly changing

The perception of speed comes in all forms. We can diagnose many of these reasons and in almost all cases, they have nothing to do with Bark. There’s a lot that goes into fast internet at home (Wi-Fi, your router, your ISP, the public internet routers, and even the weather). Wi-Fi plays a big role in the perception of speed. If you’re near the edges of your network’s signal, for example, you’re likely to experience slower speeds.

We’re Here to Help

If Bark Home is significantly slowing down your internet, something likely went wrong somewhere else in your system. Our support team would be happy to dig into the details and help you get the smooth-operating internet you deserve. Just send an email to help@bark.us to set up a time to talk.

If you’re a parent or guardian, you’ve probably worried about your child getting kidnapped by a predator at a playground or in a mall. But predators can also approach your child without ever being in the same room with them. All they have to do is send a simple message on the internet. 

A study conducted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) found that 46% of 10- to 17-year-olds admitted to giving out their personal information to someone they did not know – a sobering statistic that indicates many children could be communicating with adults who may want to abuse them. Knowing the signs of online grooming can help you protect the children in your care and give them appropriate support should they experience something so horrific themselves.

Recognizing the Signs of Online Grooming

Online grooming occurs when a predator initiates and cultivates a relationship with a child through the internet, culminating in sexual abuse that can include:

The process of grooming is a purposefully slow one, as predators methodically take steps to build relationships with children and gain their trust. Predators are masters at manipulation and can appear kind and helpful to hide their ulterior motives, taking advantage of a child’s naivete.

The steps below outline the general pattern of behavior consistent with online grooming. However, every situation is unique, so variations are always possible. Do your best to always be aware of any adult who begins to take an interest in your child, and be sure to check in with your child regularly so they know they can come to you if they ever experience something negative online.

Targeting

Predators often set their sights on vulnerable children, such as those who are emotionally fragile or have less parental oversight. Their first interactions with the child are generally pleasant and include light conversation to lower defenses and make their target feel important. Many predators initiate conversations on public chat apps or in the chat section of games for kids, pretending to be younger than they really are.

Engaging

Many times, the predator will try to fill some sort of need the child has, such as a desire for attention. The adult might also try to connect with their victim by paying them compliments, listening to them, or buying gifts. Be aware of any presents your child may receive from other adults, especially electronic devices, as these may be given for the purpose of becoming a way for the predator to communicate directly with your child.

Boundary Testing

At this point, the predator will attempt to deepen the relationship and gauge the level of threat he’s facing from the parents. He might ask questions to see how closely the child’s devices are monitored and try to figure out whether the child would be believed if they tell their parents about the relationship. During this time, kids may become more secretive about their online activity, so pay attention if their attitude changes when discussing what they do while they’re on their devices.

Isolating

Here, the predator might try to separate the child from their family by establishing himself as the most important person to them. He will try to gain the trust of the child completely, convincing them that they share a special bond. A predator will also look for opportunities to create emotional distance between the child and their family, often using sly tactics to create situations to reinforce the idea of a “special relationship.” Trust your instincts when something isn’t right when it comes to how your child is acting.

Sexualizing

This stage culminates in sexual activity. While some perpetrators might attempt to meet their victims in person, others carry out their sexual abuse entirely online. Predators will begin to discuss sex explicitly, mentioning sexual activities with the child to desensitize them. Some predators have been known to show children pictures of other minors without their clothing in order to make it appear more normal. This influx of sexual information will make the child know far more about sexual activity than is age-appropriate. At this point, the predator may also begin to request sexual videos of their victim and/or send their own.

Controlling

When a predator starts to abuse a child, they will go to great lengths to maintain control and ensure the child is emotionally dependent on them. In most cases, the offender uses secrecy, blame, and even threats of retribution to keep children from saying anything. Let your kids know they can come to you when anyone asks them to do something they are not comfortable with, even if that person is an adult.

What You Can Do

Children of any gender, family situation, and socioeconomic status can be targeted as victims of grooming – no one is immune. To help protect your child from online predators, there are a number of steps you can take, including:

Grooming signs can be difficult to spot because sexual predators are adept at coercing their victims into keeping quiet. Predators can even befriend parents and caregivers, which makes it even harder to recognize when something is going on. Maintaining an open line of communication with your child and paying extra attention to the amount of time they spend with other adults, as well as monitoring and managing their online activity, can help protect your child from predators.

Above all, make sure your child knows they are not at fault for anything inappropriate an adult says or does to them. You’re there to help and protect them — not punish them for a predator’s actions. When parents know the signs to look for, they’re in a better position to help keep their kids safe both online and in real life.

man typing on keyboard

Grooming is the process by which someone befriends and gains the trust of a child (and sometimes the child’s friends and family) in order to take advantage of the child for sexual purposes. 

To accomplish this, predators are masters at manipulation, often appearing kind and helpful. However, there are grooming signs you should be aware of, including the six stages of grooming. These red flags could mean a child is experiencing grooming by an online sexual predator.

*Trigger alert*

Friendship Forming Stage: Targeting and Gaining Trust

The friendship forming stage is composed of conversations in which the predator tries to get introduced to the child. Predators target vulnerable children – those who are needy, unhappy, unable to talk about abuse, or have less parental oversight. Next, the predator will gather information about the child and the child’s family to gain the child’s trust over time.  It’s extremely important to be aware of new people in your life and the amount of time they spend with your child and your family. Make sure your child knows that they can talk to you about anything and that you’re there to listen.

Example: Predator exchanges information with the child or parent to get personal contact information, such as email addresses or usernames for social media sites. Additionally, the predator inquires about the relationships in the household.

Relationship Forming Stage: Filling the Child’s (or Family’s) Needs

After gaining access to the child, the predator starts forming a relationship by talking to them about family and school life. Next, the predator fills some sort of need that the child or the family has to ingrain himself into their lives. This may be monetary in nature; for example, a single mother struggling to pay the bills may receive cash or offers to take care of bills.

Predators may also fill a child’s desire for attention by buying them gifts, taking them places, etc. Be aware of any gifts your child may receive from other adults, especially electronic devices. Be extra cautious if someone you haven’t known long offers to help in an overly generous manner.

Example: The predator tries to know more about the interest and hobbies of the child so that they can exploit them. They deceive the child into believing they are in a relationship. At this stage the predator gives soft compliments, calling them “sweetie,” “cutie,” etc.

Risk Assessment Stage: Gauging the Level of Threat

The predator at this stage tries to gauge the level of threat and danger the caregivers pose. They ask questions to see how closely the child is monitored online and in real life. They try to gauge how close the child is to the family and whether their actions will be reported and believed.

In an interview with two child sex offenders, WBIR 10NEWs reported that one of the top deterrents for predators were adults who monitor the electronic communications of the child. Close relationships, close monitoring, and a child who has been warned about predators are huge threats to a predator.

Use Bark to monitor your child’s online interactions for possible grooming. Bark sends alerts on these potential issues so you can address them with your kids.

Example: Predators will ask questions like, “Are your parents around?” and “Who else uses the computer?” or  “Can you delete your chats?” and “Do your parents monitor your online accounts?”

Exclusivity Stage: Isolating the Child from Others

At this stage, the predator tries to gain the trust of the child completely. The predator asserts that they share a special bond. Often the concept of love and care are introduced.

A predator will look for opportunities to spend time alone with the child. They will often use sly tactics to create these situations and use this time to further reinforce the idea of a special relationship. Trips to amusement parks, offers to tutor your child for free, and other similar situations may signify that your child is being groomed. Trust your instincts should you feel something is amiss.

Examples: Feelings of love and exclusiveness are expressed by the predator. Strong compliments are given. They will say things like, “You are a sweetheart,” or “You are so cute when you look like that,” or “I feel a deep connection with you I don’t feel with anyone else.”

Sexual Stage: Desensitizing the Child

During the sexual stage, predators ask questions about the child’s sexuality. They will ask things like, “Are you a virgin?” or will talk about masturbation. Some pedophiles talk in great depth about sexual activities with the child to desensitize them to the language and content. They do this to prepare the child for actual physical interaction.

Predators have been known to show children pictures of other children without their clothing in order to make it appear “normal” and “natural.” Some even take the child swimming naked together in an effort to play to the child’s natural curiosity. The predator may introduce porn videos. For this reason, it is important to maintain an open line of communication with your children and act on anything that doesn’t seem typical age-appropriate sexual curiosity.

Examples: The predator gives sexual-oriented compliments, exchanges sexualized pictures, and gives body and figure descriptions. They will say things like, “you are sexy,” ask the child to be their boyfriend or girlfriend, or ask for nudes and sexual text messages.

Conclusion Stage: Controlling the Child and Situation

The conclusion stage occurs when the pedophile begins the physical abuse. Once it begins, they will go to great lengths to maintain control. In most cases, the offender uses secrecy, blame, and even threats to keep the child from saying anything.

The predator’s goal is to maintain the child’s participation, all while hiding it from everyone else. If your child appears withdrawn and sullen, or if they appear fearful and depressed when it’s time to see a particular person, this may be a sign that they’ve been conditioned to remain silent about activities with this person. Let your children know they can come to you when anyone asks them to do something they are not comfortable with — even if that person is an adult. 

Examples: A predator will ask questions in this stage like, “Are you able to meet up with me alone or do your parents always have to know everything?” or “Can you sneak out of your house and meet up at a McDonald’s for a treat” or “When we meet I can’t wait to hug you and kiss you” or “Can you walk to our meeting place or is there a place away from your house I can pick you up in my car?” Questions like this ensure the child comes alone and the predator controls how they meet.

Grooming Signs of an Online Sexual Predator

There are a number of signs to be aware of that may suggest online grooming is taking place. Although some may seem like typical teen behavior, it’s still important to watch out for:

An informative study by the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology found that a predator does not necessarily move sequentially through the stages. They also discovered that the relationship forming stage is the most dominant online grooming stage. In other words, more than one stage can be in process at once, and predators do not necessarily go in any particular order.

The truth is, grooming signs can be difficult to spot. This is because sexual predators tend to also befriend parents and caregivers. Maintaining an open line of communication with your child and paying extra attention to the amount of time they spend with other adults, as well as monitoring their online activity with Bark, can help protect your child from online sexual predators.

**This post was updated on Nov. 21, 2018. This article concentrates on in-person grooming, but learn about signs of online grooming here. **

At Bark we’re serious about helping parents protect kids online. One way to do this is to set up parental control for iPhones or iOS devices your kids use. Then you know what they can and cannot access on their devices. Below is a non-exhaustive, but fairly comprehensive, overview of what you can do to your child’s iOS device to set them up for a positive and responsible experience. We provide tips on the varying levels of restrictions so you can make the best decision based on your individual kids.

But that’s just the beginning, after getting phone restrictions in place check out Bark. Bark monitors your child’s email, social media, and text messages for cyberbullying, sexting, grooming, and even signs of depression or suicidal ideation. Then we alert you if there is a potential issue. No more combing through every message ever! Saving you time and providing a safety net for your kids too. #WinWin

Setting up parental controls on your kid’s iPhone or iPad is like setting up a security detail for the President. Different areas are put under different types of restrictions – some are on lockdown and some are set up for restricted access to trusted advisors only. You decide which ones are best for your kid. 

The Eagle Has Landed: A Passcode For Each Device

You’ve given your kid a new iPhone or iPad, but you haven’t given it to the stranger who finds it when they’ve lost it. Put a passcode on their iPhone that you and your child know, but others won’t. Go to Settings > Passcode (or Touch ID & Passcode) > Tap Turn Passcode On > Enter a 4 digit code > Re-enter code to confirm.

 

Set up a unique identifier for each phone, do not use birthdays or simple number sequences, and avoid common passcodes and common swiping patterns. Do not use the same passcode as the one to their iCloud account.

The Eagle Has Flown The Nest And Is Now Lost: Set Up Find My iPhone

Ugh. Now the phone is lost. What are you going to do? Well, you’re going to be super proud of yourself for planning ahead and setting up key safety features, like Find My iPhone.

Go to Settings > iCloud > Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes & App Store (under your name) >iCloud and enable Find My iPhone. Download the Find My iPhone app by Apple on each device after enabling the Find My iPhone in iCloud Settings. The app will let you use any iOS device to find the lost phone, remotely lock it, or even erase all the data on it.

 

Tracking Device Activated: Find My Friends

Want to know if your kids are really at the mall like they said they were? There’s an app for that. Make sure Find My Friends app is downloaded on every iPhone. Open Find My Friends on your iOS device> Add > enter your kid’s email addresses, and tap Done. On your kid’s devices you will need to accept the request to share their location. Go to Settings > iCloud > Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes & App Store (under your name) > iCloud and enable Find My iPhone. Scroll down to Share My Location at the bottom of the screen and toggle on (green). Now you can see where they are on a map in the app or on iCloud.com.

 

Another great tool to know about (and use!) is the check-ins feature from Bark. With check-ins, parents can rely on a single-click location confirmation from their children to show that they’ve safely arrived at their destination.

Walkies Are A Go: Set Up Apple Family Sharing (It’s FREE!)

Give your child their own Apple ID and set them up under the Apple Family Sharing Plan. This is like giving each of your kids a code name and only sharing information across secure channels. The Apple Family Sharing plan allows you to control what apps and content your children can purchase and download. You can also share purchased content with each other and not buy duplicates. #WinWin! Check out Apple Family Sharing Plan for more information.  

 

Decide who the main account holder (aka Organizer) is going to be, then on their device go to Settings > iCloud > Set Up Family Sharing and follow the instructions. You can add another permissions approver later.

When you create accounts for your children, turn on the “Ask for Permission” for purchases. So, they have to, you know, ask for permission. Be sure to check out each app yourself, look at reviews, and double check ratings and potential risks on Common Sense Media.

Enter your children’s birthdays and Apple will tailor the services automatically for those under 13 for appropriate content. Since it will give them standard access for 13 and up, see below for more parental controls.

Do not give your child the password for their iCloud or Apple Store accounts, you will need to authenticate their iCloud account and approve their app purchases for them. Pro Tip: Do not use common household passwords either (e.g. the one for your Netflix account).

On each iOS device, sign into their iCloud account: Go to Settings > iCloud Settings > and tap Invitations to join their account to the Family Sharing Plan. All systems are a go.

Ground Control To Major Tom: Cellular Data Usage Controls

To Data or not to Data that is the question. The answer? You make the decisions. You can control and limit cellular data usage on your kid’s iPhone. Decide how much data your kid is allowed to have, which apps you want them to only use on the WiFi, and put your plan in place.

Go to Settings > Cellular and toggle off any app you do not want your kid using cellular data for. Toggle until it turns gray, not green. Now those apps will only work when on the WiFi (unless you barricade access to them completely).

 

Go to Settings > Notifications and then tap the systems you don’t want push notifications. Most of these notifications are not necessary and turning them off will also save you data.

 

Go to Settings > iTunes & App Store > Use Cellular Data and toggle off (until it is gray). This will stop automatic downloads while on cellular data and only allow downloads on the Wi-Fi. (Downloads that you approve of course!)

 

For younger kids, you may want to turn off cellular data completely so that they cannot access anything on their iPhones unless they are on the Wi-Fi. Go to Settings > Cellular (Data) and toggle off so that it is gray. Now your kid can’t use a personal hotspot or send text messages, but they can get onto the internet and check their email over the Wi-Fi unless you have other restrictions in place for those.

 

Setting Up Barricades: Get Your Settings In Order

Put some general order in place with a couple of barricades along the streets. While Restrictions will override general service configurations, it is good to go through those configurations before setting up your Restrictions. Besides the recommendations above there are a few more you may want to reconfigure as well. Go to Settings and then check out each of these major areas below.  

Bluetooth 

Think about disabling this as most kids don’t need it. The only thing it might prevent them from using are wireless headphones (and who wants to pay for those?), but it is also a big barrier to sharing inappropriate material from device to device.

Privacy

Choose which features you want to disallow access. Tap each line under the Privacy section to set up privacy modes for which apps can have access to that content. For example what apps do you want to have access to your child’s Contacts? Click on Contacts and make those choices. You can also click on Advertising to Limit Ad Tracking to set limits on how much data advertisers can get about your kid from Apple.

 

Email

Set up the email accounts that you want your child to have access to and get rid of the rest. You may want to set up a kid-safe email account for younger kids or only allow use of one of the email accounts that Bark is able to monitor.

Hearing Protection

Under the Music section in Settings, you can set a limit on how loud the device can get and then in Restrictions (below) disallow changes. This helps you limit potential hearing loss!

 

Game Center

There are a couple of settings in this section you will want to look at, disallowing Allow Invites, Nearby Players, and Friend Recommendations helps protect your kids from risky gaming interactions.

Top Level Security Clearance And Restricting Access

Now we’re into the minutiae, but thankfully it’s all in one place, so it shouldn’t take long, and it is worth it! This is like setting up the security detail, telling the agents who is going to do what, and restricting who is going to be in the inner circle.

First you have to enable Restrictions on each phone. To enable restrictions go to your Settings > General > Restrictions. Tap Enable Restrictions and enter a passcode. Keep this passcode secure from your kids! Do not use the same one that your kids will be using to get into the phone and, like we discussed above, do not use birthdays or simple number sequences, and avoid common passcodes and common swiping patterns.

 

Now you can go down the list and click on any apps you don’t want your kids to access. For younger kids you may want to disallow access to Safari, Siri, and FaceTime so they cannot use those without you around. If you have already set up “Ask for Permission” (see above) you can allow iTunes, iBooks, Podcasts, Installing Apps, and In-App Purchase because they won’t be able to use these without your permission. Or if you want to disallow some or all of them click the toggle until they are grayed.

Be sure to toggle the Deleting Apps to gray so that you can control what apps stay on the phone. For example now that you‘ve taken the time and effort to download and setup Find My iPhone, Find My Friends and Bark, you don’t want them accidentally (or deliberately) deleting those apps!

 

Privacy Restrictions

Go to Settings > General > Restrictions. Go through the list and click Don’t Allow Changes for Location Services, Contacts, Share My Location, Bluetooth Sharing, AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook, and Advertising. Now the general barricades you’ve put in place won’t be able to be changed without your passcode.

Account Changes Restriction

Go to Settings > General > Restrictions. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and tap Accounts > Don’t Allow Changes. Do this for Volume Limit, Cellular Data Restrictions, and Background App Refresh as well.

 

Age-Based Restrictions

For older children you may choose to make age-based restrictions instead of blanket restrictions. However, be aware that age-based restrictions are based on how something is rated if it is rated – and not everything gets rated.

Go to Settings > General > Restrictions > Allowed Content and tap on Ratings For. Choose your Country or Region. Go back to the previous screen Allowed Content to make the rest of your choices. Tap each of the content types and choose which age you prefer for that particular iOS device. This is the highest rating that you are allowing, anything over that age will turn red.

 

Toggle Off AirDrop (on iPhone 6 and later)

Toggle off AirDrop so that your kid cannot receive inappropriate content from others via AirDrop. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions > AirDrop and toggle off until grayed.

Explicit Language On Siri Restrictions

If you have decided to let your child use Siri and haven’t blocked her altogether you can still block her from using or displaying explicit language. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions > Siri > Explicit Language and toggle until it turns gray.

Explicit Sexual Content In iBooks Restrictions

You can choose to manually approve all iBook downloads or, if that feels like too much work or you want to give your teenager more responsibility and allow them to download iBooks, you can still restrict sexually explicit content downloads. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions > iBooks > Sexually Explicit Content and toggle off until it is grayed.

Blacklist Websites In Restrictions

It is natural for kids to explore the internet and adult content, but their frontal cortex is not developed and often they take risks without understanding the real consequences of accessing certain sites. However, good news! You can block them. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions > Websites > Allowed Content and tap Limit Adult Content. Add each risky website URL under Never Allow and tap Done. Mobile websites may need to be blocked separately as they often have different URLs.

Sites to Think About Blacklisting

Dating Sites: Tinder, MeetMe, Match.com, etc. Yes, teens are using these sites too.

Porn Sites: Pornhub, Kink, Youjizz.com, etc. Porn sites are often riddled with malware, bad information, and anyone under the age of 18 in the US is not supposed to be on those sites.

Gambling Sites: Bovada, SportsBetting, BetOnline, etc. The average starting age of people who have a gambling problem is 10. Read more about kids and the dangers of gambling here.

Anonymous Chatrooms: Omegle, Chatroulette, Kik, Whisper, Yik Yak, Sarahah, tbhtime, etc. Apps with the ability to have anonymous chats or content are a huge potential for risky contact and content (including exposure to genitals). Block.

Block Everything And Whitelist Clean Content

For younger kids you may want to block all websites and only allow access to certain sites you know are appropriate. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions > Websites > Allowed Content > and tap All Websites until it toggles to gray. Now add the website URLs you are allowing and tap Done.

It’s Play Time With War Games: Game Center Restrictions

Let’s face it mobile games can be a lot of fun! However, games can also provide a few risks. You can set up some restrictions to minimize these risks, however, some games offer internal features that cannot be disabled on the iPhone. It is important when giving permission to games that you go into those games and disable any unsafe features.

Go to Settings > General > Restrictions and scroll until you see Game Center at the bottom of the screen. Toggle Multiplayer Games, Adding Friends, and Screen Recording so that they are grayed and disallowed. You can always enable them and allow friends that you know in real life to connect with your children on their games and then disable afterward.

 

Finally…

We know, that is a lot of information to take in. But if you go through each section with your kid’s phone in front of you, the amount of time you spend setting them up to have a safer experience with their device, the less time you’ll spend in the future worrying… about device safety anyway. Plus, since you’re already in safety mode, set up an account with Bark and we’ll monitor their emails, social media messages, and text messages alerting you to potential issues there as well.

 

At Bark we’re serious about helping parents protect kids online. One of the ways to do this is to set up parental controls for Android devices your kids use. This way you know what they can and cannot access on their device. Below is a non-exhaustive, but fairly comprehensive, overview of what you can do to your child’s Android device to set them up for a positive and responsible experience. We provide tips (and screenshots!) on the varying levels of restrictions so you can make the best decision based on the maturity level of your individual kids. 

But that’s just the beginning, after getting phone restrictions in place check out Bark. Bark monitors your child’s email, social media, and text messages for cyberbullying, sexting, and grooming. Then we alert you if there is a potential issue. No more combing through every message ever! Saving you time and providing a safety net for your kids too. #WinWin!

Setting up controls on your kid’s Android device can feel like the wild wild west of parental controls. But we’re here to help. Below are instructions for a Samsung Galaxy S7 Android device, other Android devices may have slightly different click-through options.

For Kids Under 13 (Or Phone Sharing Parental Controls)

Put In Place A Passcode

You’ve given your kids a new Android device, but you haven’t given it to the stranger who finds it when they’ve lost it. Put a passcode on their device that you know and they know, but others won’t. Go to Settings > Lock Screen And Security > Screen Lock Type > Set Up A Passcode.

Set up a unique identifier for each device, but do not use birthdays or simple number sequences, and avoid common passcodes and common swiping patterns.

Parental Controls for Android

Go through each of the buttons on the Lock Screen And Security settings to further protect the device. For example, if you click on Secure Lock Settings you can have the phone lock immediately after it turns off, lock instantly with the power key, and set up an auto factory reset if the passcode is incorrectly entered 15 times.

LG Unlock Setting Info

HTC Unlock Setting Info

Pinning Apps Or Screens

For really young kids who use your Android phone to only access certain apps, you can lock that app to the screen. This also blocks to other apps, phone calls, and texting. But first, you have to enable this feature.

Go to Settings > Lock Screen And Security > Other Security Settings > Tap Pin Windows. Toggle the feature on, set up a pattern for unpinning, and select the best options for your situation.

Parental Controls for Android

To use open up an app and click the Recents button (the square on the bottom of the Android device that is not the home button). Then tap the Pin icon at the bottom right hand side of the pic of the app you want to pin and click Start. To Unpin, press and hold the Back and Recents buttons and draw your unlock pattern.

Parental Controls for Android

LG Pin App Info

HTC Pin Screen Info

Restricted Profiles

For young kids, consider getting them an Android tablet instead of a phone. They won’t be able to text or call anyone, but you can set up parental controls on a tablet by creating a restricted user account for them.  

Go to Settings > Users (some devices may require tapping on the General tab first) > Add User. Press OK to confirm you want to set up the new user account. Follow the prompts after tapping on Set Up Now. This is where you can choose which apps can be accessed by the restricted account. Some apps are automatically blocked, others require toggling to turn them off.

Some restricted profiles will have a Settings or gear icon which allows even more fine tuning of the restricted profile.

Since you can accesses both user profiles on the tablet by tapping on the user icon in the top right hand corner, make sure that your adult user profile has passcode protection your child doen’t know.

Linked Google Accounts

Recently Google started beta testing a new parental control option for parents with children who are under the age of 13. You can get an “invitation” to this new feature by clicking on Family Link. Once you set up a connected google account for your child, you can set in place content filters, manage screen time, and view activity reports on the apps your child is using. Read more about the new safety features on Family Link’s Tips for Families.

android parental controls

Restrict In-App Purchases

But what about all those coins and Pokeballs? If you want to restrict your child from accidentally (or purposefully) buying in-app items to play a game, there’s a way to do that.

Got to Google Play Store App > Menu > Settings > Require authentication for purchases. The Google Play Menu is the three horizontal bars in the top left hand corner.

Parental Controls for Android

You can choose for all purchases through Google Play on this device, Every 30 minutes, or Never. Enter your Google password. Now you can let your kids play their favorite game and worry less they are racking up a large credit card bill.

Parental Controls for Android

Parental Controls for Android Devices for Kids Who Use Their Own

Put In Place A Passcode

You’ve given your kids a new Android phone or tablet, but you haven’t given it to kid who finds it under a the bus seat where it was left. Put a passcode on their device that you and they know, but others won’t – and remind them not to share passcodes with friends. Go to Settings > Lock Screen And Security > Screen Lock Type > Set Up A Passcode.

Set up a unique identifier, but do not use birthdays or simple number sequences, and avoid common passcodes and common swiping patterns. Make sure this is not the same pin used for Parental Controls or other household known passcodes.

Parental Controls for Android

Go through each of the security buttons in the Security settings to further protect the device. 

LG Unlock Setting Info

HTC Unlock Setting Info

Google Play Store

Since Android devices vary slightly (some would say wildly) in their operating systems, some of your best parental control settings take place in the Google Play Store.

Go to Google Play Store > Menu > Settings. Now it’s time to turn Parental Controls on and follow the prompts.

Parental Controls for Android

You are going to need to set up a pin. Set up a unique identifier for each Google Play Account, but do not use birthdays or simple number sequences, and avoid common passcodes and common swiping patterns. Do not use the same passcode as the one to the phone or a household passcode they may already know.

Parental Controls for Android

Delete Apps

Below we are going to discuss how to set up Content Restrictions so that your child can’t download future apps or purchases outside of the rating level you have decided. However, that only affects future apps and not current apps already on the phone. So it’s time to explore, confirm, and delete apps as necessary.

Go to Google Play Store > Menu > My Apps & Games > Installed

Parental Controls for AndroidParental Controls for Android

This is a list of all of the installed apps on your child’s phone. Scroll through the list and look up any app you don’t know, check out the ratings, look at reviews and search for it on Common Sense Media. Uninstall any app you do not want your kid having on their phone.

It is natural for kids to explore different apps in the Google Play Store, but their frontal cortex is not completely developed yet, so they don’t understand the very real consequences of accessing and using certain apps.

Apps to Think About Deleting

Dating Apps: Tinder, Grindr, MeetMe, Match Dating, etc. Yes, teens are using these sites too.

Gambling Apps: Bovada Casino and Sports, SportsBetting, BetOnline Sports, etc. The average starting age of people who have a gambling problem is 10. Read more about kids and the risks of gambling here.

Anonymous Chatroom Apps: Omegle, Chatroulette, Kik, Whisper, Yik Yak, Sarahah, tbhtime etc. Apps with the ability to have anonymous chats or content (and some of them with strangers) are a huge potential for unsafe contact and content (pictures of genitalia for example). Delete.

Hidden Apps: Check out our piece on Hidden Apps, what these look like and why they are so risky. The Hidden Apps have special passcodes on them, so if you find one, talk to your child about why they are unsafe and not allowed, and then work with them to uninstall the app from the phone.

Set Content Restrictions

Now it is time to decide what you are or are not going to allow your child to have access to under Set Content Restrictions.

Go to Google Play Store > Menu > Settings > Parental Controls. Tap on each type of content and make decisions based on your knowledge of your child. The 5 content types include: Apps & Games, Movies, TV, Books, and Music.

Parental Controls for Android

Either click the circle next to the setting you want to “allow up to” for rating-based permissions. The ratings go from most restrict to least restrictive. For Books and Music check the box to restrict adult content. Click “OK” at the prompt and remember to Save the new setting for each content type. Go back to Home when you are done configuring the settings.

Parental Controls for Android

Now your kid can’t download an app that is rated above the level of your permissions setting. However, not all apps are rated, so it is a good idea to have an open and honest conversation with your kids about what types of apps are allowed and why. Additionally, if they already have apps on their phones this setting will not affect those apps, only future downloads. See above for how to delete inappropriate apps.

Restrict Purchases & Downloads to Google Play

There are other places where you can purchase and download apps that are not Google Play. But don’t worry, you can also restrict an Android device so that it can only download from Google Play.

On the device (not in Google Play) go to Settings > Lock Screen And Security > Unknown Sources and toggle it to off (so that it is grayed).

Parental Controls for Android

Cellular Data Usage Controls

You can control and limit cellular data usage on your kid’s Android phone. Decide how much data your kid is allowed to use, when to alert them they’ve almost used it up, and put your plan in place.

Only Use On WiFi

If you are concerned younger kids won’t be able to understand data usage, you can put the Android on Wi-Fi use only. This will keep the phone from being able to use the Internet, email or other apps unless the phone is connected to the Wi-Fi.

Go to Settings > Data Usage > Click Mobile Data to Off (so that it is grayed). Click OK.

Parental Controls for Android

Data Usage Limit

If you want to give older kids more responsibility around data, you can choose to limit their data usage instead of turning it completely off. Go to Settings > Data Usage > Mobile Data Usage > click Settings icon on top right hand corner. On the next screen toggle Limit Mobile Data Usage to ON. Click OK. Tab Data Usage Limit. Delete the default limit of 5.0 GB and Set Data Usage Limit for the number of GB you determine is best for your child.

Parental Controls for Android Parental Controls for Android

Data Usage Alerts

Help your kids stay within their usage limits by setting up an alert to let them know how much more they have available. Go to Settings > Data Usage > toggle Alert Me About Data Usage to ON. Click OK. Tap Alert Me About Data Usage. The default is an alert at 2.0 GB.

If you want to change the default number, click Settings icon on top right hand corner. Tap Data Usage Warning. Delete the default limit of 2.0 GB and set for the number of GB you determine is best to alert your child.

Parental Controls for AndroidParental Controls for Android

Finally…

We know, that is a lot of information to take in. But if you go through each section with your kid’s phone in front of you, the amount of time you spend setting them up to have a safer experience with their device, the less time you’ll spend in the future worrying… about device safety anyway. Plus, since you’re already in safety mode, set up an account with Bark and we’ll monitor their emails, social media messages, and text messages alerting you to potential issues there as well.

 

anonymous cyberbullying apps

It seems every few weeks a new app emerges that allows for anonymous commenting on other user’s posts. These apps do not necessarily require a user profile or a connection to an identity in order to make comments. No one holds cyberbullies and trolls are accountable for their behavior. With no accountability for user actions, these apps are rife with anonymous cyberbullying, sexual predators, and other online issues. Not all comments are mean or harmful, but in general, anonymous commenting apps promote a lack of responsibility for users. Such apps allow people to say hurtful and sometimes downright hateful messages without being identified. This happens more with apps that do not have moderators.

Why Anonymous Commenting Apps Are Harmful

Our role as adults is to teach our kids to be positive digital citizens, this includes talking to them about anonymous commenting apps. It is important to ask our kids if they are using such apps, and explain why these kinds of apps can contribute to a negative online culture. When an app is used to cyberbully others, even if we are not the ones participating, we need to ask ourselves if we should even use and promote the app.

Anonymous commenting apps also go against online safety procedures. One way to be safe online is to never communicate with someone you don’t know. If you don’t know who is commenting, then you don’t know with whom you are communicating. Only communicating with people that you know should be part of your technology contract. If you haven’t already done so, it might be beneficial to review the contract and update your family’s rules on anonymous commenting apps.

The latest in a string of anonymous posting apps is Sarahah.com, which integrates with both Snapchat and Instagram. Originally created as a way for employees to provide frank feedback to their employers, the developers soon saw an opportunity for a different market. They began marketing the app as a way for friends to connect and “[i]mprove your friendship by discovering your strengths and areas for improvement.”

Let’s be honest, with an underdeveloped frontal cortex lobe which results in impulse control issues, most kids and teens (and yes, even some adults) have impulse control issues and may not be able to offer constructive criticism in order to help others work on areas of improvement. Apps like this do not generally result in positive or constructive comments to help one another; they tend to result in insults, racial remarks, and cyberbullying.

4 Articles on the Top-Selling App and Why It Leads to Anonymous Cyberbullying

Mashable: How an App You’ve Never Heard of Became the Most Popular iPhone App in the World

Independent: Sarahah: The Top iPhone App in the World is Being Used to Bully People, Users Claim

Inverse: Is Sarahah Doomed to Devolve Into Bullying and Hate

Business Insider: The Top Free App in the App Store Right Now is Being Called “a Breeding Ground for Hate”

This app is cause for concern and is included on our risky app list. Bark parents are notified when your kids have downloaded it to their phone or if they ever do. Sarahah’s integration with Snapchat, a site that deletes posts after they have been seen, and Instagram, a place one study reports teenagers claim is the site where they experience the most cyberbullying, is a bit alarming. Further, the cyberbulling allegations are real. We have seen cyberbullying with the Sarahah/Snapchat integration actually happen.

First, talk to your kids about using anonymous commenting apps, or rather the reasons you don’t want them to use these kinds of apps. Then sign them up for Bark monitoring. Currently, there is no way for Bark to monitor Sarahah, but we do monitor Snapchat, Instagram, and 20 other platforms. Sign up for Bark today and get alerts on any potential anonymous cyberbullying or other online issues your child is facing.

Roasting is a term from comedy where a comedian roasts another person with good humor, but now also encompasses online roasting of individuals as a new type of cyberbullying.

The trend started on Reddit, where users would post pictures of themselves holding up a sign saying “Roast Me,” consenting to the satire. But it has now expanded to other social media sites like Facebook, Whatsapp, and Snapchat. And the big difference is that this is usually done without the consent or desire of the individual to be roasted.

Initially, roasting can start out innocuous and light-hearted; however, that is not where it always ends. Teens of all ages and genders are participating in the new trend. But a recent study points to research showing that girls are more likely to cyberbully and be bullied online, including roasting. Below are a few ways to discuss roasting with your child and how to know if it has moved from banter to bullying.

Understanding The Different Types of Cyberbullying: Encouraging Communication

Open up a dialogue about bullying, cyberbullying and roasting. Ask open ended, but specific, questions about these topics. For example: “Have you heard about roasting online?” “Have you ever experienced roasting or participated in roasting someone else?” “If so, what was the experience like?” This kind of dialogue demonstrates that you are open to listening to what your child has to say on the subject and that they can come talk to you about it.

Some children are afraid to come forward about being roasted, even when it has moved into bullying. This is because they don’t want to be seen as someone who can’t take a joke. You can explain that humiliating, harsh criticism is not roasting — it is bullying. If the roasting has moved from something silly to something hurtful, then it’s no longer a joke and it’s okay to ask a trusted adult for help. Validate their feelings and together come up with a solution on how to respond to the bullying. Recommend solutions that revolve around consent, being a responsible digital citizen, and using empathy when faced with tough situations.

Talk About Consent

While Reddit may not be the best model for social behavior, the original postings were Redditors who consented to the roasts. However, now that roasting has spread to other social media platforms this is not always the case. Discussions about consent in this context can help your child understand when roasting turns to bullying.

One thing to remind your children is that “yes” is not a forever and always word. Just because someone has initially consented to some silly joking around doesn’t mean they have consented to more than that. And even if they did initially consent, they can say no later. Respecting whether or not someone has consented to protracted banter is part of being a smart digital citizen. Online responsibility includes checking in and making sure people are still okay with how the conversation is going.

Digital Citizenship and Empathy

One way to be a responsible digital citizen is to employ empathy in communications online. Talk to your child about what empathy means, have a discussion about what being kind and compassionate looks like. Ask them, “If you were in the other person’s shoes how would you feel about the things that are being said?” Or remind them that if they wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, they should not say it on social media. It’s important for kids to understand this concept, even if they are using sites where posts are anonymous. Everyone has a responsibility to be a positive influencer in their group by being courteous and respectful in communications. This is true even when it’s a group text among friends.

Remind your children that it is okay to have fun with their friends through social media, but to think about their actions and to not have fun at another person’s expense. An open dialogue that focuses on consent and empathy can help your child navigate social media with an intent to have positive interactions. Bark can be part of this discussion! Explain that we’re a tool that helps keep them safe online and alerts you to potential types of cyberbullying and online predators. Our alerts also provide expert advice on finding solutions to these issues.