Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, has issued an important advisory sounding the alarm about the state of kids, social media, and mental health this week.

As any parent of a tween or teen knows, things aren’t great right now — and haven’t been for a while. Let’s get into what parents need to understand about this report. 

What Is a Surgeon General’s Advisory?

The surgeon general is the nation’s top doctor, and their job is to provide Americans with the best scientific information available on how to improve health and reduce risk of illness and injury. 

Advisories are serious business — they’re meant to call attention to an urgent public health issue and provide recommendations for how it should be addressed. Just how serious is this one? It’s in the same company as legendary advisories against: 

 These warnings can often trigger a sea change in habits and behavior, which is a good thing. 

10 Takeaways from the Surgeon General’s Advisory on Social Media

1. Kids are using social media almost constantly.

This will probably come as no surprise to most parents, but the details are a little heartbreaking. The report gives the following stats that show just how embedded social media is into the fabric of young people’s lives:

2. While there are some benefits of social media, the dangers far outweigh them.

We all learned this firsthand during the pandemic — online connections through social media, gaming, and messaging platforms can be a lifeline for people to stay in touch, especially for young people and members of minority groups. But as we’ll see, the risks are too high too ignore for the sake of easy communication. 

3. Teen and tween brains are incredibly vulnerable to social media.

Risk-taking behaviors (which can include online activities like sending nudes and bullying) reach their peak when kids are ages 10 to 19. This is also when mental health challenges such as depression typically emerge. 

On top of all this, the teen years are when kids are forming their identities, and when they’re most susceptible to peer pressure and outside influences. When you put all these together, they demonstrate why social media is such a dangerous threat. 

The American Psychological Association recommends that parents monitor their child’s social media use between the ages of 10 and 14 — especially when it comes to potential harmful content that kids are seeing. 

4. Scientific studies clearly show that more social media = more damage

The report cites a study that found kids who spent more than 3 hours a day on social media faced double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes including symptoms of depression and anxiety. Now think about the kids who are spending 6, 9, even 12 hours a day online. The damage could be immeasurable.

5. What kids are seeing (and experiencing) online is actively harming them.

Like with the depression and anxiety that kids are experiencing, social media is also exposing kids to incredibly harmful content like violent and extremist propaganda, videos about disordered eating, and more. 

One extremely chilling form of content that algorithms in particular have been known to show revolves around self-harm and suicide. This is incredibly dangerous as suicide is currently the second-leading cause of death for 10- to 14-year-olds. 

6. Social media platforms purposely design their apps with features that addict kids.

Some researchers think that social media can overstimulate the reward center in a child’s brain and can form neural pathways like those found in addiction. Small studies have even shown that people with problematic social media use have changes in brain structure like people with drug or gambling addictions,

 7. Adolescent girls and transgender youth are disproportionately impacted by online harassment and abuse

Predatory behavior on social media is rampant. Nearly 60% of adolescent girls have stated that they’ve been contacted by strangers on social media platforms in manners that make them feel uncomfortable. 

8. Parents can take tangible steps to help protect their kids. 

All’s not lost yet — parents and guardians can step in to set healthy boundaries. In addition to monitoring, families are encouraged to:

9. Tech companies are being put on notice for how to address these problems but not currently held accountable. 

As we’ve seen, the onus can’t only be on parents – not when tech companies have more leverage and the funds to address problems on the front end. The report calls on them to produce more research into negative effects, provide more controls for parents, and to actually enforce age minimums.

10. We don’t have the luxury of waiting years until we know the full extent of social media’s impact.

We’re the first generation of parents raising kids with this unprecedented technology, and it will take a while to actually determine what the long-term effects are. But we can’t wait to act. Even the limited knowledge we’ve gained so far is showing that they probably won’t be good. 

Bark Can Help You Manage Your Kid’s Social Media and More

Staying actively involved in your child’s online world is a non-negotiable in the wake of this advisory. Fortunately, Bark is here to help parents! Founded by a dad of two, our parental controls put you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your child’s tech use. 


Bark scans texts, emails, and 30+ of the most popular apps and social media platforms for issues like bullying, online predators, suicidal ideation, sexual content, and more.

Bark’s content monitoring features let you:


Our web filter lets you select exactly what your kid can access on their devices. You can block specific sites and apps or even whole categories like streaming services, online gaming, sexual content, and more.

Screen time

These days, it’s more important than ever for kids to have time to disconnect from their devices and spend some time connecting with friends, picking up a new hobby, or just (gasp) being bored.

Bark helps you set screen time rules that will help you care for your child’s overall well-being. Who knows? They might just end up discovering a new passion thanks to a couple of hours a week set aside for screen-free activities.

Get Started Today

We have an entire suite of products available to help families, and you can learn more about everything over on our products page. You can also start a free, 7-day trial of our Bark Premium app to see how Bark can help your family. 

illustrated robot hands typing on a keyboard

AI — the term is everywhere these days, and it can be hard to know what exactly it means. But maybe even more importantly, what it means for your child. From groundbreaking new platforms like Chat GPT to the videos TikTok chooses to show your child on their For Your Page, AI influences nearly every aspect of our lives these days. Here’s what parents need to know about how childhood is being impacted by AI. 

What Do We Mean by AI?

AI stands for artificial intelligence, and this term has come to mean many different things when it comes to technology. AI mimics human problem-solving and decision-making — think about chatbots on websites, personal assistants like Alexa, and more. But AI also spills over into video games, social media, and a ton of other avenues that we interact with on a daily basis. 

5 Ways AI Is Affecting How Your Kids Grow Up


Kids are incredibly creative and have always been so. Technology today just gives them a ton of more avenues to explore. Toys in the past were generally limited to blocks, dolls, trucks, and crayons. We still have these, of course, but we also now have virtual reality headsets that let kids explore the universe, first-person video games that let them fly, and interactive apps that project digital images into the real world. 

While there are lots of dangers that tech poses to kids, it has also given them the opportunity to create new worlds and experience things young people could have only ever dreamt of in the past. 

Immediate answers to questions

Never before in the history of humanity have we had such immediate access to knowledge. Even compared to the 90s, the change has been enormous. Gone are the days of having to look up information at the library or in musty old volumes of encyclopedias. 

But even beyond research, the everyday curiosity of kids can be answered by AI in a matter of seconds. A quick question to Alexa or Siri can instantly provide the weather, the capital of Italy, or Zenday’s birthday. 

These shortcuts can make our lives better, but be sure your kid knows how to find answers themselves. Also, teach your child that even these technological conveniences can be wrong sometimes, and to take everything with a grain of salt. 


An algorithm, at its most simple, is just a set of instructions. The steps to tying your shoes is an algorithm, for example. But today, AI-based algorithms control and help make sense of a lot of the online content we see. 

Your kid encounters algorithms whenever they google something — how the results are ranked is determined by AI, as it helps to find the most fitting article. They also encounter algorithms when on social media, YouTube, Amazon, and more.

TikTok’s algorithm is known to be one of the most powerful in the world, as it continually learns what a user likes by monitoring how long videos are watched and whether you comment or like them. It takes this info and then shows you more videos it thinks you will be interested in. 

This could be a good thing if your kid is learning more about dinosaurs. It’s not so good if the content is about disordered eating or hate speech.

Facial recognition filters

If you type “photo editor” into the App Store, you’ll get tons of results. There are so many apps that promise to provide filters and enhancements for amazing selfies. Some promise flawless skin, a reshaped face, and even the ability to open your eyes if they’re accidentally closed in a photo. Many of these apps are free, which means they’re easy for kids to download. 

Of course, kids aren’t born wanting filtered faces. They’re eased into it, often through kid-focused, “fun” filters that add puppy ears or angel haloes. As they get older, kids will encounter filter options that include more adult-appropriate adjustments. These include prominent cheekbones, larger eyes, and plumper lips. 

But these types of filters aren’t just in fun apps… they’re everywhere. There’s even an option on Zoom, which many kids relied on during distance learning, called “Touch up my appearance.” It’s possible that many kids may never post a photo of themselves without having altered it in some way. It’s no wonder that body image issues are growing more and more common — even in kids as young as four.


Chat GPT is perhaps the most talked-about AI tool right now, and it’s definitely making waves in the education community. Here are just a few examples of homework questions kids might ask ChatGPT:

But it’s important to remember that just as computers and graphing calculators didn’t signal the end of education as we know it, this probably won’t either. The traditional model of assigning students a take-home essay may simply evolve, resulting in more in-class writing exercises. It will always be important for kids to understand the why behind what they learn — not just the answers. Learning how to use ChatGPT may become more important than the outcomes it provides.

How Bark Can Help

Here at Bark, we have a lot of resources that can help parents better understand their children’s world. From tech guides and app reviews to videos and blog posts, we strive to keep families in the know when it comes to technology. 

Our award-winning parental controls also use AI to help protect kids online and in real life. Our monitoring feature scans your child’s online activities — like texts and social media posts — and alerts you if it detects issues like predators, bullying, depression, and more. Try Bark free for a week to see how it can transform your family’s online safety.

Ask Titania: Snapchat MyAI

Dear Titania,

I have a teen that uses Snapchat to chat/send silly photos with her best friends, but I recently heard about this new chatbot the app is offering. I’ve seen some tweets saying how it’s problematic and potentially dangerous. Can you give me more info about what it is exactly and how I should talk to my kid about it?


Is MyAI a Bad Idea?

Dear Is MyAI a Bad Idea,

First, I’m glad to hear that Snapchat in general doesn’t cause too much strife at your house. A lot of families struggle with it! Snapchat, after all, is an app that was created to send nudes, so you can see how some kids may be tempted to use it for more than just puppy dog filters. Because of this, the app generally tops my list of problematic platforms for young people.

So you can imagine my surprise when I learned that the creators were adding yet another function — a chatbot — that could potentially harm kids. Talk about a double-whammy! Don’t worry though, in this post, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know. 

Cheat sheet:

First, What Even is a Chatbot?

Snapchat’s MyAI is a chatbot, a program that’s designed to answer questions you ask it. Chatbots are meant to provide useful information to humans, and sometimes even fun in the form of games and puzzles. 

You’ve probably encountered one before without realizing it — lots of websites use them to answer simple customer questions in little boxes in the corner of the page. There are also automated text messages from doctor’s offices you can reply to (or unsubscribe from). 

You may have even used a chatbot when you were young! That’s right, remember Clippy, the helpful paperclip in Microsoft Word? He was 100% an early chat bot — but he could only answer questions about margins and grammar (thank goodness). As technology has grown, so have chatbots’ ability to answer questions about nearly anything.

Chat GPT is the most recent chatbot to gain popularity (and notoriety) in the U.S., and its ability to answer questions that sound human is remarkable. Kids are already using it to write papers, solve math problems, and more. 

Why Do Snapchat Users Need a Chatbot?

The short answer, of course, is: They don’t. But social media platforms make money the longer users — even kids! — stay on the app, which is why new features are constantly being rolled out. MyAI is Snapchat’s way of staying relevant, and it’s riding the ChatGPT wave from the past year or so. 

Here’s what Snapchat says they hope kids do with it: 

In a chat conversation, My AI can answer a burning trivia question, offer advice on the perfect gift for your BFF’s birthday, help plan a hiking trip for a long weekend, or suggest what to make for dinner.

Honestly, it still remains to be seen how popular MyAI ends up being with young people. But it’s important to know about it since it’s right there in your child’s app, waiting to be used. 

What Snapchat Has to Say About MyAI

Snapchat talks out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to MyAI. In this article from their help center, they tell you just how helpful it is for planning parties and gift ideas. But then in the immediate next paragraph, they lob a huge caveat at you absolutely filled with red flags:

We’re constantly working to improve and evolve My AI, but it’s possible My AI’s responses may include biased, incorrect, harmful, or misleading content. Because My AI is an evolving feature, you should always independently check answers provided by My AI before relying on any advice, and you should not share confidential or sensitive information.

So there we have it — Snapchat basically says outright that this isn’t a great idea, and yet they’re experimenting with this service on our kids in one of the most popular apps for young people in the world.

Potential Dangers

This is where the controversy enters the chat (pun intended). While Snapchat talks about fun things like finding dinner recipes and planning hiking trips, kids may use MyAI for wildly different reasons. A tech columnist at the Washington Post experimented with the chatbot and found that he could get it to discuss:

There are, of course, the occasional disclaimers. MyAI will remind users that the drinking age is 21, but then go on to explain things about alcohol anyway. 

Another issue that may affect families is that kids could start to rely on MyAI for emotional support instead of family and friends. And because Snapchat states directly that sensitive information shouldn’t be shared with MyAI, there’s the possibility that it’s not safe and secure. No one wants personal life information spread online, and that seems like a possibility given the warning from the creators of the app itself. 

3 Things to Talk to Your Kid About Concerning MyAI

If you’re worried about your child interacting with MyAI — and I definitely am with you! — here are a few conversation starters. 

How You Can Disable It

Snapchat is really pushing MyAI to its users. It started out as a premium feature, but the company soon rolled it out to everyone across the world. Now, the reverse is happening — to remove it, you have to be a Snapchat+ subscriber. This means you have to pay to prevent your kid from accessing it if you allow them to use the app. 

How Bark Can Help

On Android devices and the Bark Phone, Bark’s advanced monitoring will scan the chats between your child and MyAI and will alert you to potential dangers like drugs/alcohol, suicidal ideation, sexual content, and more. This way, you can check and make sure everything’s okay.

It’s my hope that kids will quickly realize that there’s not really much to MyAI. But you never know — tech and trends change so fast these days. The best way to stay on top of it all is to take a deep breath, keep reading these posts, and keep talking to your kid, no matter what. 

Good luck (and you’re doing a great job – it’s not easy)!

Ask Titania Google Search: when should i give my kid a phone

Dear Titania,

My daughter is 9 years old and some of her friends have already gotten phones. I’m so stressed! I have no idea what the right time for a first phone is — different articles say everything from 10 to 16! How do I know what’s best? 


Wondering When It’s The Right Time

Dear Wondering When It’s The Right Time,

Welcome to the question of the hour for so many parents around the world! Giving your kid their first phone has joined other classic childhood rites of passage like the first day of school, riding a bike without training wheels, and getting a driver’s license. 

Generally speaking, there’s no age when kids are magically ready for a phone. Some experts suggest ages 10–14, which is when many kids start to be responsible enough to have a phone. But you know your kid best. 

Fourth grade might seem too young, but maybe they have some medical issues and you want to make sure you can reach them quickly at a sleepover in an emergency. 

On the flip side — tenth grade might seem too old, but maybe your kid has had some behavior problems in the past, and a phone would only exacerbate things. The folks over at Wait Until 8th have resources for families that choose to wait until around age 13 or so, which is often a popular age since that’s when many social media platforms officially allow teens to have accounts.

So, the short answer is: it depends on a ton of factors! The long answer is…this post. Don’t worry, though — I’ll give you lots of things to consider, checklists, ideas, and more. Let’s get into it!

3 Questions to Get You Thinking

Before we get started, I just want to say that there is no right answer to this question: every family is different, and there are healthy ways for kids to navigate life both with and without a cell phone. You just have to pick what’s right for your child.  

1. What’s prompting the first-phone discussion?

Peer pressure

You mentioned that your kid’s friends were all getting phones. Peer pressure, both from other kids and other parents, can be a pretty strong influence — especially when phones are used to communicate plans for hanging out.


A natural part of growing up is gaining some independence apart from parents. There are going to be things like playdates and after-school activities where you won’t be right there with them. But if they have a phone, you can have instant communication. In a lot of ways, kids having a phone is easy protection against the unknowns of the outside world, especially with tools like location tracking.


We mentioned above the power of peer pressure — it’s a strong one. But this is made all the more so because of how kids socialize. Apart from using a text to plan a meet-up, many kids play games online together or chat in group threads. 

2. Is your kid ready? A checklist

It all comes down to responsibility — is your kid responsible enough to have their own phone? The only way to answer that is to look at how they’ve proven (or not proven) their responsibility with other things. For example:

Regardless of your answers, it’s still going to be a leap of faith at the end of the day. You’ll never feel 100% confident that they’re ready, but as long as you and your kid have a healthy level of trust and keep the communication lines open, that’s a good place to start.

3. Are you as a parent ready for this?

I’m not going to sugarcoat it — when your kid gets their first phone, it’s a lot of work. You want to keep on top of their usage, which is where parental controls come into play. Setting screen time limits, blocking inappropriate websites (of which there are millions!), and trying to keep your kid off it 24/7 can be a struggle. 

A tool like Bark definitely makes it easier, but you’ll also need to set expectations and lay down ground rules. I recommend sitting down with your kid and creating a tech contract even before they get a phone so they can know what to expect. 

As a caveat: In all my chats with parents across the country over the years, one thing I’ve never heard a parent say is “I waited too long to give my kid a phone.” Phones will always be there — and kids will have their whole lives to use one. If you want to prolong childhood a little longer by waiting to give them a phone, that’s absolutely fine!

Still Not Sure? Take Our First Phone Quiz!

Even though you’ve learned a lot about what goes into an important decision like this, it can still be really hard to figure out a final answer! We recommend checking our first phone quiz to get a better idea of whether your child is ready. 

Alternatives to Phones

Many parents use a kid’s smartwatch as a stepping stone to the first phone. These devices have features like location tracking and limited texting and calling, which are a good way to ease your child into the world of instantaneous communication. Plus, you can get peace of mind when it comes to safety by always knowing where your kid is. We’ve put together a list of our favorite options here

How Bark Can Help

No matter when you choose to give your child a phone, Bark can help it make the experience safer. I recommend the Bark Phone, which comes with our parental controls built in, and you can customize nearly every setting on it. For younger kids, you can even make it text-and-talk only. As they get older, you can gradually add in more functionality. It’s the best first phone option out there — period. 

I hope this helps! That first phone is a huge milestone, and there’s no right or wrong answer — only how you and your family decide to tackle it together. 

iphone with enlarged bark alert in front

Content warning: discussion of sexual assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time set aside to bring to light how widespread sexual violence is across the world. It’s also a month dedicated to educating people about prevention and providing resources.

Although Bark is a parental control company, our service alerts parents to many of the most pressing issues in a child’s life — from bullying and online predators to depression and suicidal ideation. Sexual assault is no different, and parents need to know what’s going on in order to support their children in times of distress. 

What Bark Looks For

Content warning: discussion of activities that involve sexual assault

Our advanced technology scans a child’s online activities — like texts, emails, and social media posts — for potential dangers. When it comes to sexual assault, we look for keywords as well as context. Here are a few examples of messages that would be flagged:

Monitoring Can Pick Up Things Kids May Be Hesitant to Reveal

Kids use their phones for everything these days, and this includes talking about and processing emotions after sexual assault. These often lie hidden out of sight of a parent and can look like a text to a friend describing the encounter or a journal in a Google Doc detailing the feelings that are arising. Bark’s advanced technology scans these types of online activities for keywords and context, and sends parents alerts when a potential issue is detected. 

If you’re wondering why a kid wouldn’t want to immediately disclose an assault to their parent, the answer is it’s complicated. Some kids may feel like they’ll get in trouble.  Others might be getting manipulated by their abuser, who could be threatening their well-being or that of their family. Some kids — especially younger children — may not even know how to process what’s happened to them. 

Statistics about Sexual Assault

Tragically, sexual assault is not uncommon in the U.S. Here are some statistics gathered from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse

It isn’t easy to tell if your child has experienced sexual abuse, but watching out for some potential warning signs can help. Pay attention if your kid:

Online Resources That Can Help

If you believe your child is currently in danger or if you’d like to file a report with your local police station, you can call 911 at any time. You can also call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 to talk to someone who is trained to help in situations like this.

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is also available 24/7 via call or text message at 800-422-4453. Their trained volunteers can guide you through the reporting process.

You can learn about mandatory reporting laws in your state by visiting RAINN’s State Law Database.

Ask Titania logo and search engine "is roblox safe for my kid?"

Dear Titania,

My 9-year-old has learned about Roblox from his friends at school and can’t wait to download it on his tablet. I don’t know much about the game (I’m from the old-school Mario Kart generation) but it seems fairly harmless. A few of my parent friends have mentioned that it has some dangers — like chat, which definitely scares me — but I’d like to know what you think about it. Bonus points if you can give me the rundown on why kids love it so much. Thanks!


Worried About Roblox

Dear Worried About Roblox, 

I’m glad you asked! Roblox is the most popular video game in the U.S. for children 5 –12, and it seems like it’s everywhere these days. But despite its wild popularity, it can still be a little hard to understand what exactly kids are doing while they’re playing it — don’t feel bad! And even though lots of kids play it, Roblox definitely has its fair share of dangers. Many adults play the game as well, which can sometimes introduce inappropriate activity, unfortunately. Let’s start with exactly what playing Roblox means. 

How Roblox Works

Roblox isn’t just one game like Mario or Tetris — it’s a platform that hosts literally millions of games. Roblox users create and publish these games, and they all take place in the Roblox world and are designed in the Roblox animation style, which resembles the chunky characters you’ll recognize from Lego or Minecraft.

Games in Roblox are 3-D, open-world experiences, which means that you can go anywhere, in any direction, at any time you like. (Contrast this to the old-school video games like Super Mario Bros, which only allowed you to move in one direction — always scrolling right.)

When it comes to deciding what kind of game you want to play, the sky’s the limit! Many of the games on Roblox are free or cheaper versions of other popular video games, like Fortnite and Animal Crossing. You can often find games with characters and settings from pop culture — worlds kids like to spend time in.

Why Do Kids Love Roblox?

Not only can you play and explore in a fun open world, you can build your own game with Roblox Studio. Kids can get super creative and dream up any location they can imagine  — from Ancient Greece to the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and make it come to life. Bonus: When they’re building out these worlds, they’re learning the basics of coding!

Plus, on Roblox, there’s never a shortage of brand-new and exciting games to play, and they often come out faster than traditional game studios can publish. There are also so many different ways to play games on Roblox, including on iOS, Android, Mac, PC, tablets, and gaming consoles like Xbox and Oculus Rift.

Roblox Dangers: It’s Not All Fun and Games 

Condo games

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

Roblox Discord servers 

In addition to actually playing Roblox, many fans will also want to talk about it with others — and they often head to chat app Discord for that. If you search Google for “Roblox Discord servers” you’ll find links to countless groups to join. This presents a huge risk for kids, as any time there’s a huge public chat room, there’s a near certainty that online predators will be lurking in it. On top of that, many folks use these groups to share links to inappropriate content — both on Roblox and elsewhere. 

Inappropriate Roblox YouTube videos

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

Bypassed audio clips that definitely aren’t appropriate

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


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

How to Help Protect Your Child When They Play Roblox

When it comes to parental controls and dedication to helping protect younger players, Roblox really walks the walk. Here are just a few of the ways the company safeguards kids. (Check out our step-by-step Roblox tech guide to learn all the ways you can use their parental controls.)

Chat filters

Roblox automatically filters all chats to help prevent inappropriate content and personally identifiable information from being displayed. They even employ human moderators to help review content that gets flagged by the filter’s AI. Things may slip through the cracks occasionally — no filter is perfect — but it’s definitely a good effort. 

Parent PINs

This really sets Roblox apart from other games and social media platforms. When you set parental controls, you can lock them in place with a PIN code. Most apps, like TikTok for example, will allow you to toggle on safety settings, but they can be turned off by the child at any time. You know what that means — it’s essentially useless.


From the settings menu, you can select who can chat and message with your child, along with who can invite them to join them in private servers. 

Restricted mode

The account restrictions feature makes it so that absolutely no one can send your child messages or chat with them. These restrictions also limit the games kids can play to a pre-approved, age-appropriate list.

Need More Help?

As you can tell, there’s *a lot* to learn about Roblox, but if you think your kid is ready to take the plunge, I recommend sitting down with them and playing together the first few times. This way, you can see for yourself what your kid will experience, and it’s also a good way to bond over an activity they’re excited about. 

Bark can also help. With our screen time scheduling tools, you can decide when they can play the game. This could look like no Roblox until after school — and you can also block during the school day and after lights out. If it ever gets to be too much, you could also block it altogether to give your kid a breather. Good luck!

Online friendships header image - kids on laptops

Remember pen pals? Growing in the 80s and 90s, you may have even had one — or knew someone who did. Maybe it was through a program at school, or a friend from summer camp. Today there’s something similar: online friends! Some may be people a kid knows in real life, while others could be entirely online — and they may never actually meet. 

Online friendships aren’t inherently bad, and for a generation of kids that had to make do with virtual playdates throughout the lockdown years of the pandemic, they’re part of life. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of these relationships, as well as how you can help protect your kid online and in real life. 

Pros of Online Friendships

Increased social connections

Online friendships can help children and teenagers connect with other individuals who share similar interests and hobbies. This can be especially valuable for kids who may struggle to make friends in their local community or who feel isolated or lonely.

Greater accessibility

Online friendships can be formed regardless of geographic location, making it easier for children and teenagers to connect with peers from all over the world. This can be especially beneficial for kids who may not have access to diverse communities or who live in rural or remote areas.

Safe space for self-expression

Online friendships can offer a safe space for children and teenagers to express themselves and explore their identities without fear of judgment or criticism. This can be particularly important for kids who may be struggling with issues like bullying, harassment, or discrimination in their offline lives.

Cons of Online Friendships

Risk of online predators

One of the biggest risks associated with online friendships is the potential for children and teenagers to be targeted by online predators. These individuals may use social media platforms, chat rooms, or other online forums to groom children and gain their trust, often with the intention of engaging in sexual exploitation or other forms of abuse.

Exposure to inappropriate content

Online friendships can expose children and teenagers to a wide range of inappropriate content. This can include simple profanity, violence, hate speech, and extremist propaganda. This can be particularly concerning for parents who are worried about the impact of exposure to such content on their children's mental health and wellbeing.

Lack of face-to-face interaction

Online friendships also lack the benefits of face-to-face interaction, such as the ability to read body language and facial expressions, build trust and empathy, and develop interpersonal social skills. This can be especially concerning for parents who worry about the impact of excessive screen time on their children's development.

Tips for Managing Online Friendships

While online friendships can offer several benefits for kids and teenagers, it's important for parents to take steps to manage and monitor these relationships to ensure their children's safety and wellbeing. Here are a few tips to help parents navigate this complex issue:

Educate your children about online safety

Make sure your children understand the risks associated with online friendships and how to stay safe online. Teach them about the importance of protecting their personal information, setting privacy settings, and avoiding interactions with strangers online.

Notice how your child is acting

Keep an eye on your children's online activity and look for signs of potential risks or dangers, such as unusual or secretive behavior, inappropriate messages or content, or changes in mood or behavior. Online friends may affect how they start to behave, especially if the friend may be a bad influence.

Set clear rules and boundaries

Establish expectations for your child’s online activity with things like limiting screen time, prohibiting certain types of content or interactions, and requiring regular check-ins. We recommend sitting down and filling out a tech contract so everyone is on the same page when it comes to behavior. 

Encourage offline socialization

While online friendships can be valuable, it's important for kids to make real-life friends and develop face-to-face relationships with peers. Encourage your children to participate in extracurricular activities, join clubs or organizations, or attend social events in their local community.

How Bark Can Help

Bark is an all-in-one parental control tool that can help you manage nearly every aspect of your child’s online world. You can block websites and apps that may be causing trouble, set up screen time limits to encourage healthy boundaries, and keep an eye on their location. 

But Bark’s most powerful feature is our content monitoring. It scans your kid’s texts, emails, and social media platforms for potential dangers and sends you alerts concerning interactions. This way, you can check in and make sure everything is okay if your child is facing issues in online friendships like bullying, depression, online predators, and more. Sign up today for a free, one-week trial.

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Dear Titania,

My daughter recently told me that she’s been using ChatGPT to write her English essays. I told her I don’t think that’s a good idea, and she replied that it’s not cheating because at least she’s not plagiarizing. I don’t know much about ChatGPT but this doesn’t seem right. Can you give me a primer on this platform as well as some talking points for having a productive conversation with her about it? Thanks!


Anxious About AI

Dear Anxious About AI,

The future is now, and it’s a wild ride! ChatGPT is just the latest in what seems like a never-ending series of mind-blowing tech developments. Artificial intelligence (AI) has become extremely commonplace — think about the chatbots you encounter on homepages where you ask questions, those impressive photo filters on Instagram, and even auto-correct on your iPhone!

But as a parent, when technology starts to affect the way your child is learning and behaving in school, I’m sure your parenting spider-sense is starting to tingle, and rightfully so!

What Exactly Is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is a website where users can ask questions and get answers from an incredibly sophisticated chatbot. The company behind ChatGPT is called OpenAI, and it works with all sorts of artificial intelligence. You may also have heard of OpenAI’s DALL-E, which takes user prompts and generates graphic designs in a matter of seconds. They’re all over social media right now.

ChatGPT: How It Works

The tech behind ChatGPT is super complex, but it’s worth explaining a little about how it works. 

ChatGPT uses pattern recognition and access to unimaginable amounts of information to make decisions. Human brains do this, too, but not at the speed or volume that machines are capable of.

Let’s break down a simple example. Suppose I asked you and ChatGPT to finish this sentence: “The ice cream was ____.” 

Your first guess would probably be along the lines of “delicious”, “creamy”, or “cold.” ChatGPT knows this too, based on all of the human data it's been fed — information from books, websites, articles, and more. It won’t answer “smelly”, “warm”, or “ugly”, just like you wouldn’t. 

This was just a simple example, too. ChatGPT can use the same principles to answer incredibly complicated questions that take much longer to explain. But this is where it gets tricky, and where the chatbot’s limitations come into focus. We’ll get more into these issues later.

How Kids Might Use ChatGPT for School

Here are just a few examples of questions kids might ask ChatGPT:

ChatGPT can not only give correct answers to these questions, but it can also explain its reasoning in the cases of math problems — it shows its work, in other words. This makes it tricky. In the past, if you copied the answers from the back of the book, your teacher would know because you wouldn’t be able to show your steps. Not so with ChatGPT. 

The Issues with AI Assistance

Can ChatGPT generate remarkably human-sounding words? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Definitely not. Here are a few of the issues it has:

It can be plain wrong

Human experiences and information don’t always conform to logic, and ChatGPT can run into problems because of this — it’s also limited to data before 2021. But because it so confidently and quickly spits out answers, kids may believe they’re always 100% true. 

It can reflect human biases

ChatGPT only uses information that humans created, and it can mirror prejudices that exist in the data it’s fed with. This can include harmful positions about marginalized groups.

It will never be as creative as a real person

While ChatGPT is truly remarkable and probably the closest we’ve come to human-sounding answers in text form, it’s always…just missing something. The more you play around with it, the more you can start to see its patterns. (Hopefully, teachers will, too!)

A Tool, Not a Lifeline

At the end of the day, technology is a tool that can make our lives easier, but it’s just that — a tool, not a lifeline. Even though graphing calculators are used every day in advanced math, kids still learn how to count, add, subtract, multiply, and divide in elementary school. Once those are mastered — remember times table tests? — then calculators can be used. The same goes with ChatGPT. It can help you brainstorm, give you lots of options, and even provide a starting point for research. But it shouldn’t replace the work teachers assign to kids. 

Some Conversation Starters

I recommend pulling up ChatGPT (you can create a free account) and sitting down with your kid to explore it together. Here are few ways to get a conversation started:

I hope this helps you make a little more sense of this new technology! We live in exciting (and overwhelming) times, and like with everything when it comes to raising kids, talking it out together will always help. Good luck!

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Dear Bark,

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


No Phones During Visits

Dear No Phones During Visits

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

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

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

The Golden Rule: Communication

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

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

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

Brace for Impact 

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

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

Consider a Compromise

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

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

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

Whatever you decide, the two main things are: 

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

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

Wishing you a safe and enjoyable hosting experience! 

roblox character with frowning expression

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

First: A Roblox Refresher

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

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

Top 5 Hidden Dangers of Roblox

Condo games

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

Roblox Discord servers 

In addition to actually playing Roblox, many fans will also want to talk about it with others — and they often head to chat app Discord for that. If you search Google for “Roblox Discord servers” you’ll find links to countless groups to join. This presents a huge risk for kids, as any time there’s a huge public chat room, there’s a near certainty that online predators will be lurking in it. On top of that, many folks use these groups to share links to inappropriate content — both on Roblox and elsewhere. 

Inappropriate Roblox YouTube videos

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

Bypassed audio clips that definitely aren’t appropriate

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


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

How Bark Can Help

With the Bark app and the Bark Phone, we can help you manage when and if your child can use Roblox on their phone or tablet. If your child plays Roblox on a gaming console like an Xbox or PlayStation, Bark Home can do the same thing! We've also got a handy guide to how to set up Roblox parental controls for parents that walks you through everything you need to know.

In addition to blocking and managing apps, Bark also monitors your child’s online activities and sends you alerts for potential dangers in texts, emails, and social media platforms & apps. Want to learn more? Try Bark free for a week to see how it can help protect your child.