Ready for a throwback? Remember when the only headphones you could buy were the super thin wire-and-plastic ones that came with your Sony Walkman? They came in one color (black) and had one feature: tiny foam pads on each ear. Fast-forward to today and there are now hundreds of options — wireless, corded, in-ear, over-the-ear, and all available in a ton of different colors. Because of this, when it comes to finding the perfect headphones for kids, the process can be a little overwhelming.
Balancing the right functionality with the right price point — especially for younger kids who may drop or lose them — is key. But fret not! We’ve scoured the internet and talked to real-life parents about the absolute best options out there. Here are our picks!
Headphones for Kids: Priced from Low to High
Affordable ($19 and under)
Sony ZX On-Ear Headphones
If you’re looking for a good-quality, basic pair of over-the-ear headphones, Sony’s ZX has you covered. This no-frills option provides clear sound, comfortable ear pads, and wires that *somehow* magically stay untangled. And, because it’s Sony, it’s a reliable brand.
iJoy BlueTooth Over Ear Headphones
These comfortable over-the-ear bluetooth headphones are a workhorse! They also come with exterior button controls so you can skip songs, answer calls, and more. But maybe the greatest feature is the 6-month warranty — perfect for kids who may get a little too into dancing to “Good 4 U” by Olivia Rodrigo.
A Little Pricey ($20 – $50)
JLAB Go Airpop True Wireless Earbuds
Bark’s Director of Community Jodie Sherrill raves about her JLAB Go Airpops! For just $20, these Bluetooth earbuds provide 32+ hours of listening with a charged case, have stellar voice and sound connections, and come in a sleek case that resembles Airpods. But the best part? “If your kid loses these, you’re only out $20 and not the full $129 that Airpods cost,” Jodie says.
TOZO T6 Wireless Earbuds
These bluetooth earbuds come in six cool colors and feature super-sensitive touch controls. Compatible with both Android and Apple phones, perhaps the coolest thing about these headphones is that they’re waterproof up to a meter deep!
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Bluetooth Earbuds
If your kid is all about the best possible sound, Anker Soundcores allow them to nerd out with an customizable app. They can choose from 22 equilibrium settings to get great tone tailored to their ears — perfect for creating that ideal sound for background study music.
Splurges ($51 – $100)
Skullcandy Indy Evo Wireless Earbud
Another set of decent Bluetooth earbuds, Skullcandy Indy Evos have one really cool feature that may be a selling point for your family: They have Tile technology. This means you can download the Tile app and locate your kid’s earbuds no matter where they are. Say goodbye to lost headphones!
Raycon Gaming Earbuds
If your child is a gamer, you’ve probably heard of this brand. These earbuds are specially designed with in-game communication in mind. This means a loud and clear microphone, lag-free sound, and quick and easy touch controls.
Most Expensive ($100+)
Apple Airpods (2nd generation)
We’re not going to sugarcoat it: Apple Airpods are the gold standard for wireless earbuds, and not just because they popularized modern Bluetooth headphones. For many kids, iOS products are also status symbols, making them highly sought-after. But Airpods are also very reliable, have great sound, and seamlessly connect to iPhones with a flip of their case.
Think of these as the Android equivalent to Airpods. The two are very similar, and at the end day, each performs the best with their phone counterparts. Galaxy Buds2 have great sound and microphone quality, ergonomic fit, and remarkable battery life.
How to Choose the Right Pair for Your Child
It may not seem like it off the bat, but headphones can be a necessity these days! Whether you’re travelling together and don’t want to listen to BTS for the millionth time or your kid needs to tune into a Zoom lecture, headphones for kids are important.
We recommend starting younger kids with the less expensive options. For older kids who may want fancier headphones like Airpods, consider a trial run of a slightly cheaper Bluetooth set. If they can keep up with and take care of them, they’ll be able to demonstrate responsibility and convince you they’re ready for the big (audio) leagues.
We don’t know about you, but this year felt like it was both a million years long and *also* shorter than the time it takes your kids to brush their teeth. While the world can be an uncertain and scary place, there’s still lots of good in it. Here at Bark, we had some great wins. Every year is a good year, though, when it’s spent working together as a team to help protect kids and keep parents up to date with online safety tips. Here are just a few of our Bark 2021 highlights from another unprecedented twelve months in the digital age. Honorable mention not included: the new Adele album.
1: Number of new countries Bark expanded to — South Africa!
Bark’s officially international! We were excited to announce that Bark’s award-winning service is now available to families in South Africa. With a population of nearly 60 million, this expansion will help bring online safety to a whole new level for families in another part of the world! Pssst — we’re just getting started, too.
100: Employees at Bark
The Bark team experienced another incredible year of growth as we crossed a super cool milestone — hitting triple digits with team members! We’re so proud that we keep adding skilled, passionate folks who are drawn to our mission of helping to keep kids safe online and in real life.
212,642: Emails to support our customers
If there’s one thing every parent shares, it’s 100% being busy. The Bark team is full of parents, so we definitely understand the struggle. That’s why our customer support team is available 7 days a week to answer any questions families may have about setting up Bark, connecting accounts, and more. They’re reachable at email@example.com any time!
15+: Fun quizzes made for parents
From trying your hand at vintage video game history to deciphering the latest TikTok slang and trends, our fun quizzes were a hit with Bark users. They also definitely prompted a little intra-family competition on Saturday morning. Looking at you, spooky slang quiz.
12: Number of app reviews on our brand-new app review page
To help parents figure out what’s helpful and what’s not-so-helpful when it comes to advice on all the latest apps, we launched our new app review site. We’ll be continually updating it with the popular apps that kids are into so parents can stay one step ahead.
365: Number of days of remote work
Like much of the world, the Bark team entered into year two of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have adjusted — and continue to adjust — to all of the different challenges it’s thrown our way. No matter what, we try to stay positive, work hard, and enjoy the little things where we can. Matches of Skriblio at lunch over Zoom? Yes, please.
4,500: Number of Cricket Wireless locations where you can get information about Bark
Bark collaborated with Cricket Wireless this year to help bring parental controls to millions of Cricket users. In addition to deep discounts on Bark, parents can also take advantage of specially made resources that help parents protect their children online and raise responsible digital citizens.
11: Rounds played of the movie game
The marketing team’s favorite fun Zoom activity is a made-up game we call What Year Is It Anyway? One person quizzes the group on a very small part of movie trivia: the exact year a film was released. Wrong answers are way more fun and always have the whole team laughing. Case in point: Casablanca didn’t come out in 1996.
2: Appearances on The Drew Barrymore Show
Bark’s CMO Titania Jordan had the opportunity to talk about parenting in a tech world not once but twice with mom, movie star, former Josie Grossie, Charlie’s Angel, and now talk show host Drew Barrymore. Also racking up 2? The number of younger Bark team members who didn’t know who Josie Grossie is.
3,000+: Schools and districts using Bark for Schools
Bark for Schools, our free community giveback program, continues to help schools protect students from online threats. The growth of this program has been wildly successful in just the three short years since its launch. We’re humbled to be able to assist schools with online safety in uncertain times.
12: Tech Bytes videos released on regional news shows
Our 12-part video series aimed at helping parents understand technology aired in 3 huge markets -Charlotte, Dallas, and Atlanta! These byte-sized videos (see what we did there?) explain common dangers, new trends, and tech hacks to parents in a fun, engaging way.
1: Collaboration with the CDC
Bark collaborated with the CDC on the first-ever study study linking past online behavior to future events of suicide and self-harm. Using anonymous Bark data, the CDC examined how prior online behaviors like bullying, violence, drug-related content, hate speech, profanity, sexual content, depression, and low-severity self-harm among youth can be used to predict the risk of a future suicide or self-harm event. The results were published in JAMA Network Open.
160,000+: Users in Parenting in a Tech World, our Facebook group.
Just a few years ago, our Facebook group was a place where a few thousand parents gathered to talk shop about raising kids in the digital age. Fast forward to today and we have 160,000+ users! We’re so proud to have created such a positive community — something rare in this day and age — where families can ask questions, support one another, and even share the latest and greatest memes.
Bark 2021… and beyond
That’s it for the Bark 2021 recap! We hope you have a great start to the new year. We can’t wait to keep working on new updates, releases, and research to help you keep your kids safe online and in real life.
Keep an eye out for some really, really exciting things to come in 2022!
Before we get started, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. No matter what you’re going through right now, raising kids in the digital age is hard. There’s definitely no guidebook, and we’re the first generation of parents to juggle cell phones, Fortnite, and social media with our kids. If you’re like most parents, figuring out how to set healthy screen time limits can seem harder than trying to understand Common Core math!
No worries though — we’re here to help with pointers, conversation starters, and even just a little perspective get you on track. Let’s do this!
Think of Time Limits as an Extension of Structure and Routine
While they can be hard to implement sometimes, structure and routine are crucial to a child’s well-being. Screen time limits are no different than other rules like having a homework hour or feeding the dog. Consider sitting down and drafting a tech contract with your kid. By making the process collaborative, you can talk it out and give your child a say in some of the rules. When you make your expectations clear, your child will have a better understanding of what they can do and when.
Encourage Extracurricular Activities
Screen time is just one facet of your child’s world. Try encouraging their hobbies and activities so tech is not the number one thing in their life. A great way to do this is to require them to try outside-the-home activities. This can be playing a sport, learning a musical instrument, or joining a club at school.
The busier they are and the more time they spend being social with friends and teammates, the less time they’ll have to spend on their phone. This solution is a win-win: not only will screen time go down, but your kid will also grow as a human and learn new skills.
Talk About the Pros and Cons
When talking about setting limits or changing rules, kids may get defensive. This is natural, because often when kids are online, they’re really just connecting with friends, blowing off steam, or playing games. It’s an important part of their world — especially after all the time spent isolated in lockdown throughout the pandemic, when contact with other people was limited. But make sure your kid also understands some of the downsides of lots of tech use, like fear of missing out (FOMO), getting stressed or lonely, or even something as simple as headaches or dry eyes.
Here are some conversation starters to try:
- How do you feel at the end of the day when you’ve been online for a long time?
- What are the best things about being online for you?
- Can you tell me about a time when you felt overwhelmed by being online?
- How do you think your screen time compares to mine?
Boredom Isn’t a Problem to Be Solved
Sometimes, screen time is just a default go-to when kids are bored. But did you know that boredom is an important part of being a kid? This is super important to remember in today’s era of instant gratification. It’s when kids are bored that they can find truly creative ways to entertain themselves — and even have fun!
Also, screen time distraction can often prevent kids from recognizing their emotions. And while these feelings may not be fun, they’re still real. By not instantly opening up Instagram or YouTube when they’re upset, lonely, or sad, they can learn to recognize and experience their emotions in healthier ways.
Ease Into Less Screen Time With Different Screens
When you think of screen time, odds are you’re probably thinking of the hours your kid spends on their phone or tablet. But sometimes, even a switch to a different screen can be beneficial. We know, this doesn’t sound like an ideal situation, but hear us out.
It can look like watching a movie together as a family or having a Mario Kart tournament in the living room. These are both great options for families that aren’t quite ready for a rapid removal of all screen time in the evening or who want to ease into analog alternatives.
Healthy Screen Time Alternatives to Try
When you’re ready to stash all the screens in the kitchen and turn to some good old-fashioned family bonding, we’ve got some great ideas in this family activities blog post. Fun alternatives include real-life interactions and things like:
- Game night at the kitchen table (dibs on Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza)
- A walk together around the block (see if you can spot the neighborhood golden retriever)
- A picnic in a nearby park (everyone loves a sandwich)
- Evening free reading time (either out loud or individually)
- A favorite dip dinner party (this one’s our favorite)
(Try) and Lead By Example
This one is definitely easier said than done. Screen time for parents just isn’t the same as it is for kids. For one, things like jobs, family, and other adulting activities sometimes mean responding as soon as possible. Second, kids’ brains are still developing, and we’re still not sure how excessive screen time could affect them years down the line.
But all that being said, there are definitely ways to demonstrate the importance of being present. Institute a no-phones-at-the-dinner-table policy — even if only for half an hour. When you’re watching a movie together, try to limit Instagram scrolling so you don’t get lost (kids can always tell when you’re not paying attention).
Manage Screen Time the Easy Way With Bark
There are some free screen time solutions out there, but only Bark gives you the ability to set healthy screen time limits with schedules as dynamic as your family. Here at Bark, we don’t believe screen time is all or nothing, which is why we offer completely customizable schedules for each child.
Our approach to screen time centers on the idea that different times of day call for different screen time rules. For example, when your kids are in school, you can block access to everything but educational sites. And at bedtime, you can allow apps to help them wind down for the evening. And because all kids deserve to blow off a little steam, you can designate free time hours just for play.
If you’re looking for some new family activities that go beyond trips to the usual store, the same old dinnertime conversations, or yet another regular movie night, we’ve got some ideas to bust you out of your rut.
These fun ideas will help you view family time with a new lens, while allowing every member of your family — from the oldest to the youngest! — to join in and participate. And if you need help keeping screen time managed, Bark Home can definitely help you keep your kids present for all these activities.
Food-Themed Family Activities
Have a Grocery Store Surprise Potluck Night
If you’re willing to get a little creative and loosey goosey with dinner, consider a grocery store potluck night. Divide up your family and send them off to get one part of the meal. For example, kids can get sides, parents can get main courses, etc. Don’t discuss plans beforehand to ensure that it’s definitely potluck. Macaroni and cheese with a side of instant mashed potatoes? There’s no rules when it comes to surprise potluck night!
Throw a Costume Dinner
Need a quick way to spice up a Tuesday night dinner? Come up with a theme (like Frozen, famous Joes, or family member switcharoo) and let everyone see what they can put together with items from their closet. No formal costumes required — the fun is seeing how creative your family can get on short notice. Bonus points for staying in character during the meal!
Hold a Favorite Dip Party
From a buffalo chicken dip to a tasty homemade hummus, dips are easy to make and can provide a lot of different flavors and textures. Have your family members pick their favorites, have everyone assemble the ingredients, and get to dipping! Even younger kids can help with simple dips like three-ingredient nacho cheese. Don’t forget the chips, bread, and fruit to sample all of the delicious spreads.
Do a Movie Night Culinary Extravaganza
This spin on a traditional movie night is sure to get your family excited about your next double feature. Pick a movie where food is featured — or a country or region your family has always wanted to visit – and make or order something inspired by it! This could look like homemade ratatouille when watching everyone’s favorite rat chef (Ratatouille) or trying your hand at agua frescas and molé from Mexico (Coco). The only limits are your imagination — and taste buds! You could even keep it simple and have tea time with Mary Poppins.
Outside Family Activities
Find a New Park to Picnic In
Whether you’re looking for a new jungle gym in a neighborhood playground or ready for a trip to a nearby national park, getting out and exploring can be tons of fun. Depending on the park, there could be sports fields, waterfalls, historic houses, or even just a beautiful meadow. Pack up some tasty sandwiches, fresh fruit, and ice-cold drinks and head off to play in the great outdoors!
Pretend to Be Tourists in a Nearby Town
Ever wonder how the ice cream shops in the next town over are? How about their main street? Even nearby neighborhoods can feel completely different from the part of town you live in, and can sometimes hide hidden gems you wouldn’t discover otherwise. Head on over to a place you’ve only ever heard of — or driven by — and see what it’s like.
Go on a Seek App Adventure
The Seek app by iNaturalist is truly a game-changer when it comes to helping your family learn about the plants in your neighborhood. Say goodbye to wondering the name of flowers that bloom so beautifully in your neighbor’s yard or trying to figure out what species of tree is in your school playground. To kickstart your kids’ interest in nature, see who can identify the most plants in five minutes — they’ll use critical thinking skills and creativity as they rack up rhododendrons and collect calla lilies.
Visit the Nearest Body of Water
No matter where you live, there’s bound to be a water feature somewhere nearby. Whether it’s the beach (if you’re lucky!) or a river, pond, or lake, consider making a family jaunt to enjoy it. Go swimming, practice skipping stones, try your hand at fishing, or just bask in the beauty of moving water — it can be surprisingly refreshing.
Indoor Family Activities
Give an Old-School Card Game Lesson
Dust off the old pack of playing cards from the shelf and give your kids a lesson on how we used to kill time before cell phones and airpods. Whether it’s a classic game of War or Go Fish with younger kids or the fast-paced thrill of Speed or Egyptian Rat’s Crew with tweens and teens, these standards are sure to get your family invested in cards.
Have a Paint-Off
Gather some painting supplies (or crayons, or colored pencils) and pick something to draw. It can be flowers, the family pet, even something silly like Superman. Then, have everyone try to capture the same scene artistically. Half the fun is seeing how wildly different everyone’s masterpiece will turn out. The other half? Discovering who the family artist is!
Build an Epic Fort and Camp Out in the Living Room
You’ve probably built a quick fort before by throwing a blanket over a couple of chairs — it’s one of the most popular family activites! We challenge you, though, to go all in. Collect some big boxes. Make tunnels. Bring in every pillow in the house. This activity may not be for the faint of heart, and it may make a bit of a mess, but we guarantee your kids will definitely remember a fort palace on this huge scale.
Gather Round and Head Out on the Oregon Trail
An entire generation of kids was raised on this vintage video game — we used to even play it in school! While it may not be on the curriculum anymore (and gaming has definitely gotten more advanced in the past 30 years), it’s still one of the best family activities you can have gathered around a computer. You can also play it online! Be careful though — fording rivers is still as dangerous as you remember.
Bark in South Africa? It’s no longer just a rumor! Families in South Africa have something to celebrate when it comes to online safety. Bark is now officially available to the more than 59 million people who live in the country.
We’re thrilled to be able to offer our comprehensive safety solution to a different part of the world and provide many more families with helpful digital parenting resources.
What Bark in South Africa Means for Families
Kids in the U.S. aren’t the only ones who struggle with digital dangers. A recent study analyzed the online behaviors of more than 2,600 children ages 9 to 17 in South Africa. Here are just a few of the eye-opening stats from that study:
- 70% of children surveyed use the internet without parental consent.
- 25% confirmed that they have added people whom they have never met face-to-face to their friends or contacts list.
- 18% have sent a photo or video of themselves to a person they have never met face-to-face.
- 67% of child participants who have seen sexual images were exposed to them on an online device.
The Importance of Monitoring and Parental Controls
There’s no handbook for raising kids in the digital age, and today’s children have access to technology and devices we never could have dreamed of. Bark enables parents to get alerts if there’s something going on in their child’s world that they need to know about. This includes issues like bullying, suicidal ideation, depression, predators, and many more. Our service allows you to block websites and apps and create custom screen time schedules to provide your kid with healthy boundaries.
Looking to the Future
Bark plans to build on its presence in South Africa and beyond by building partnerships with ISPs. In addition to offering Bark in South Africa, we also offer content monitoring in Spanish in the United States. It’s our hope that one day every family that needs Bark’s help will be able to use our service.
Each year for our holiday gift guide, the Bark team scours the internet and queries friends and families for the absolute coolest presents and hottest gifts for kids. Think of it like Oprah’s annual favorite things, except only for the ever-changing tastes of tweens and teens.
It’s our hope that many of these picks will inspire your kids to put down their phones or video game controllers for a bit and engage in some good old-fashioned family bonding — during the holiday season and beyond!
Presenting Bark’s Class of 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza
$9.99 at Target
If your family is into fast-paced card games like UNO or even an old classic like War, Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza will definitely be a hit. You take turns dealing out random cards (with cute illustrations of a taco, a cat, a goat, cheese, and pizza) while saying the list of names in order. When a card matches the word, the last one to slap their hand down has to take the whole pile! Kids and adults will have a blast with this one. It gets pretty competitive!
10-Pack of Tech Decks
$24.25 on Amazon
Remember the fidget spinner craze from a few years back? Tech decks are kind of like the latest version. They’re miniature skateboards that you “ride” with your fingers, and you can even pull real tricks like ollies, kickflips, and more. Tech decks are sure to keep your kids busy on long car rides and even lazy Saturday afternoons.
Escape the Room: Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat
$23.99 on Amazon
Whether your family already loves escape rooms or there’s not one in your hometown, we’ve got the solution! Now, you can have a similar experience right from the comfort of your living room. Work together as a team and solve puzzles, look for clues, and more. Plus, if you get hungry, you can take a quick break because your kitchen is just in the other room!
$69.96 at Walmart
What do you get when you combine the handwork of volleyball with the rules of the old-school game four square? Spikeball!! Teams of four take turns bouncing and spiking a cantaloupe-sized ball off a small net a few inches off the ground. It’s super easy to set up and transport, so your kids will be playing Spikeball in the backyard, the local park, after soccer games, or even at the beach!
Photo Clip String Lights
$17.99 on Amazon
Give your kid a fun and festive way to display their favorite photos, cards, and drawings with these photo clip string lights. It comes with 50 clips and remote-controlled LED bulbs so your child can really customize their setup to fit their personality and make their room super cozy.
$21.91 on Amazon
This thoughtful gift solves an age-old problem: How do you keep your ears warm while also listening to music on earbuds? Enter the Bluetooth beanie! (After all, no holiday gift guide would be complete without headphones.) Tiny speakers are knit into the fabric of the hat near the ears, eliminating the need for external buds! Great for walks to school, but may result in a lot of “what!?!?!?” if your kid wears their Bluetooth beanie around the house.
ZIPIT “Talking Monstar” Pencil Case
$7.99 on Amazon
Say goodbye to boring pencil boxes and cases! The ZIPIT pencil case is made up entirely of one long zipper, which sounds wild, but it’s true! Kids will have fun showing off this zany feature to friends and classmates. You can also download a free mobile app that uses augmented reality to make the pencil case come to life with jokes and games.
$29.99 on many platforms
Jackbox has completely revolutionized party games — and it even helped bring many folks closer together during the pandemic. It’s a pack of video games you play together with a group, either all in the same room or via Zoom or FaceTime. Each player uses their phone to participate in zany games like trivia, hilarious drawing challenges, and more. Kids especially love Jackbox because so many of the activities leave you laughing out loud — literally.
$10.99 on Amazon
Crocs may have only been popular with nurses and waiters back in the early 2000s, but they’ve made a resurgence this year thanks to celebrities like Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber sporting colorful pairs. Today, Crocs are super popular with middle and high schoolers — especially sports teams! So, if your kid loves Crocs, this 50-pack of random charms will help them express their personality as they clasp them to the 13 ventilation holes on their shoes.
Wireless Karaoke Microphone
$32.99 on Amazon
Gone are the days of refrigerator-sized home karaoke machines! These surprisingly powerful microphones light up in cool colors and also connect via BlueTooth to your phone or your TV so you can sing along to your favorite songs! Plus, there are tons of free karaoke songs with scrolling lyrics on YouTube, so your family will be able to belt out their favorite hits right from your living room. This may be the most fun and interactive pick on this holiday gift guide!
This holiday season, we know you’re itching to find the absolute most perfect present for the kids in your life. Here at Bark, we’re a team composed of families, so we understand just how confusing it can be to compare all of the tech specs for the latest gadgets, know which consoles support which video games, and find out which books are kid-friendly bestsellers.
To help you out on your search for the perfect gifts for teens and tweens, we’ve created this ultimate holiday buyer’s guide. Because the less time you spend scouring the internet and shopping from store to store, the more time you’ll have for mugs of piping hot cocoa, cozy movie marathons, and some quality holiday bonding time.
Gifts for Teens and Tweens
The Best Tablets for Kids
Whether your kids are just learning to read or already taking algebra, tablets provide countless learning opportunities. They’re also just plain fun, allowing kids to chat with friends or watch their favorite YouTube videos. We ranked our top five in terms of durability, price, and functionality.
Books Teens and Tweens Will Love
Nothing beats a good old-fashioned book, whether it’s a dog-eared paperback or an e-book instantly downloaded to a Kindle. This list has something that’s sure to satisfy even the pickiest readers, from immersive graphic novels to the latest in adventure fantasy.
Starter Phones for Families
Think of these starter phones kind of like bikes with training wheels. They give your child a way to talk and text to you while apart, while also limiting their exposure to the internet, strangers, and other digital dangers. We’ve rounded up the best options that provide everything you’ll need to help give your kid the safest start to their phone journey.
2021’s Best Laptops
Laptops are important for school, gaming, communication, creative activities, and so much more. Because of this, they make great gifts for teens. From MacBooks to Chromebooks, we picked five choices ranging in size, style, and price to help you find the perfect laptop for your kid.
3 Smartwatches for Younger Kids
If you’re thinking about giving your child a little more independence — but aren’t quite ready for a phone — a smartwatch is a great option. We found the best devices that have no internet access, limited texting/calling ability, and GPS tracking.
Video Games Kids Love
Some of the best gifts for teens are video games — they provide countless hours of entertainment, exploration, and even a little friendly competition. We’ve researched the most fun and most kid-friendly titles that are sure to make a splash in your household.
Has your child graduated past the Minecraft and Roblox stage of gaming? If so, you’re probably looking for some video games for kids that aren’t too violent or inappropriate. Whether they’re into edge-of-their-seat space adventures, action-packed racing, or the gentle explorations of open-world games, there’s something for every taste on this list. Some are even two-player games, so we recommend popping a huge bowl of popcorn, grabbing a blanket, and doing a little virtual bonding with your kid as you face off on the couch.
The Best Video Games for Kids
1. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Generations of kids have been trying to out-zoom each other in the fast-paced tracks of Mario Kart on every Nintendo platform since 1992. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, released in 2017, is the latest edition and has become the Switch’s best-selling game ever. It’s got the usual cast of characters along with updated, high-octane features like antigravity tracks, brand-new battle modes, and more.
2. Untitled Goose Game
PS4 / Xbox One / PC / Nintendo Switch
This game is about as wacky as it sounds. Your character: a horrible goose. Your job: to cause mischief for the quaint villagers in your lovely little town by being annoying, hiding things, and doing other ridiculous tasks. Experienced gamers and newbies alike will find this game a ton of fun as you honk, bother, and bite your way around town.
3. Rocket League
PS4 / Xbox One / PC / Nintendo Switch
Imagine a soccer stadium. Now, imagine the players are all super-fast, rocket-powered cars and the ball is bigger than a tank. Your mission? To use your car to knock the ball into the opponent’s goal. It’s a wild ride, and definitely harder than it sounds. Rocket League is incredibly popular, and there are even professional esports leagues built around it.
4. Overcooked 2
PS4 / Xbox One / PC / Nintendo Switch
Overcooked 2 is a chaotic co-op video game for one to four players. In it, you work together to cook sushi, burgers, and more while navigating complicated kitchens and responding to hungry customers. When the pressure’s on, you’ll be shouting “On your left!” and “Chop those onions faster!” like a seasoned chef in a fancy Parisian kitchen.
5. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
If you remember the first few months of the pandemic in 2020, you probably recall hearing about Animal Crossing. This low-stress game provides kids with an escapist dreamland that’s at once comforting, relaxing, and heartwarming. Whether it’s picking fruit, listening to the waves lapping on the shore, or wishing on a shooting star, the game provides moments of peace and little bursts of connection.
6. Zelda: Breath of the Wild
It may be hard to believe, but this is the 19th installment in the Zelda franchise — and quite possibly the most ambitious yet. The gorgeous game is completely open-world, which means that players can spend hundreds of hours exploring, fighting, talking, and just generally enjoying the majestic kingdom of Hyrule. Our favorite part? Cooking is actually a huge part of the gameplay as you concoct recipes to restore health, gain strength, and more.
7. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
The latest entry in the Ratchet & Clank franchise sees our loveable space heroes adventuring across the galaxy by rifting through dimensions, which opens up all kinds of new abilities and locations. This sci-fi adventure is loads of fun with a heartwarming, emotional core that will keep you playing.
8. Just Dance 2022
PS4 / PS5 / Xbox One / PC / Nintendo Switch
If your kids love to boogie, Just Dance 2022 will help them shake their groove things while burning off a little excess energy. Players choose a song from some of today’s biggest hits (think Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, and Olivia Rodrigo) and then try to keep up with the hip, on-screen choreography. The more precise you are, the more points you get! You can use motion controllers or a free smartphone app that will rank your performance.
9. Splatoon 2
Looking for one of the less violent first-person shooter video games for kids? Splatoon 2 is a great option that provides the fun of action games with a kid-friendly twist: it’s all about ink instead of bullets! You run around trying to cover your enemies — and the environment — with brightly colored paint while avoiding being splattered yourself.
10. Kena: Bridge of Spirits
PS4 / PS5 / PC
A breathtaking adventure game with mind-blowing graphics, this game follows Kena, a young spirit guide who’s responsible for helping recently passed-away people cross the bridge to the afterlife. While that sounds pretty heavy, the game is actually pretty fun and exciting, and it consists of a lot of monster-fighting and exploring beautiful environments.
If a friend has ever handed you their phone so you could read a dramatic text thread, you probably know how interesting it can be — and how someone can tell an engaging story through just speech bubbles. This concept is at the heart of the Yarn app. It’s storytelling through fictional text messages (along with some other multimedia content like videos and audio clips) that usually veers towards really inappropriate. It’s similar to fan fiction, which is incredibly popular among kids today. If the idea of reading made-up text conversations confuses you, not to worry! We’ll explain everything you need to know about this definitely-not-for-kids app.
What Is the Yarn App?
The Yarn app is available for iOS and Android devices with a subscription-based model. After a free 7-day trial, there are many different pricing options, ranging from $2.99/week up to $99/year. When you first open the app, it asks you a pointed question: Do you want to see steamy stories or scary stories? These two types of content are the bread-and-butter of the platform, but it spans quite a lot across several different formats, including:
- Text messages
- Choose your own adventure text threads
- Audio stories
- Fake social media accounts like TikTok and Instagram
How Does it Work?
From the main page of the app you can sort content by subject, including popular featured stories, shorts, Riverdale-inspired content (a popular TV show) as well as categories like “love,” “steamy,” and more.
Some of the titles of specific content include “Send Nudes?,” “He’s Watching Me,” “Serial Slasher,” and “Sexting 101.” For the text message stories — which make up the bulk of the app — you simply click on a title and are taken to a fake texting screen. A message will appear, and then to see the next one, you tap the screen. As you keep tapping, the messages keep coming in a quick flow, enabling you to “read” an entire story.
For the other types of content, they’re pretty much what they sound like. You can watch short videos on a variety of topics. Sometimes, they’re even in the form of TikToks. You can listen to audio clips kind of like an audiobook or podcast.
The Appeal of Stories Told in Text Message
When you think about how much of our digital lives is spent chatting with others online, it makes a little more sense that a text message story would appeal to young people. A common trope in literature is the epistolary novel, which just means a book told in the form of letters sent and received between characters. For our day and age, a story told in text messages is the same idea.
Another appeal of the Yarn app lies in curiosity. The app markets itself with the tagline “Ever wanted to snoop through people’s conversations and not feel guilty for it?” With Yarn, you can pretend you’re reading someone else’s messages. And not just boring location updates — they’re super scary or full of sexual language.
Dangers to Watch Out For
The makers of the app have rated Yarn 17+, which means that it’s chock-full of all kinds of inappropriate content. The two primary forms of content are explicit sexuality and scary violence. The sexual content includes very graphic descriptions of sexting and nudity as well as racy photos and videos — it’s kind of like romance novels for the digital age. It’s normal for kids to have an interest in sexuality as they age, but the Yarn app may not be the best idea for them to explore. We recommend talking to your kid about what they’ve heard about this platform, along with how it’s made for adults because of all the explicit content on it.
If you’d like to block the app altogether, you can do so using Bark’s blocking tools.
Want to help protect your child from inappropriate or distracting content while they’re online? Whether you’re worried about porn, gaming sites, or streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, we’ve got you covered. We’ve researched the best and easiest ways to show you how to block a website on iPhone devices with three different apps: Apple Screen Time, Bark, and BlockSite.
How to Block a Website on iPhone using Apple Screen Time
- On your kid’s iOS device, open up Settings.
- Scroll down until you find Screen Time and tap it.
- Then, tap Content and Privacy Restrictions.
- After that, tap Content Restrictions.
- Next, tap Web Content. On this screen, you can choose to limit adult websites or you can lock everything down, and allow only a few websites you manually enter in.
At the bottom, there’s another option. Here, you can block individual websites by tapping “Add website” under “NEVER ALLOW.” This is where you type in the specific sites you want to block, like Fortnite.com, for example. If you don’t necessarily know every name of every potentially harmful site, check the next section! We recommend doing these steps from your own phone with Family Sharing enabled so your child can’t change the settings once you’re done.
How to Block Websites Using Bark
Bark is your best option if you’d like to be able to block any website and tons of different categories of content — like adult websites, gaming, social media, and much more. That means you don’t have to know all of the potentially worrisome sites by name!
- If you’re a Bark user, head to your dashboard and find your child’s profile. If you aren’t yet, no worries! Head to bark.us and sign up for a free, one-week trial.
- From your dashboard, select Settings and then Parental Controls.
- Here, you can review the rule sets you’ve scheduled.
- Scroll down until you see Screen time rule sets and select the rule set currently applied.
- Toggle the app or site to Blocked. You can block entire categories of sites or individual URLs.
- Repeat these steps for any other screen time rule sets you’ve scheduled.
How to Block Websites Using BlockSite
BlockSite is a free app available for download in the App Store that lets you filter websites on your kid’s device. Here’s how you block a website on iPhone devices with it:
- Start by heading to the App Store.
- Download BlockSite and open it when it’s installed.
- When it asks you to enable the VPN, do so. (A VPN is the technical part of what will let you block sites with the app.)
- Next, tap the + in the lower right corner. Type in the website address you’d like to block. A list will appear in the search results below.
- Find what you’re looking for and tap the +. It will change into a checkmark. Repeat with any other websites you’d like to block, then click “Done” when you’re finished.