teen girl gardening

When life gets extra busy with school, work, and after-school activities, it’s easy to forget about the bigger issues going on in the world. But taking time to volunteer and giving what we can to those in need is immensely important — and there’s no better time to learn this than the teen years! 

In this post, we’ll discuss five ways that parents can encourage their teens to get involved in volunteering activities that will help them grow into responsible citizens of their community.

1. Explain Why Volunteering Is Needed

The first step towards getting your child involved in volunteering is making them aware of why it’s needed. You can have open discussions with your teens about important issues. This could be anything from feeding the hungry, caring for neglected animals, or finding cures for serious medical conditions. Even better, you can watch documentaries with your teens about these topics so they can have a deeper understanding. This will flow nicely into conversations about the need for volunteering and how your family can directly contribute to any one of these good causes. 

2. Give Them Independence

One thing most parents want to avoid is the “I’m only doing this cause my mom told me to do it” mindset from kids. We want our kids to volunteer, but we also want them to want to volunteer. A great way to mitigate this is by allowing them to make it their own experience as much as possible. Give them the freedom to make decisions when it comes to where they volunteer and what they do. 

Teens can do research on organizations in their local area that they feel drawn to. Not only can this get them more pumped about the idea of volunteering, but it also fosters a sense of initiative and responsibility.  

3. Lead by Example

As with most things, kids often learn what to value by watching their parents. We often advise parents to watch their own screen time habits if they want their kids to have a healthy relationship with tech as well. The same goes for volunteering — consider finding time to volunteer yourself to be an example for your kid.

Another important point to remember is that leading by example isn’t just about showing up for an occasional volunteering event. It also involves instilling values such as empathy and compassion in everyday life so that these qualities become second nature for your teen. Be vocal about how much you appreciate their efforts when they choose to volunteer, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem at first glance. This will help them understand just how important their contribution truly is and fuel their motivation to continue volunteering. 

4. Help Them Choose Something They’re Passionate About

There are tons of ways to volunteer, so why not choose something that’s connected with what they already enjoy? Have your teen explore their interests, skills, and passions to determine which opportunities may be a good fit for them. If your teen has a particular hobby or talent — such as cooking or photography — encourage them to find organizations that align with those interests so that they can put their skills to use while making a difference.

5. Incorporate Fun and Games Into Volunteering for Teens

Jumping into a volunteer situation may not come naturally for all kids — if they feel a little awkward, that’s completely normal! Something that can help is finding volunteer events that involve games or fun activities.

For instance, you can have teens play trivia or guessing games during donation drives. These are great ways to keep volunteers engaged while still supporting the mission of the event. Another option could be looking into volunteering with younger kids — this almost always involves playing fun games and activities with the kids that teens can easily help facilitate. 

How to Find Safe Volunteering Opportunities for Teens

As a parent, you want to be sure your child is safe when they’re volunteering. Researching organizations in advance can help identify any red flags as well as provide insight into how reputable they are within your local community.

Start by looking up reviews online. Check out websites like Charity Navigator or GuideStar, which provide ratings based on itransparency of finances, mission, and board leadership. These rankings can give you an idea of each organization’s track record when it comes to quality service delivery — so make sure you take the time necessary to explore these before signing up.

There are also a couple of other additional safety measures that you should look for when it comes to teen volunteering. Do background checks exist for staff members? Is there an age limit set for volunteers? Are appropriate supervision protocols followed during group activities? Knowing this information upfront will give parents peace of mind knowing their teen is being taken care of at all times.

Keep Your Teens Safe With the Bark App

If you want to ensure your kids are safe both while volunteering and round-the-clock, Bark has got you covered! With Bark, you can monitor what your kids are looking at online and who they're talking to — giving you peace of mind knowing everyone stays safer. Start your free trial of Bark today!

kid doing homework on a laptop

If you’re a parent, odds are you’ve seen and heard hundreds of arguments pointing to screen time's positive or negative impact on your child’s development. While there may be two sides to this argument, it's undeniable that screens have become an integral part of learning. 

In this article, we’ll delve into both on the impact of screen time on learning. We’ll explore the benefits of screen time as well as the pros of limiting it — as well as how you can strike a balance with Bark’s help. 

The Many Benefits of Screen Time

Screen time isn't a one-size-fits-all concept. It’s evolved to encompass many experiences, from educational apps and online courses to social media and entertainment. Screen time has several benefits when it comes to learning and education.

Access to information

Computers and phones provide instant access to a wealth of knowledge, enabling children to explore diverse subjects and learn at their own pace. Gone are the days when you had to sift through library books or encyclopedias. Now, with just a few clicks, kids can explore the cosmos and find creative new ways to tackle math problems.

Interactive learning

Learning doesn’t have to be a drag. Educational apps and programs engage children through fun, interactive lessons that foster critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Interactive learning games are especially helpful to younger children who might find it difficult to focus or stay disciplined when they aren’t interested in a topic or subject.

Visual learning

Not all students learn the same the way. For kids and teens who are more visual learners, online visual aids and multimedia content enhance comprehension and retention of complex topics like anatomy, physics, and more.

Global connectivity

Screens make communication and collaboration with experts worldwide easy. Global connections broaden children’s learning horizons as they may have access to more diverse and interesting viewpoints and teachers that they wouldn't have the opportunity to interact with otherwise.

Drawbacks of Screen Time

With all of the benefits that come along with screen time, it can also have some major drawbacks.

Reduced physical activity

If you’re spending all day looking at a screen, odds are you aren’t getting outside as much, or running around or playing actively with friends. Experts are worried this may lead to an overall more sedentary lifestyle for kids, impacting their long-term physical and mental health.

Attention and concentration

One of the biggest arguments against screen time is the effect it can have on developing brains. Several studies have delved into the potential correlation between longer screen time usage and a short attention span. In a world that already demands so much of our attention, this can greatly impact a child’s ability to focus on tasks or engage in deep learning.

Sleep disruption

Studies have shown that blue light emitted by screens can disrupt sleep patterns. Kids and children need plenty of sleep, and a lack of it can greatly affect your child’s ability to learn or perform academically. 

Risk of inappropriate and dangerous content

While the internet is filled with educational videos and exciting ways to learn and grow, unmonitored screen time can expose children to things we’d rather them not see — from porn to violent videos and even messages from strangers. The more time they spend in front of screens, the more likely they’ll encounter this dangerous content.

While screens offer many educational opportunities, maintaining a balance is essential. Research suggests too much screen time can hinder cognitive development, particularly in younger children. Encouraging outdoor play, fostering face-to-face interactions and promoting hobbies that don't involve screens are crucial for holistic growth.

How Bark Can Help

Acknowledging the pivotal role screens play in children's lives, Bark offers a comprehensive solution to help parents navigate the digital landscape. With Bark's advanced monitoring and parental control features, parents can track screen time, set healthy limits and promote safe exploration. Sign up for a free trial of Bark today and pave the way for a balanced screen time journey for your kids.

two kids, one athletic and one studious

Every child is unique, and as parents, it’s essential to adapt our parenting styles to meet their needs. One aspect that influences a child's life is whether they’re more introverted or extroverted. 

Children are rarely complete introverts or extroverts, but can definitely lean one way or the other. Understanding your child’s natural inclinations can help them succeed at home and beyond. Below, we explore the perks and challenges of raising introverted and extroverted children and provide practical tips to help them thrive.

The Perks and Challenges of Introverted Kids

Do you suspect your child is an introvert? They tend to be introspective and gain energy from solitary activities. Introverted children are often observant, thoughtful, and possess rich inner worlds. 

One of the perks of raising introverted children is their ability to focus deeply on their interests. They often have a natural inclination towards solitary activities like reading, art,video games, and music. This allows them to develop exceptional skills and a strong sense of self. Introverted kids are also known for their active listening abilities, empathy, and introspective thinking, which can lead to deep connections and meaningful relationships.

However, it's important to recognize and address the challenges that introverted children may face. They may struggle with social interactions and find large group settings overwhelming. It's crucial for parents to create a balance, allowing introverted children to have ample alone time to recharge and process their thoughts while also encouraging them to participate in social activities and make new friends. 

The Perks and Challenges of an Extroverted Child

Raising extroverted kids brings its own set of joys and challenges. Extroverted children thrive on social interactions and gain energy from being around others. Characteristics of an extrovert include being outgoing, acting enthusiastically, and enjoying being the center of attention. 

One of the perks of raising extroverted children is their ability to form connections easily. They are often highly sociable, making friends effortlessly and bringing energy and enthusiasm to social situations. Their outgoing nature can also lead to increased self-confidence and a strong sense of identity.

However, there are challenges to consider as well. Extroverted kids may have difficulty understanding personal boundaries, especially when it comes to talking to strangers. Parents need to teach them about “stranger danger” and appropriate behavior in different situations. Balancing their active lifestyle with necessary downtime is also important, as extroverted kids may be prone to burnout. 

How to Parent an Introverted Child

While parenting styles are multifaceted and there’s certainly never one right way to parent, consider these five tips for supporting your introverted child.

  1. Create a quiet retreat: Provide a dedicated space in your home where your introverted child can recharge and engage in solitary activities like reading, drawing or quiet reflection.
  2. Encourage hobbies and creative outlets: Support their interests and provide opportunities for them to explore their passions. This allows them to develop skills and boosts their self-esteem.
  3. Foster one-on-one connections: Encourage your child to develop meaningful friendships through smaller, more intimate settings. Playdates, shared interests and activities with a few close friends can help them build strong connections.
  4. Teach self-care practices: Help your introverted child understand the importance of self-care. Encourage activities like journaling, mindfulness and physical exercise that promote their well-being.
  5. Advocate for their needs: Be their advocate in social situations where they may feel overwhelmed. Encourage them to assert their boundaries and provide reassurance and guidance when needed.

How to Raise an Extroverted Child

Extroverted children might seem like “easy” children between their ability to make friends and thrive in social situations. Beyond this easy-breezy appearance, it’s important to safeguard your extroverted child against others and create times and places for them to rest. 

  1. Provide social opportunities: Engage your extroverted child in group activities, sports, and community events where they can meet new people and foster their social skills.
  2. Teach safety and awareness: Educate your child about potential dangers, such as talking to strangers or sharing personal information online. Help them understand boundaries and how to seek help when needed.
  3. Encourage active listening: Teach your extroverted child the importance of listening to others and respecting their perspectives. This skill enhances their communication abilities and fosters meaningful connections.
  4. Promote downtime and reflection: Help your child find a balance between social interactions and quiet moments. Encourage them to engage in activities like reading, writing or solitary hobbies that allow them to recharge.
  5. Embrace their enthusiasm: Celebrate your child's outgoing nature and support their passions. Encourage them to explore new activities, nurture their curiosity, and express themselves freely.

Celebrating Your Child’s Uniqueness

Ultimately, the key to supporting your child, whether introverted or extroverted, is acceptance. Celebrate their unique qualities and provide an environment where they can thrive authentically. By understanding their needs, fostering connections, and providing guidance, you can help your child navigate the world with confidence, empathy, and a strong sense of self.

How Bark Can Help

Regardless of whether your child is an introvert or an extrovert, raising a child in the digital age can be tough. Bark’s parental controls help you keep an eye on their online world. For introverted kids who love apps and games, we can help you set screen time limits and block inappropriate content. For extroverted kids, Bark will help you monitor their texts and messages for signs of bullying or online predators and give you peace of mind with our GPS location tracking. Sign up today for a free, one-week trial!

child smiling with illustrated emojis around her

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

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

Why Self-Confidence Matters

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

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

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

1.   Be a positive role model

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

2.   Focus on developing healthy communication skills

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

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

3.   Be body positive

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

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

4.   Celebrate their successes

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

5.   Encourage vulnerability

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

6.   Teach them to engage in self-care activities

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

Bringing Kids into the Conversation

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

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

When to Get Professional Help

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

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

How Bark Can Help

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

family looking at a computer

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

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

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

What is a Family Contract?

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

How Can It Benefit Family Dynamics?

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

Improved communication

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

Collaborative decision making

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

Conflict resolution

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

How it Can Help Promote a Healthy Lifestyle for Your Kids

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

Establishing priorities

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

Setting healthy boundaries

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

Encouraging well-rounded development

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

How Bark Can Help

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

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

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

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

What Is Peer Pressure?

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

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

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

Peer pressure can happen in a few different ways:

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

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

Tips for How To Deal With Peer Pressure 

1.   Build trust with your child

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

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

2.   Practice saying no

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

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

3.   Be a role model

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

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

 4.   Teach them what it means to be a friend

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

Some things you can discuss include:

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

5.   Discuss dangerous behavior

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

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

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

Preventing Digital Peer Pressure With Bark

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

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

illustrated school supplies and smartphone

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

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

How Can Cell Phones Be Useful In School?

Enhanced learning opportunities

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

Communication and collaboration

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

Emergency situations

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

Reasons Why Cell Phones Don’t Belong at School

Distractions and disruptions

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

Academic integrity

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

Social and emotional impacts

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

Finding a Middle Ground

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

Establish clear guidelines

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

Promote digital literacy

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

Provide alternative technology

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

How Bark Can Help

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

kid reading a book

We know that getting kids to read for fun can be like pulling teeth. Especially when they have so many screens at their disposal and they spend all day reading at school, reading can often seem way more exhausting than relaxing. 

But there are so many benefits when kids develop the habit of reading! They gain more knowledge, learn critical thinking skills, develop creativity and imagination, and improve their writing ability. And here are some benefits you might not even know about: reading can help kids become more empathetic, build better relationships, and boost their mental health and overall well-being. 

So, how do you get your kids to pick up more books? Below, we’ll dive into how you can get your kids to read for fun — from free online resources, to fun new books for all ages, and even some ideas for creating a healthy reading schedule!

Free Online Resources to Help Your Kids Develop the Habit of Reading for Fun

1. Reading Websites

One way to help get them interested in reading for fun outside of school is to introduce them to free reading websites. These websites offer tons of kid-friendly content, from books to magazine articles with topics ranging from science to sports. They have something for everyone — even teens! Not only do they provide a great way to explore new genres, but they also make it easier for parents to monitor what their children are reading without having to buy a physical copy of the book every time. Plus, many of them also provide interactive features like quizzes and games, which can help keep kids engaged while they learn.

Books are still the best way for children to develop their reading skills, but free reading websites can be a great supplement and encourage kids who might not typically dive into a physical book. Websites like the ones below are just a few of the many that can help get your kids reading more:

2. Virtual Reading Groups or Book Clubs

Consider getting your children involved in virtual reading groups specifically designed for kids and teens. They can join together with other readers from around the world to discuss their favorite books. Similarly, they can subscribe to an online book club that will help keep them up-to-date on the latest releases and provide tips on how to stay motivated while tackling longer reads.

3. Audiobooks

Lastly, if your kids aren’t interested in reading at first, a great stepping stone is to start with audiobooks! There are plenty of free options available for kids and teenagers online. Listening to stories has been proven beneficial in helping younger readers increase their comprehension skills, with the ultimate goal of getting them to read more books. It’s also an easy way for parents or caregivers who don't have time to sit down with their children but still want them exposed to engaging literature outside of school. Free websites such as LibriVox offer hundreds of titles, both new and old. Some even come with follow-up activities that make learning more interactive and enjoyable.

Quick Tip for Parents - Encouraging your kids to explore different genres may also be beneficial when trying to get them excited about reading. Whether it be comic books or graphic novels, historical non-fiction books about famous figures, or biographies and autobiographies written by influential people in our society today – exposing them to different genres can certainly help fuel those daily reading habits.

How to Find Fun New Books for Kids and Teens of All Ages

1. Your Local Library

You can’t go wrong with the old-fashioned way of finding books — your local library! Not only do they offer an extensive selection of books, but many also provide programs such as story time hours, book clubs, and author readings which can make it more fun for young readers. You can even turn it into a fun activity for the whole family to pick out their favorite books!

2. Bookstores

Bookstores are a great source of new reading material for kids and teens alike. When browsing the selection, keep in mind that many books aimed at adults may still be appropriate and enjoyable for older kids who are looking for something different from what they typically read in school. And if you don’t want to break the bank, be sure to head to a second-hand bookstore where you may be able to snag some classic titles for bargain prices. If your kids start to fly through their books, saving money is key!

3. Online Bookstores

Online retailers like Amazon have made it easier than ever to search through thousands upon thousands of titles conveniently from home. Not only do they have plenty of bestsellers, but they also have unique titles specifically targeted toward younger readers as well. Many include reviews from past customers, which makes it easy to check if the title would be a good fit before purchasing the book.

4. Kindle Kids

Kindle Kids is another great option to develop strong reading habits! Amazon has tailored its platform specifically to young readers by offering age-appropriate books with interactive features — from audio narration to game elements, Kindle Kids has some of the best books to develop the habit of reading because they’re designed to keep them engaged.

What Are the Best Books to Start a Reading Habit?

Not only are classics great for introducing young readers to literature, but modern books can be just as engaging. Have a look at some of the best books to start a reading habit below!

Harry Potter series

For several generations, Harry Potter has been one of the most popular book series among children and teenagers alike. J.K Rowling transports readers into a captivating, magical world filled with adventure and friendship.

Chicken Soup for the Soul

For those looking for something feel-good and inspiring, Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul offers inspiring stories from real-life kids about overcoming obstacles and staying positive even in difficult times. For a humorous and lighthearted read about the adolescent years, teens can opt for Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul.

Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's Web is a classic coming-of-age story that is perfect for getting your child interested in reading if they’re around grades 2 to 5 or older. It follows the adventures of Wilbur, a pig who finds himself at odds with his fellow barnyard friends until he meets his unlikely savior – a spider named Charlotte.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Perfect for kids over the age of 9 — and even suitable for teens — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland may be an interesting read. It’s full of wit and humor while exploring themes like growing up, imagination, and identity.

Non-Fiction Books

When searching for the best books to start a reading habit, don't forget about non-fiction titles as well! Whether your child is interested in science, nature, or history, there are plenty of informative yet entertaining options available out there to satisfy any curious mind.

How to Promote Healthy Reading Schedules

If you’ve been trying to limit your child’s screen time, one helpful tip is to replace their screen time with something else — like, perhaps, reading! Whenever it’s time to put the screens away, have them read a book instead to fill the time. Hopefully overtime, they’ll look forward to their reading time and won’t look at it as a lesser alternative to screen time. 

Try starting with bedtime as a designated reading time for your kids. Instead of scrolling through social media or playing video games before they go to sleep, you can allow them to read a book, an e-book, or a reading website. 

Ready to Help Your Kids Develop the Habit of Reading? Try Bark for Free Today!

Bark is a great tool to help develop your child’s reading habit. You can set screen time schedules for all their devices, making it way easier to limit their tech time and turn them to something else like reading.

Along with screen time schedules, Bark also provides web-filtering, location check-ins, and content monitoring of texts, emails, and 30+ social media platforms. Sign up to start your free trial today — and see why millions of parents choose Bark to help keep their kids safe online. 

kid on their phone, with money signs illustrated next to it

We’ve probably all experienced this — you decide to download a new app because why not? It’s free! But then as soon as you open the app you get 20 different pop-ups asking you to buy all the cool features of the app that you were initially interested in. So either you spend money on something you thought was going to be free or you just forget the whole thing and move on. A modern-day dilemma. 

These are known as in-app purchases and most of us are probably familiar with the concept. As adults who are free to do whatever they want with the money they earn, there aren’t any unknown risks to be aware of. But for kids, it’s a different story.

In this blog post, we'll break down everything you need to know about the risk to kids and more importantly, how to turn off in-app purchases on your kid’s devices. 

What Does In-App Purchase Mean? 

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here’s an exact definition of in-app purchases: a form of digital purchasing where users can buy items, services, or features within an app. This is becoming increasingly popular not only among mobile apps but web browsers as well. A typical example would be, if you play a game on your phone that allows you to purchase specific upgrades like tools or clothing to upgrade your character's capabilities, that would be an in-app purchase.

What Are The Safety Risks Of In-App Purchases For Children?

The biggest safety risk associated with in-app purchases is that kids have unauthorized access to real money, such as credit or debit cards, PayPal accounts, and even gift cards when it’s linked directly to an app store account. With each purchase, there is the potential for users (especially minors) to accidentally spend large amounts of money without realizing it.

Even worse, unmonitored access to in-app purchases could leave kids vulnerable to fraud, identity theft, and other security breaches. Kids may not fully understand that these are real sources of funds, making them more likely targets of scams or data theft.

Another huge risk posed is that they often have unrestricted access to virtual goods and other content without parental participation—allowing young users to engage with inappropriate material such as violent video games or unsupervised chat rooms, which can lead them toward online predators.

How to Turn Off In-App Purchases 

By simply adjusting the settings on your child's iOS or Android device, you can have peace of mind that your children aren’t making in-app purchases without your permission.

On iOS devices

On iOS devices

  1. Tap the settings icon on your child's device.
  2. Tap Screen Time, and enable if not already turned on.
  3. Scroll down and tap Content & Privacy Restrictions.
  4. Toggle on Content & Privacy Restrictions.
  5. Then, tap iTunes & App Store Purchases.
  6. Tap In-app Purchases.
  7. Tap Don't Allow.

On Android devices

  1. Open the Google Play Store app on your child's device.
  2. Look for the icon in the top right corner of the screen and tap it.
  3. From the pop-up menu, tap Settings.
  4. Tap Authentication from the Settings page.
  5. Next, tap Require Authentication for Purchases.
  6. Select For all purchases through Google Play on this device.
  7. Have your child's Google password ready to enter, if asked. You may want to change it to one only you know so they can't change your settings.

How Bark Can Help

Bark can easily and effectively help you keep your child safe online. Our comprehensive parental controls allow parents to monitor their child’s devices and stay in the know about what dangers their kid might face. Start your free 7-day trial with Bark today! 

characters from popular TV shows

School is out, the sun is shining, and it's time to kick back and enjoy some top-notch summer entertainment. While there are plenty of TV shows out there catering to the teen audience, we've rounded up a selection of shows that, while featuring teens or marketed to a younger age group, are decidedly not meant for the younger crowd.

From gratuitous violence, sex, and nudity to the glorification of underage drinking and drugs, these shows each feature mature content that might not be suitable for younger viewers. Check out some of the most popular series below and consider talking with your teen about other exciting, age-appropriate shows you might watch instead this summer! 

Eight Summer Shows that Aren’t For Teens

Cruel Summer — Rated TV-14 for violence, sex and frightening scenes. Streaming Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV+.

This teen thriller follows two young women over a summer using flashbacks across multiple timelines, slowly piecing together the mystery. The show has two popular seasons, the second, released June 2023, focuses on the rise and fall of the friendship between nerdy high school teen Megan and cool exchange student Isabella and their love triangle with Megan’s long-time friend Luke. 

The show's tone is undoubtedly dark, with a mysterious death that rocks the small town and mature sexual themes. Between the reveal of a sex tape and the increasingly dangerous decisions Megan and Isabella make to prove their loyalty to each other, parents should consider supervising their teen's viewing or starting a conversation with their child about the topics addressed in each episode.

The Idol — Rated TV-MA for sex and nudity, language, violence, drugs, and alcohol. Streaming on Max and Hulu.

Lauded at festivals like Sundance and Cannes, The Idol had high expectations to be a raw and captivating drama that delves into the gritty world of the music industry. Following the journey of an aspiring musician striving for success, played by Lily-Rose Depp, the show has caught flack from critics and casual viewers alike for its gratuitous sexual exploitation and violence. While the show certainly provides intriguing commentary on the music business, the mature content and its overwrought depiction of sex, drugs and violence make it inappropriate for young viewers. 

Yellowjackets — Rated TV-MA for violence, gore, sex, and frightening scenes. Streaming on Paramount+, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

A classic plane crash drama, Yellowjackets follows a girls’ soccer team’s survival story after they become stranded in the wilderness for months. What begins as a suspenseful story highlighting teamwork and compassion quickly devolves into an intense cult-like society where cannibalism and dark rituals prevail. 

Outside of frightening and dark scenes, violence, gore and sex are prevalent as the show bounces back and forth between the months immediately following the accident and the women's life years after being rescued. Now, on its second season, the tone and themes in the show have evolved to become even darker, pushing it decidedly out of the realm of teen viewing. 

Saint X — Rated TV-14 for violence, profanity, alcohol and drugs. Streaming on Hulu.

Saint X is a new Hulu drama based on the popular book of the same name. It explores the aftermath of a young woman's mysterious death on a luxurious Caribbean island and how it has affected her sister and those last seen with her before her disappearance. The show touches on important topics from grief and guilt to class, privilege and racism. 

While these topics are great conversation starters, the violent death of the young woman whose body we see being pulled from the water early on and the prevalence of alcohol and profanity throughout make this show more appropriate for older teens and not their younger counterparts.

Black Mirror — Rated TV-MA for violence, sex, frightening and intense scenes. Streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Since its release, Black Mirror has been both applauded and criticized for its dark social commentary. Multiple out-of-the-box episodes center on the dangers of technology in the dystopian future and beyond. The sixth season, released this summer, sticks to the series’ anthology set-up focusing on different characters and situations, from a starlet dealing with a hit-and-run and a woman who has discovered her streaming service has adapted her daily life into a hit show.

The satirical subtleties and important messages make this series a consistent award-winner among adults, but the series presents several worrying elements for younger viewers. Gratuitous violence, frightening and often disturbing scenes, along with the frequent presence of sex, drinking and drugs, make this show better saved for later on in life. 

The Crowded Room — Rated TV-MA for sex, violence, alcohol and drugs. Streaming on Apple TV+.

The Crowded Room centers on Danny, a young man, played by the ever-popular Tom Holland, who is imprisoned in the aftermath of a violent crime he can’t remember. The show focuses on Danny’s mental illness, the violence that seems to follow him, and the cast of characters that have seemingly gone missing around him. 

Tom Holland’s performance is sure to pull in interest. Still, for many parents, the show’s multiple instances of gun violence, along with its complicated depiction of mental illness featured at the show's center, may be alarming and difficult to explain to kids or teens. Beyond that, overt sexual content, including the depiction of a threesome, make this show a “must-skip” for kids under 18.  

Outer Banks — Rated TV-MA for alcohol, drugs, profanity and intense scenes. Streaming on Netflix. 

Outer Banks is a coming-of-age adventure series that focuses on a group of friends who call themselves the Pogues and their hunt for a mysterious treasure around the island they grew up on. Now in its third season, Outer Banks has upped the ante from its edgy origins that focused on teen parties and class differences between the wealthier and working class on the island with an increased focus on dangerous run-ins with violent characters and unsupervised debauchery. 

From beach parties filled with underage drinking and drugs to intense scenes featuring domestic violence and the on-screen deaths of several characters, the majority of Outer Banks is a lawless romp with little to no supervision from responsible adult figures. While the wild ride may be appropriate for an older crowd, parents are advised to limit viewing for younger teens and kids. 

The Summer I Turned Pretty — Rated TV-14 for sexual content, violence, alcohol and drugs, and foul language. Streaming on Amazon Prime.

A teen-centered rom-com, The Summer I Turned Pretty chronicles the adventures of Isabel “Belly” Conklin and her love triangle with two brothers. She spends a magical summer at a gorgeous beach house and experiences romantic evenings filled with partying, jealousy, and heartbreak. This one’s similar to Outer Banks, but slightly more tame — but not by much. Throughout all of the summer partying, there’s heavy drinking, smoking, drug use, and more. Characters discuss the serious aspects of dating as well as explicit sexual content. It’s probably best for younger teens to wait a little while for this one. 

How to Monitor What Your Kid is Watching

With all of the available streaming services, networks and channels, it can be challenging to ensure everything your child is watching is age-appropriate. Bark helps save you time and takes the guesswork out of finding a fun family feature by providing smart parental monitoring that allows you to observe, block and control certain apps. Find out more about your options here.