Types of depression in kids header image with boy and emojis

As adults, we often imagine children as perpetually happy, curious creatures. Without grown-up cares and worries, it’s difficult to imagine children being less than joyful when they have so few responsibilities. However, depression often begins in childhood, and recognizing the signs early can be critical to seek proper treatment for your child and framing depression with kindness and compassion.

Unlike adults, children don’t often have the language to describe what they’re experiencing regarding mood disorders like depression. This makes it even more critical for you know and recognize the signs. This article will cover the types of depression disorders in adolescence, the warning signs of depression in kids and teens, and strategies for early detection.

Types of Depression Disorders

Depression is a complex mood disorder that affects millions worldwide. While many don’t develop it until later in life, some people experience their first symptoms and episodes in childhood. Psychologists and specialists have identified several types of depression disorders.

The first two major categories are clinical depression and situational depression. Clinical depression is ongoing and tied to a particular life event, while situational depression follows an emotional upheaval, like losing a loved one. Both types of depression impact a person’s mood and can require treatment, but clinical depression is often chronic.

Other types of depression disorders

Major depressive disorder (MDD): MDD is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest and can interfere with a person’s daily life. Symptoms include:

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD): Unlike MDD, PDD produces periods of depression that can last days to years, followed by brief breaks in symptoms. The symptoms are similar to MDD but can include anger, irritability, low self-esteem, and oversleeping.

Bipolar Disorder: Those experiencing bipolar disorder have episodes of major depression followed by a spell of significantly elevated mood called mania, which can vary in intensity. Those experiencing bipolar disorder can have physical symptoms, including aches and pains in addition to anxiety, irritability, and severe indecision. In extreme cases, bipolar disorder can increase the risk of psychosis, hallucinations, and suicide.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): For adolescents who have begun menstruating, cyclical depression can occur. PMDD goes beyond the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome: irritability, bloating, cravings and fatigue. Those experiencing PMDD have pronounced mood swings, extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and can be prone to overeating and bingeing.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): During the winter months, SAD can develop, leading to depressed mood, fatigue, and other symptoms of MDD. However, unlike other types of depression disorders, SAD develops alongside seasonal changes, most often in the winter months. The root cause is the disruption of circadian rhythms with decreased sunlight during the winter. SAD is most prevalent in the extreme north and south but can occur anywhere globally. Light therapy can help disrupt and offset the symptoms along with traditional depression treatments.

Atypical Depression: Despite the name, atypical depression is common. Those with this type of depression experience fatigue, increased sleep, physical weakness, increased sensitivity, and highly reactive moods. The patterns of atypical depression are different from the other types of depression disorders. The symptoms can lift in reaction to positive events and return when life becomes “normal” again.

Warning Signs of Depression in Kids

Spotting depression in kids is critical, but it also can be tricky. Since children don’t always have the language or references to explain their symptoms, it often falls to parents, teachers, guardians, and other close adults to recognize depression in kids.

Some common signs of depression in kids are:

While these are common symptoms to look out for, each type of depression has unique patterns and warning signs.

Major depressive disorder (MDD): Children may complain of physical pain, take unnecessary risks, misuse substances, or display a decline in self-esteem. Kids with MDD may also have delayed or arrested social development and consider suicide.

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD): Since PDD has periods of elevated mood, children with this type of depression may seem more functional or appear to be recovering from depression. However, depressive symptoms return, and the longer a child lives with PDD, the more likely they are to develop MDD.

Bipolar disorder: Children with bipolar disorder experience periods of extreme depression followed by mania. Unlike adults, kids with bipolar disorder may throw temper tantrums, display extreme agitation, unnecessary risk-taking, and fast or loud talking. Symptoms of mania and depression will come and go, resulting in changes in behavior that often impact academic performance and personal relationships.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): Depression in adolescent females is often misdiagnosed as PMS or hormonal mood swings. PMDD is a severe disorder that creates cyclical bouts of extreme depression that can affect all aspects of an adolescent’s life. Spot symptoms early by monitoring your child’s behavior, tracking moods, and communicating with them about their experience.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): To spot SAD, monitor differences in mood that occur with the seasons and sun exposure. Children with SAD will develop depression during the winter months when sunlight is reduced and will recover in springtime when days begin to lengthen.

Atypical Depression: Children experiencing atypical depression will show elevated mood and energy levels around events and activities, followed by depression when patterns and routines return to normal.

Monitoring Online Activity for Warning Signs of Depression in Kids

If you believe your child is experiencing depression, you may be looking to identify and document the signs. However, in today’s world, that can be difficult as children spend long hours at school, followed by hours online, either for education or enjoyment. Bark offers several tools to manage your child’s online activity to help keep them safe, including content monitoring, screen time management, and web blocking.

Our monitoring service is probably most helpful in cases of potential depression, as it can detect messages and posts featuring language around depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. We monitor everything from emails and text messages to social media posts, giving you a holistic picture of your child’s interactions and content and providing alerts if something concerning is happening in your child’s digital world.

Instagram slang header image

Social media platforms are hard enough to get the hang of with all of their new features, different functions, and the near-constant barrage of ads. Throw in ever-changing slang and you’ve got a fairly tough job of making sense of what kids are actually talking about. The worst part? While some parts of meme and slang culture are shared across social media, many terms are actually specific to a single app! This means that what kids are saying on Instagram can be entirely different from what they’re saying on Snapchat. 

You’re probably wondering, “What on earth are they actually saying? Is it good? Bad? Funny? Concerning?” We’re here to help you decipher the strange, confusing world of Instagram slang. To help families out, we’ve compiled a list of the most common Instagram slang terms. Though it’s not exhaustive, this list will help you understand the context of casual conversations. We’ve separated sections of the list by topic or type of Instagram slang for easy reference in the future!

Instagram Slang Words: Acronyms to Know

AMA — “Ask me anything” is used when someone plans to honestly and directly answer questions about something personal. AMA is typically used to start a longer conversation or comment thread. 

IMO — “In my opinion” is Instagram slang that helps users explain that they are simply offering their own point of view. It’s somewhat similar to how “no offense” or “honestly” would be used during an in-person conversation. 

TMW — “That moment when” describes a reaction shown in the specific image, GIF, or video that was shared. Most users say “TMW” to indicate a look of surprise, delight, disappointment, or another strong emotion. 

MFW — “My face when” is nearly identical to “TMW” in that it’s a way to comically point out the facial expressions of someone shown in a shared piece of media. 

H/T  — “Hat tip” is a way of acknowledging someone else for a link, image, meme, or other piece of shared content. 

SMH — “Shake my head” expresses disapproval of someone or something.

MIRL — “Me in real life” typically refers to how the poster or commentator can deeply relate to the content of the post.

WCW — “Woman crush Wednesday” is a classic hashtag trend used when someone posts content highlighting a woman they particularly admire or aspire to be like due to professional status, fitness, etc.

L4L —  “Like for like” lets users show that they will give a like for every social media like they receive. This can be a way to quickly boost someone’s profile and activity. 

MCM — “Man crush Monday” is exactly the same as WCW, but for men.

TBT — “Throwback Thursday” highlights content that’s personally significant from the past, or that refers to a particularly memorable moment in history (including memes, cultural trends, etc.). 

FBF — “Flashback Friday” is the same as TBT, except that content is posted on Friday. 

F4F — “Follow for follow” is identical to L4L, but refers to following a user’s social media account instead of liking content. 

Instagram Slang for Platform Use

DM — Short for “direct message,” this acronym is often used in the phrase “slide into their DMs.” This means that they tried to nonchalantly privately message someone that they are attracted to, or that someone did the same thing to them. 

IGer — “IGer” is just another word used to describe someone who uses Instagram. 

#nofilter — People use #nofilter when an image is posted without any editing or filters. It often appears with images or videos that speak to self-worth or self-image, or in moments of personal vulnerability. 

Kik me — “Kik me” is a way of saying that you want to connect with someone on Kik, which is another — and way more dangerous — social media platform. 

What You Can Do

You might see these Instagram slang words used in posts, captions, DMs, hashtags, and comments. If it feels daunting to track and decode your child’s online activities yourself, consider using a tool like Bark for smart insight into your child’s online activity. In addition to content monitoring, Bark also gives parents a deeper understanding of their child’s moods and overall well-being by tracking sentiment across devices and accounts — from email and texts to apps and social media. Interested? You can try it today for free. 

is kiddle a safe search engine for kids

Do you ever feel like search engines aren’t entirely safe for kids? (They definitely aren’t.) Do you worry that questionable content could show up in search results? It’s totally normal to have concerns about what your kid might find when they’re Googling for homework or even just for fun. 

While it may seem like big search engines (like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo) must be very good at filtering out inappropriate results, they definitely don’t. Porn, violence, and more can be easily accessed in just a few clicks. It’s also easy for kids to simply change the search settings to include all results, with no filters.

Is there a safe search engine for kids? Does Kiddle qualify? Kiddle is a solution that many parents use to help kids use the internet as a research tool without the risk of being shown harmful content. In this blog post, we’ll explore more about how Kiddle works and what to consider before making the switch with your family.

What Is Kiddle for Kids, Anyway?

Kiddle has built an answer to a problem that consistently plagues concerned parents: how kids can safely surf the web. Functionally, Kiddle is simply a search engine that has three big benefits for young tech users:

Though Kiddle looks and feels like Google, it is not a Google product. In reality, Kiddle’s safe search engine for kids is a website that works like a search engine and has a dedicated team of people who monitor and vet content on the platform. That being said, it isn’t perfect. For example, while a search for “sex” doesn’t return results, a search for “s3x” does. Although they’re not pornographic, it’s worth noting that their filters aren’t foolproof.

How Does Kiddle Work?

Kiddle for kids looks pretty much like any other search engine. At the top of the main page is a simple search bar, and users can select the type of content they want to see in search results.

Without getting bogged down in techno-babble, Google has a product called Programmable Search Engine that lets search engine-style websites pick and choose which results they want to show users. This brings the power of Google’s algorithm within reach, but with tight reigns around content. Google SafeSearch is another way that Kiddle filters results, and it’s the backbone of their search function. 

In addition to SafeSearch, Kiddle also has editors who manually review content. According to Kiddle, many of the results displayed have been “recommended” by trusted sources like parents, educators, etc. The search results are ranked by their “safeness,” which we’ll discuss more later on. 

If you spend a few minutes using Kiddle, you’ll notice that they emphasize visual search results. Essentially every result will include a related image from the recommended site or page. This is intentional as Kiddle believes that image-based searches are easier for kids to navigate and digest.

Kiddle displays several kinds of results that have been filtered for children’s use, including:

One of Kiddle’s best features is how they separate results into three main categories, depending on their kid-friendliness. 

  1. Results 1–3 show sites and pages that are “specifically written for kids,” and that have recently been reviewed by Kiddle editors. The results can all be easily accessed, read, and navigated by kids.
  2. Results 4–7 include sites that may not be written or intended for use exclusively by kids. However, these sites have been handpicked and checked by Kiddle editors to verify that the results are suitable for and accessible to children. Kiddle editors also verify that sites will be easy to read and navigate.
  3. Results 8 and beyond are generally considered safe, but they are known to be written for adults. These are “well-known” sites that can be reasonably trusted, but the content might be more academic. Plus, these results are not reviewed by editors.

Content Blocking and Reporting

If a user spots something suspicious or questionable in the search results, they can report it directly to Kiddle for correction. Specific keywords or sites can be blocked from the results, or Kiddle editors can decide where they should be featured in the results.

We want to share a quick note here on how Kiddle evaluates material. In its early years, Kiddle received some criticism for blocking search terms or topics that could be considered controversial to some, including those related to LGBTQ+ issues. Since then, they have selectively opened up some search results. Ultimately, their guidelines don’t always align with every family’s values.

What Are the Best Ages to Use Kiddle for Kids?

Any child browsing the internet can certainly benefit from Kiddle. But, older kids will likely get frustrated by the limited interface and results. This is especially true as kids take on complex homework assignments that require research around the web. Plus, it has a decidedly youthful design that teens won’t always appreciate.

For example, medical terms or mature subject matter (but not explicit) will likely be blocked. Even libraries contain some “mature” material on subjects like art, medicine, culture, and more. 

Here’s an easy way to think about using Kiddle with your family: Are your kids old enough to search online independently but too young to spot and avoid questionable content? Roughly, this probably means using Kiddle for kids who are between the ages of 8 and 12. 

Privacy and Tracking

Unlike search engines and browsers which often collect a great deal of data, Kiddle does not collect any personally-identifying information. 

Kiddle does show ads, though. Ads are visible in search results (text ads) and on individual result pages (display ads). While they do delete their search logs every 24 hours, Kiddle also uses cookies to personalize ad experiences. So, it’s reasonable to assume that kids are shown targeted ads based on their previous browsing history even if searches aren’t stored.

This is probably one of Kiddle’s biggest downsides. Even when browsing search results on the site, ads are shown pretty much everywhere. 

Once kids move off of the Kiddle page to an external website, they will be subject to any other tracking activity that their browser allows. They can also, of course, access any material on this external site. This makes Kiddle a great starting point, but not totally sufficient for full internet activity monitoring. 

The Verdict on Kiddle for Kids

Although Kiddle is a fairly safe search engine for kids, it doesn’t provide any insights for parents about what their kids are doing online. Plus, it often filters out too much for older kids, and doesn’t always catch everything. We highly recommend using it in collaboration with a content monitoring and website blocking tool like Bark. Bark can block porn, violent content, and more plus alert you if your child encounters these issues (and others) anywhere on their devices.

Bark helps parents, educators, and care providers learn how kids are communicating online, and where adult attention could be needed. By monitoring communication and activity from over 30 different social media platforms, texts, and email, Bark gains a comprehensive understanding of potential issues, including:

Plus, Bark gives parents precise control over exactly which apps are accessible on their kid’s devices, and when. Together, tools like Kiddle and Bark form a powerful combination for helping to protect kids online while also letting them grow in responsibility and independence.

youtube kids app

YouTube has come a long way since the early days of viral cat videos and fake pranks. Don’t be fooled, though — there are still plenty of cat videos for the animal lovers among us. But, the app today has much more…  everything from live TV to content made specifically for kids.

In fact, some of the largest YouTube channels (by subscriber count and overall views) are those created to appeal to young kids — from animated adventures to unboxing toys. In 2015, YouTube launched a version of its app that has features and content tailored specifically to kids.

When compared to other social apps, YouTube generally has a good reputation for filtering content and managing user behavior. Before you download the app and let your kids run wild, however, we’ve distilled some insights that will help you decide whether YouTube Kids is the right fit and technology for your family. 

So what is YouTube Kids? Well, this blog post will explore how the YouTube Kids app works, the types of content available on the platform, how safe the app really is for kids, and other tools that parents can use for online activity monitoring and parental controls.  

What Is YouTube Kids?

YouTube Kids is a more heavily protected and vetted version of the regular YouTube app. By reducing the number of features and thoroughly filtering content, the YouTube Kids app is designed to allow safe unsupervised viewing for younger children.

Getting started with YouTube Kids online is as simple as downloading the app on your device and completing the account registration process. Parents do need to set up an account for their kids, but users aren’t required to have a Google or Gmail account (which is standard for other YouTube users). During the setup process, parents can dial in the settings and hand-pick exactly how much access is allowed on the app.

Is the YouTube Kids App Safe?

Online safety is a complex issue, and there isn’t a clear-cut way to exactly measure the safety level of a particular app. User reviews are a good baseline, and independent sources have hundreds of reviews from parents who generally seem to like the controls offered by YouTube Kids.

If you want specifics, though, we completely understand. Let’s dive a little further into some of the different ways to think about online safety. 

Interactions with other users

How easy is it for your kids to connect with other users? In short, they can’t interact through comments or any other form of messaging on the YouTube Kids app. All of the regular user interactions have been removed. 

Content accessibility

In general, YouTube Kids has six main categories of content directly on the app homepage:

Most of the internal content review processes for YouTube Kids online are still automated. Because humans don’t manually review every single piece of content published on their platform, it is possible for something inappropriate to slip through. 

YouTube does provide pretty strict controls over how kids use the app, which empowers parents to filter content accessibility. One helpful feature is the ability for parents to completely turn off the search function. When search is turned off, kids can only view channels and videos that are “verified” by YouTube Kids. Although the search function shouldn’t (in theory) allow kids to discover inappropriate, it does give them more freedom to explore the full range of content on YouTube Kids online. 

Parents who want to know exactly what their child is allowed to watch on the app can even hand-pick specific channels. While this might take an investment of time when first setting up an account, it is the best way to keep any other content from slipping into recommended videos.

Exposure of information

YouTube Kids has developed fairly strict controls for user interactions on their app. Essentially every avenue of exposing information is turned off in the YouTube Kids online app.

What about unauthorized purchases? If you’ve ever let your kids use a gaming app then you know how easy it can be for them to make unauthorized purchases. Sometimes this even happens accidentally. YouTube Kids has done a good job of limiting the actions kids can take, and there don’t appear to be simple ways for them to make a purchase without getting parents involved. We discuss this issue further in the advertising section below.

Advertising on the YouTube Kids App

YouTube Kids is an ad-supported platform. According to YouTube, this means that ads are required in order to keep the platform running. When a YouTube video is uploaded, the creator has to tell YouTube whether the video is safe for kids to view and if the video was made specifically for kids. Of course, YouTube doesn’t just want this information to help filter content. Advertisers crave data on young audiences, who can often convince parents to make a small, one-time purchase. 

Despite young users comprising a large portion of new YouTube users, they have taken some significant steps to control the commercial influence of videos created specifically for kids. For example, on these videos, advertisers aren’t allowed to provide click-throughs to an outside website. This is a nice feature because it keeps kids on the site and greatly reduces the risk that you find a confusing purchase on your credit card statement. 

Additionally, YouTube claims that they remove any videos that are “overly commercial,” or where the creator has been paid to promote a specific product or company. 

How are ads reviewed and selected? Great question. YouTube maintains that ads undergo a “rigorous review process,” and they certainly provide an opportunity for users to flag inappropriate content. It’s unclear, though, whether kids would know how to flag content or whether they would take the time to report something inappropriate. It’s more likely that a parent would happen to overhear or see content in order for it to be reported.

What Ages Is YouTube Kids Best For?

The YouTube Kids app doesn’t have specific age requirements, but it’s generally well-suited for children under 13 years old. Decisions about how young children can start using the app are completely up to individual families. Older children (around 13 and up) will likely want to explore a broader range of content, much of which can be educational or inspirational. As it turns out, YouTube noticed that there wasn’t a great way for families to move from the YouTube Kids app to the “regular” YouTube that the rest of us use.

In 2021, YouTube solved this problem by launching “supervised accounts,” which include a few new ways for parents to open up access for their kids. These features can ease the transition from a protected experience on the YouTube Kids app to a less-controlled (but still filtered) version of the regular platform. 

How does this work? Essentially, YouTube allows parents to use a supervised account to increase the age range of content that’s accessible in the app. In general, the age ranges and content categories are as follows:

Plus, in a supervised account, kids won’t be able to interact with other users the same way they would on the regular YouTube app or website. Some of the other key features that are inaccessible in a supervised account include:

Going Beyond Content Restrictions

While the YouTube Kids app is a great starting point for limiting your child’s access to unsuitable content, it doesn’t necessarily help you answer questions like:

Also, even kid-safe apps can be highly captivating. It’s hard to put a phone or tablet down when interesting new videos keep popping up. Who hasn’t fallen down a rabbit hole of the latest fail videos? 

Bark offers comprehensive screen time management and other parental controls to provide deeper insight and answer more complex questions about your child’s online activity. Parents, educators, guardians, and others all trust Bark to notify them about alarming interactions, worrisome activity, signs of depression, and incidents of self-harm through tools that help with:

The best part is that notifications and access can all be managed from a single app. There’s no need to jump between apps and set individual limits or timers — which is a big time-saver for busy parents. You can try Bark today for free and experience the peace of mind that comes from knowing what’s happening behind the scenes.

snapchat chat

Does it ever feel like you can’t catch up with all the changes in technology? Just when you figure out what your kids are talking about, a new trend or app goes viral, leaving you in the dust. Popular dance moves, virtual reality, bitcoin, Discord servers — it’s a lot to understand. For young kids, though, constant change is just part of growing up. As new platforms and features arrive all the time, teens and tweens quickly adopt the most viral changes. For the past few years, Chat 2.0 has driven Snapchat chat popularity among many younger users. In fact, kids now prefer Chat 2.0 over similar apps, including Facebook Messenger and iMessage.

What changed with Snapchat when Chat 2.0 was released? How is Snapchat Chat 2.0 different from similar apps? Why is it so popular? We’ll dive into these questions and many more, giving in-depth answers and helpful tips on how to keep track of your child’s activity. 

Chat 2.0 Growth and Popularity

Snapchat took the world by storm when it originally launched the famous “disappearing message” app in 2014. Chat 2.0 was released 2 years later, and the world was never the same again (not for Snapchat users, anyway). For most people, Snapchat Chat 2.0 created the right mix of messaging and content discovery functions to make the entire app more engaging.

A lot of the big social media apps were purchased by Google or Facebook early on, but Snapchat is still privately owned. Although you probably heard more about Snapchat a few years ago, it’s still growing quickly — surpassing 500 million active monthly users in late 2021. 

Who is using Snapchat Chat 2.0 the most? Girls between the ages of 13–17 are the largest group of users. Overall, those under the age of 20 make up approximately 40 percent of all Snapchat Chat 2.0 users.

Snapchat Chat 2.0 Features

Snapchat chat was first built as a messaging app. One user would record a video message and send it out to their followers or a single connection. Snapchat Chat 2.0 introduced much easier versions of live video chat, which is a game-changer. Now, instead of one-off messages or stories, friends can seamlessly switch to video in real-time. 

Users can fluidly change between different Snapchat conversation features to access notes, photos, and stickers. It’s easy to mark up images with different options for adding text, drawings, stickers, filters, and more. Kids can also hand-pick exactly which friends to include in a video chat. In response, their friends can join in on the Snapchat video chat or simply watch.

All of these changes help explain why Snapchat chat is still so popular: It’s really easy to use. Plus, there are so many ways to talk with friends. The variety and ease of use truly make other peer-to-peer chatting apps seem like the “dial-up” of messaging tech. 

Let’s explore more of the core features of Snapchat chat to provide a better picture of exactly how kids use the app. We’ll focus on the features most relevant to younger users and not companies (like advertising, promoted posts, etc.).

Types of Messages with Snapchat Chat

Kids have a lot of options for messaging their connections on Snapchat, and they can be used together in a continuous message thread (like texting):

Spotlight

To make the app feel more like its popular rivals TikTok and YouTube Shorts, Snapchat recently introduced the Spotlight feature. Anyone can create Spotlights, and they are featured in the app based on their popularity, much like the TikTok “Discover” feature. Now, when kids open Snapchat, they can browse trending Spotlights or record and submit their own. One interesting trend promoted by Snapchat is Spotlight Challenges. Snapchat gives cash prizes directly to users who make the best video for a specific challenge. 

Snap Map

Snapchat’s map tool is intended to help people find content from a specific location. The interactive map highlights stories from around the world that can be filtered by region. Kids can simply scroll or swipe across the map to discover something new. However, this feature also allows users to reveal their current location (much like Facebook’s check-in feature) when posting. As you might expect, this can be dangerous.

Auto-Advance 

While auto-advance isn’t necessarily a Snapchat Chat 2.0 feature, it does keep users passively using the app for long periods of time. When one story ends the next one plays automatically… no work required! The problem is that it’s easy to spend 30-40 minutes at a time watching stories play continuously. It’s no wonder that the average Snapchat user spends almost 50 minutes a day on the app.

Filters and Lenses

Remember when everyone was adding dog ears to their pictures? Snapchat video chat lenses and filters can be used over pictures and videos. Kids can also create their own filters and lenses to show off school pride or capture an inside joke. 

Privacy Changes & Concerns

It’s an age-old question with Snapchat: Do messages actually disappear? We scoured the Snapchat privacy site to verify which types of messages are not saved. According to Snapchat, live video content is not recorded and users can choose whether or not other message types are saveable. 

Should Parents Be Concerned About Snapchat Chat 2.0?

Though it can be fun and light-hearted, it’s hard to sugarcoat the potential downsides of heavy Snapchat usage. While normal Snapchat chat use isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, problems might not always be obvious. By staying actively involved with their kid’s social media habits, parents can get better at spotting potential issues like: 

Keeping Track of Snapchat Chat 2.0 Activity  

Dismissing Snapchat as a passing fad won’t work, and it won’t make the app seem less cool to your kids. Snapchat chat offers a kind of fast-paced messaging that feeds into the desire for instant responses and connection. It’s not going to change anytime soon. 

Also, Snapchat is primarily used as a mobile app, which makes it more tempting to use throughout the day. For many kids, Snapchat takes the place of regular texting and phone calls. It’s more like an all-in-one phone plan and social platform.

By using the built-in Snapchat settings and the right monitoring tools, parents can get more insight and intervene, if needed.

Adjust Snapchat Settings

On the app, you can change settings to control visible information. For example, public profiles might make your child’s activity more visible to strangers. This activity could include information like their location, who their friends are, other social profiles, etc. For this reason, Snapchat claims that public profiles are restricted to users who are 18 and older. (Of course, kids can easily lie about their ages.)

Other recommendations for enhancing your child’s privacy include:

It’s worth noting that your child can change these features back. See our article on Snapchat parental controls for a complete breakdown of the most important options, and how to access them. 

Use an Online Activity Monitoring Tool

Bark is a powerful and easy-to-use parental control tool that brings activity monitoring and access control into one program for parents. No more poring through your kid’s accounts and trying to stay updated on every app. Bark monitors 30+ social and messaging apps, Chrome browsing history, and communication through email and texting. 

Parents are notified of alarming behavior that might need further attention, including potential acts of self-harm or cyberbullying. Sentiment monitoring helps parents understand how their kids are feeling based on the content of their messages. Plus, our website blocking and screen time features allow parents to set specific schedules for app usage or internet access.

Learn more about how Bark works or sign up for free today to see how you can experience more peace of mind and build a better family relationship with technology. 

virtual reality for kids

Virtual reality (VR) probably seems pretty new, but would it surprise you to learn that VR was invented before the internet? That’s right — today’s kids can’t wait to get their hands on tech that was around in 1968 and available in a 1994 Sega game release. Talk about retro.

Despite being developed decades ago, companies like Oculus and Meta (which owns Oculus) have made VR much more popular. Now, kids can hang out in virtual chat rooms, play their favorite games, and tour different parts of the world without ever leaving their homes.

Parents can’t be blamed for wondering what these clunky headsets are and if they really need a spot on the bookshelf. Also, do people know how silly they look fighting invisible bad guys in the living room?

We’re here to answer the question “Is VR safe for kids?” Plus, explain more about what VR is, review the pros and cons of virtual reality for kids, and highlight some of the best VR games. Buckle up!

What Is Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a technology that combines 3-D simulation with wearable items like gloves and goggles (or a headset). This combination makes users feel like they can interact with a lifelike image or “avatar” (like a digital representation of a person). Today, VR is impressively responsive to users’ human actions, which makes gaming feel even more intense and personal. 

There’s a range of different options for using VR. Some systems (like Playstation or Xbox) have created VR headsets that work directly with their game consoles. Other VR systems can use a smartphone as the “software,” and they use a special screen to create a 3-D image that does a pretty good job of replicating your normal field of vision. 

Most VR systems also include some type of handheld controller that allows users to take actions in the game they’re playing. 

The Pros and Cons of Virtual Reality for Kids

Pros of Virtual Reality for Kids

Even if you’re not rushing out to buy the latest gear, there are some seriously positive benefits to virtual reality for kids that are helpful to understand. Getting familiar with VR tech now could also provide advantages for your child down the road. 

  1. Virtual reality has gotten easier to use and more affordable in recent years. This means that there are fewer barriers for parents who want to gift VR, or who want their children to know what VR is and how it works. Basic VR tech can be bought for $25 at a local big box store, while advanced versions start at $400+ from more exclusive, high-end companies.
  2. Education may increasingly rely on virtual reality for kids. Companies like National Geographic have produced VR environments that allow kids to virtually explore around the world. Kids who are exposed to and comfortable with VR will be able to adapt to tech-enabled learning environments. VR may also be good for teaching things that might otherwise feel abstract to kids, like space travel and exploration.
  3. VR systems can help encourage physical activity, even when going outside isn’t an option. Older video game systems might have kids planted on the couch for hours, but VR can actually get you up and moving. Kids are often motivated to stay physically active when it’s part of a fun gaming experience.
  4. The highly engaging and interactive gameplay in VR can inspire creativity and imagination for kids. This is especially the case for teens and tweens who might not have the opportunity to travel or physically engage in new experiences that are easily offered through VR.  

Cons of Virtual Reality for Kids

There are a lot of strong opinions about VR and its potential effects on kids, even though research on its impacts is fairly limited. Below, we’ve tried to highlight some of the most important factors for parents to weigh when considering how to approach VR with their families:

  1. VR can be a more private experience than older styles of gaming systems. Popular, classic games like Mario Kart and Call of Duty can have a communal aspect to gameplay as other kids in the room watch, react, and generally follow along with what’s happening on the screen. Families can play these games together as a shared indoor activity. Without screencasting capabilities (only available on some systems), VR is a completely individual activity.
  1. The immersive, sensory experience of VR can make it addicting. Most manufacturers of VR tech and games recommend their products to kids who are at least 12–13 years old. 
  1. Because VR is designed to mimic real-life experiences and interactions, it can make violent or intense and dramatic situations seem very vivid. These in-game experiences could be traumatic or disturbing to young children.  
  1. There’s very little research available on how VR could affect sensory development, or potentially trigger existing conditions. At the very least, VR can cause eye strain and fatigue for kids of any age. 

5. Some VR games can contain inappropriate content, and there are little to no parental controls available. Many experts also worry that predators will soon join these interactive experiences.

Finding the Best Virtual Reality Games for Kids

Understanding VR is only half the story. Keeping track of acceptable game content can be an entirely different challenge. There are a few ways to vet virtual reality games for kids to keep out unacceptable or inappropriate content. 

If you plan to make virtual reality games for kids a regular part of your child’s gaming routine, think about setting basic ground rules for a more positive experience. Here are some of the areas you might want to discuss:

So Are Virtual Reality Games For Kids Really Safe?

VR is definitely here to stay. With most types of technology, the dangers lie in how its used rather than whether it’s inherently “bad.” Also, it’s pretty likely to be part of your child’s world while growing up, from remote learning to hanging out with friends. A healthy understanding of the tech behind VR, and clear rules around gaming and usage will help make your kid’s experience safer.

Imagine living in a glass house. Think about everyone watching what you do and how you spend your time. A bit terrifying, right? Today, many kids are living in a sort of virtual glass house. Everything gets documented. They might capture that late-night mac and cheese, snap a pic of their new outfit, or check in at a concert venue.

Not only is this normal, but it’s also often rewarded. Reputation, followers, likes, and even the ability to earn money (i.e., influencers) are all offered as “rewards” on social media. Too often, kids aren’t aware of how their activity can expose personal information and how this might affect their well-being, mental health, identity, and even physical safety.

We’re going to walk you through some practical, empathetic ways to relate to your kid’s online experience, explain the lack of privacy on social media, and create family rules to help promote safety.

Social Media and Privacy (or Lack Thereof)

To your kids, the blatant lack of privacy on social media might not seem like a problem. Social media and privacy might even sound like a contradiction. Isn’t the whole point of social media to share details about your life, feelings, and whereabouts? How else will people know what your teenager had for lunch today?

Here’s a little context from Pew Research on how most young kids are thinking about social media privacy issues:

Introduction to Social Media and Privacy While Online

How can you get your kids more interested in protecting their privacy online?

Connecting social media privacy issues to more serious and long-term problems might drive home their importance and relevance to your kids. Below are a few tips for starting a productive conversation about social media privacy issues:

  1. Make the consequences clear and relatable. The result of something like identity theft is more than inconvenience; it can affect their ability to get into college or get a car loan.
  2. Don’t make any topic off-limits. Let them know you are even willing to talk about things that involve violent or inappropriate materials.
  3. Give specific examples of actions that can compromise their privacy. Try asking questions like, “Have you ever told someone you know online but not in real life what school you go to?”
  4. Use the same privacy rules and recommendations for yourself — they don’t only apply to kids!
  5. Emphasize that most things done online are permanent, and can sometimes be found online even after profiles appear to be deactivated or deleted.
  6. Take some time to familiarize yourself with trends, terms, challenges, apps, and other popular ways of interacting online. Understanding your child’s world and using shared language (maybe even slang!) will help build trust. 

Getting buy-in as a family can make rules that might otherwise feel strict seem more like a team effort. It’s important to clarify that family boundaries don’t apply to only one child. Also, you can explain that new rules about social media and privacy aren’t necessarily the result of past bad behavior. Instead, rules apply to all family members equally to keep them safe and protected online. 

Clearly Define Protected Personal Information

So, you’ve gotten your kid on board and ready to protect themselves on social media. Great! Now what?

Your child might not have a clue what information is too sensitive to share publicly. You can help by establishing clear boundaries about which information is appropriate to post and share via messages. Non-shareable information might include the following:

As we’ll discuss more in the next section, this information can often be used for all kinds of harmful online activity, from stalking to identify theft. 

Explain Common Online Scams

Social media privacy issues aren’t always obvious. Scammers can use all kinds of creative ways to get personal or financial information from kids. This kind of activity can even put parents’ information at risk. For example, many parents give credit card information to their kids for purchasing apps or items online. 

Accidentally falling prey to a scam can jeopardize more than your kids realize. To steer clear of social media privacy issues, your kids need to know how to spot threats. You might find it helpful to talk about some of the examples below with your kids, especially if they are older and more independent on social media. 

Shady Apps

Fake Contests

Phishing

Viruses or Malware

Identity Theft

For older kids (about 16 and up), discussing social media privacy issues might actually provide a good opportunity to teach other important life skills. For example, credit scores can be a simple and free way to keep track of which accounts have been opened in your kids’ names. By showing them how to check their credit score online, you can help them learn a valuable practice and protect their identity.

Emphasize the Importance of Physical Safety

Social media apps are meant to be, well, social! Regardless, oversharing about their personal location can put kids at risk.

Our recommendation for parents is simple: Encourage kids to not share information on their home address, school address, or exact whereabouts. Also, don’t share information that might expose the location of friends and family members. Bullies, predators, and shady companies can all use this info to track people against their will. To help out with this, you might consider looking into Bark’s location sharing features.

A few other best practices for kids include:

Talk About Advertising and Data

We understand that advertising and data can sound boring. Honestly, it sounds a little like a sleep-inducing college course. But, these topics are really important for teaching your kids about social media and privacy.

For young kids (below 13), it might be sufficient to set controls and rules for their usage. However, older kids can probably begin to understand how social media companies use the information they share. 

Without being too scary or specific, you can explain to your kids that social media apps like TikTok and Instagram use their personal data and activity to show them personalized ads. The apps are “looking at” content that they might think is personal and private, like:

There are some practical steps that parents can take to help kids keep nosy apps out of their business:

Lastly, prominent tech companies (e.g., Facebook, YouTube, Google, etc.) have a responsibility to protect their users’ data and personal information, but they can’t stop every threat. Though they might not realize it now, it’s important for kids to understand that the biggest companies in the world can accidentally expose their information, including things like email addresses, passwords, banking details, and more. 

Don’t Use Social Media to Vent Private Feelings

Sometimes kids just want to connect with others who feel the same way they do. When they have a bad day or experience bullying, they might turn to social media to share their frustrations and feelings. While this might provide temporary relief, the long-term effects can be negative — from cyberbullying to, unfortunately, resurfacing when they’re older.

A healthy alternative to social media venting might be a hard-copy personal journal that can be kept safely in their room. For some kids, therapy might be another safe solution that provides a protected outlet for processing and conversation.

Use Bark to Detect Social Media Privacy Issues

Parental control apps like Bark eliminate the stress and uncertainty around kids’ online activity. We do this by giving parents the insight, content monitoring capabilities, and alerts needed to take action when it matters most.

These are just a few of the ways that Bark can help parents resolve social media privacy issues:

Talking to your kids about social media and privacy is often easier when you start young. Over time, your kids will likely begin to feel a sense of ownership for their online activity, awareness, and practices. If they know what to look for and how to protect themselves online, kids will feel equipped to handle anything the Internet throws at them — from rude comments to full-blown phishing. 

Time management is key for successful routines that last a lifetime. Teaching time management for kids has gotten more complicated as families figure out how to deal with all the different technology in their homes. Perhaps more than ever, setting (and — hey — modeling) healthy habits is pretty tricky. We can do pretty much anything from our phones. Need to see what’s in your fridge? Check the phone. Want to dim the lighting in your family room? There’s an app for that. Looking to pass the time while you’re waiting in line? Hop on social media.

For many families, questions around phone use and access are starting earlier than ever. Plus, kids often need to use technology for school and to communicate with friends, which can make it harder than ever to set boundaries. What you’re probably wondering is how to strike the right balance and optimize phone time management for kids. You probably don’t want to move to an off-grid homestead, but you’re also not jumping headfirst into the Metaverse.

Is there a healthy in-between? We think that there is a happy middle ground and that the right combination of good routines and tools puts it well within reach. Let’s explore some creative ways to work on phone time management for kids, and review a few extra tips for getting these healthy habits started without too much fuss. 

8 Ways to Foster Healthy Phone Time Management for Kids 

1. Model healthy behavior to reinforce phone time management for kids. 

Yes, it’s true that most kids go through a phase where everything their parents do is lame. They have their own slang terms, friend groups, and an encyclopedic knowledge of internet memes. However, it’s well established that kids start to imitate adult behavior from a very young age. Remember the first time you said something you didn’t want your kids to hear but they did and it quickly become their new favorite phrase? Case in point. Even when your kids seek independence as teenagers, they will notice how you spend your free time and whether you’re prioritizing the same boundaries you’re teaching them.

Modeling healthy behavior also makes you more relatable. Your kids might find it interesting that most adults struggle with over-using their phones. This makes it easy for you to admit that learning phone time management for kids isn’t something they have to do because they’re inferior or less capable. Technology is with us every day, and keeping up good habits is a lifelong practice. 

2. When teaching time management, start tech limits early on.

Just like modeled behavior, rules and boundaries that start from a young age tend to stick better and reduce fights later on. Though your two-year-old probably won’t have a smartphone, they’re still may be exposed to household screens and technology from the time they’re only a few months old. If you glance around your house for even a few seconds, you’ll likely see four or five different kinds of screens with interactive technology — from smart TVs to tablets. 

Instead of waiting until they’re older to address phone time management for kids, you can start now by working on more general screen time limits. Rather than creating a whole new set of rules when your kids get their first phone, it will feel more like adjusting existing ones. Plus, you’ll already have spent time talking about these issues together, so they’ll know that proper phone time management is an expected part of responsible usage.

With solid boundaries in place, you’ll have a head start on addressing phone time management for kids throughout later years.  

3. Replace phones with alternative entertainment options.

Phones are incredibly entertaining, and they’re always nearby. This is one of the biggest reasons that phone time management for kids feels so difficult to enforce. 40 years ago, it was a little easier to keep entertaining technology at bay. You had to wait for a visit to the arcade if you wanted to go play popular games like Pong or PAC-MAN. Many younger parents remember dial-up internet or big, unwieldy video game consoles that would take over the whole TV when played. 

Maybe we didn’t realize it then, but biking to the arcade or waiting for your turn to play a video game kind of forced us to have better boundaries. Here are a few ways that you can help your kids practice phone time management by giving them alternatives for entertainment:

  1. Keep offline options in every gathering space, including things like board games, puzzles, crafts, books, and more.
  2. Create a chart of non-digital alternatives that your kids can pick from. Think of this like an “entertainment hierarchy.” At the top are options that don’t need any permission and don’t have limits. At the bottom are options that do need permission and also have limits. Here’s what this might look like:
    1. Play outside.
    2. Play with toys inside.
    3. Get a new book or read a book.
    4. Play card games or board games.
    5. Watch a movie or show with the family.
    6. Play games online alone.


Your specific chart might look very different, but the concept is one that kids can easily grasp. As a last reminder, the more alternatives you have available, the easier it will be for your kids to find something of interest — especially when the weather prevents outdoor play.

4. Pick a specific day, or time of the day, for tech-free time.

When you put specific tech-free time on the calendar, your kids know that phones will get put away before they start their homework or get ready for bed.

There are a few ways to approach technology-free time, and the ideas below might help you find an option that fits your family:

  1. Put phones away or turn them off after a certain time of day.
  2. Keep phones off or put them away until a specific time every morning.
  3. Get everyone to commit to stepping away from their phones for an hour at the same time every day (during dinner, for example).
  4. Let everyone choose when they want to have their own phone-free hour of the day. This flexibility might help your boundaries feel more achievable and personalized.

It’s normal for kids to push back a bit against tech boundaries, no matter their age. But, they’ll enjoy knowing that the whole family is on board with a plan. They won’t feel isolated or singled out in their behavior if parents and siblings are sticking to the same routines. 

5. When teaching time management, make phone time management about more than rules.

The whole topic of phone time management for kids might feel a little dull. That’s understandable. Is there a way to use this topic to teach your kids about deeper values around limitations, self-control, and healthy balance? Words like “limit” give the impression that we’re taking away. In reality, good time management for kids is about adding things that encourage well-roundedness.

Are there parts of your life that serve as a good example of careful management? Perhaps you can show your kids how managing certain aspects of your life well has allowed you to achieve personal goals, or to help others. Do you give to charity, volunteer at non-profits, or help serve in the community? These can all be great examples of how managing time and resources promotes a full, healthy life.

6. Use incentives to encourage other behavior. 

Incentives can be a tricky topic, but they often work well. Using incentives to encourage very specific behavior is a smart way to get the outcome you think is best. Behavior-based incentives also keep every difficult discussion about phones and technology from turning into a bargaining battle. How does this work? 

Let’s use reading as an example. There are many reading programs that offer prizes, gift cards, and other rewards for participating kids. Today, lots of these programs can be completed entirely online

In a sneaky way, this teaching time management approach also takes you out of the hot seat. Someone else can be in charge of determining prizes, administering the program, and picking the best new kids’ books! Plus, once your kids start the program, they’ll know exactly what they need to do to get an award. It’ll be up to them to put their phone down and pick up something else.

7. Use a screen time limit app.

Apps like Bark help parents control screen time and teach phone time management for kids. The ability to turn on and off access to apps, websites, or the Internet means you can be more strict when your kids are supposed to be doing homework, sleeping, or hanging out with the family.

Bark does a lot more than help with screen time limits. Our sentiment monitoring and analysis can give parents a heads up on suspicious activity before it gets out of hand. This includes instances of cyberbullying, inappropriate content and behavior, depression, and potential acts of self-harm. We look for this behavior over text, email, and over 30+ popular messaging and social apps.

More access, control, and visibility give parents peace of mind even when kids do spend time on their phones.

8. Make phones less interesting. 

Part of the reason phones can be so addicting is that kids can keep downloading new apps, games, and other content. A lot of these apps are cheap (or free), and they only take a few seconds to download. Once they’re bored of the latest trend, kids can simply hop on the App Store to look for something else that piques their interest. With millions of apps to choose from, this constant “rinse and repeat” cycle of new entertainment becomes addictive from even very young ages. 

A good way to encourage phone time management is simply to make the phone less interesting. There are a couple of ways to do this:

  1. Limit the total number of apps that your kids can keep on their phones at any given time.
  2. Have a rule that for every new app added, an old one needs to be deactivated or deleted.
  3. Allow a certain number of apps in each category: gaming, social, messaging, etc.

Extra Encouragement For Parents Struggling With Teaching Time Management For Phones

We all know that good habits are hard to start, and they can be hard to keep as months go on. Have some grace with yourself, your partner, and your kids as you make big changes. 

  1. Give your boundaries time to work, and time for your kids to embrace them.
  2. Periodically check in with your kids and let them know their opinion is valued — especially as they get older. They might even bring new ideas to the table, or come up with incentives that are more motivating for them.
  3. Add fun incentives to encourage everyone to get on board. Mixing up the living room furniture, adding a fun new reading chair, and building bookshelves to hold games and reading material are just a few ways to make these changes more exciting and positive.

Remember that striking the right balance with phone time management is about using both access control and self-control. While tools like Bark will help you grant or deny access to certain apps and sites, long-term success relies on your kids taking ownership over their own boundaries. 

How to prevent cyberbullying

Tons of new apps, platforms, and technologies have created opportunities for kids. They can meet new people, game, learn, and even start businesses — and it all happens online.  

Of course, these new opportunities also bring challenges that parents haven’t faced before, like cyberbullying. Social media and messaging apps bring out the best and worst behavior from all ages. But kids often take the brunt of misbehavior.

Recent studies have shown that cyberbullying affects 70%+ of kids between the ages of 12–17. It’s no surprise, then, that parents are more concerned than ever with how to prevent cyberbullying. 

We’re here to help demystify this challenging topic and give you some practical ways to prevent cyberbullying and help keep your kids safe online.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying can be a vague term, but it’s generally used to describe mistreatment someone experiences online. This can take place through harmful messages, exposure of private information, aggressive threats, and other personal attacks.

Online abuse can happen on any device and across social media, email, text, private messaging apps, and many other platforms. 

While this article will talk specifically about how to prevent cyberbullying with kids, these forms of online aggression aren’t only harmful to young people. Offensive, aggressive, and disruptive behavior affects people of every age range and background. If you’ve ever taken a look at the comments section of a political post on Facebook, you’ll know what we mean.

The Impacts of Cyberbullying

Sadly, the effects of cyberbullying are often serious and can last for a long time. It also affects kids in many different ways, and changes in your child’s moods or behavior might be the first clue that something is wrong.

Instead of their normal excitement about being online or hanging out with friends, your child might suddenly keep to themselves. They might also be less willing to open up and talk with you about what’s going on in their life. Signs your child may be experiencing cyberbullying include:

This type of avoidance, anxiety, and emotional drain can cause harm beyond just feeling bad. It can include:

How to Spot and Prevent Cyberbullying 

Now let’s dive in to identifying cyberbullying. Anyone born in the era before social media probably remembers bullying a little differently. For today’s generation, traditional bullying is an almost entirely different experience than cyberbullying. While schoolyard scraps aren’t totally a thing of the past, cyberbullying is now more common than face-to-face bullying. And it’s not going away.

Learning how to prevent cyberbullying starts with understanding what it looks like. It isn’t always obvious, and it can happen in tons of different ways. This can include email, text, chat, live streaming, online gaming, and much more. 

The trick for many parents is learning the difference between harmful behavior and harmless fun. Abuse, harassment, and other types of cyberbullying can be hard to spot. In some cases, cyberbullying is even sneakily disguised as normal behavior. Fake accounts, coded language, and memes are like a digital camouflage for mistreatment.

Types of Cyberbullying

We know that the internet can be a weird and confusing place sometimes, and kids tend to be a little more tech-savvy than their parents. You may find it helpful to brush up on the different types of cyberbullying, and how it looks online. Below are some of the most frequent ways that cyberbullying is experienced:

So, how does cyberbullying actually appear online? What should you be looking for? It takes many forms, but any of the following might be a good reason to look a little closer at your child’s accounts and interactions:

Now, if you want to read a more in-depth explanation of these cyberbullying types and see examples, check out our full blog post

Ways to Prevent Cyberbullying 

Intervening to stop cyberbullying isn’t always easy. Parents know that their kids may not want to have a conversation about online activity. Children, on the other hand, don’t want to get in trouble or have their phones taken away. To some kids, revealing the content of their messages and posts can feel like an invasion of privacy. 

Breaking through this discomfort will probably get easier over time as you work on communication and reinforce good habits.  

First, we recommend creating a tech contract with your kids. This agreement can outline expectations for online behavior, including:

Teens may welcome your help, surprisingly. Some actually feel that adults are not doing enough to monitor and prevent cyberbullying. Whether they’ve experienced cyberbullying or not, your kids might be ready to talk more about it.

Lastly, before you talk about bullying that your child is experiencing, make sure you have the facts. Awareness is key to having a healthy, productive conversation.  

Now, let’s talk through some specific steps that you can take to help prevent cyberbullying. What you’re hoping to learn is probably dependent on how cyberbullying is affecting your family, so we’ve separated our guidance into two sections. 

If Your Child Is Being Bullied

  1. Report what’s happening. Encourage your kids to speak up if they see instances of cyberbullying online. By creating an environment of awareness and accountability, you can encourage your kids to call out and reject inappropriate activity. It’s also important for kids to know who they should tell about the inappropriate activity. Other adults (like teachers, coaches, and mentors) in your kid’s lives can create a broader network of eyes and ears. Periodically touching base with these people can help you keep track of problematic activity.
  2. Educate and stay up to date. Teach your kids what cyberbullying looks like, and how to understand the difference between having fun and causing harm. Blogs like ours help you decode internet trends, slang, and behavior.
  3. Support and step in. The experience of bullying may cause your child to feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty. Help your child understand that they aren’t responsible for cyberbullying they’ve experienced. Getting rid of the stigma around experiences of cyberbullying makes kids more likely to report it when it happens.
  4. Find the root cause of cyberbullying. The social dynamics of bullying can be complicated. Is your child caught in an ongoing feud between friends? Were they standing up for someone else online? Is it possible that they’re experiencing retaliation for things that they said or did first? Understanding why cyberbullying is happening will help you step in where and how it’s needed.
  5. Limit their exposure to harm. Teach your kids how to remove themselves from negative online situations in safe and healthy ways. When experiencing cyberbullying, kids sometimes may want to quit social media altogether. Long term, though, they might miss interacting with friends and using their favorite apps. Addressing the underlying sources of abuse is usually a better option, though temporary account deactivations or breaks from social media might make your child feel better.
  6. Protect their accounts. Doxing or illegal sharing of personal information often happens when accounts aren’t secure enough. Changing passwords, restricting access, and using two-factor authentication are all recommended — even for your kid’s accounts.
     
  7. Use a tool like Bark to monitor online activity. Early detection is key for keeping things from quickly getting out of hand. Bark does much more than just monitor online activity. Created in partnership with experts in child psychology, Bark is designed to help parents better understand and oversee their kids’ online activity. We do this through sentiment analysis, screen time management, and more.
      

If Your Child Is Bullying

Figuring out how to prevent cyberbullying is a little different when your child could be the instigator. So if you know (or think) that your child is cyberbullying others, there are a few things to consider when deciding how to intervene:

You can read more about how to detect signs that your child may be bullying and how to approach this difficult subject in a productive way.

Cyberbullying is an all-too-common occurrence in today’s digital age.  Plus, kids often have to figure out how to deal with cyberbullying when growing up, facing academic pressure, dealing with social challenges, and a lot more. With the right monitoring tools and approach, it’s easier to have an honest conversation with your kids. Then, you can let them know that you’re here to listen, support, and help where needed.

Signs of teen depression

People are becoming more aware of mental health struggles than ever before. Better conversations and more public acknowledgment have helped destigmatize the topic of mental health. More than ever, we’re aware that the experience of depression can truly affect everyone. 

While children and adults both experience depression, its effects often change over time as kids grow and emotionally mature. Children who are experiencing depression can manifest their symptoms in many different ways, and it’s not always obvious to parents when depression is the cause of mood shifts, reduced social involvement, or lower academic participation. By knowing how to identify signs of teen depression, you can be better prepared to help your child understand and confront the symptoms head-on.

In this blog post, we’ll break down how to spot signs of teen depression, plus tools and techniques you can use to foster more open, honest, and transparent conversations with your kids. 

When Are Kids Most Likely to Experience Depression?

Kids change all the time. One week, they might hate Fruit Loops, only to become passionate about them the next. These changes usually happen with no warning, as many parents can attest. One day everything is cool, and the next…nothing is! 

But there’s a big difference between discovering new hobbies (or new favorite cereals) and larger shifts that can signal mental health issues. Research shows that the adolescent experience of depression is generally highest among teens, and the rate of teens experiencing depression has risen sharply in recent years. Physical, social, and emotional changes that happen during the teenage years aren’t the only causes of depression in kids. There are many other potential causes, including:

Regardless of the cause, there are common signs of teen depression that might prompt you to start a conversation about their health.

Common Signs of Teen Depression

It’s possible that signs of teen depression could have simpler explanations like a vitamin deficiency or hypothyroidism. Knowing exactly what to look for can help you spot real issues that need more attention. Keep an eye out for the behaviors below if you think your child is experiencing depression. And — of course — speak with your child’s doctor if you have concerns about their well-being.

Changes in Social Behavior

Kids spend less time at home as they develop friendships and join extracurricular activities. This might be a welcome change for both kids and parents, and it’s definitely expected. But, withdrawal from social interactions that your child used to enjoy is problematic.

These shifts could include:

Loss of Interest in Activities

It’s fun to watch your kid obsess over anything new, from toys to technology to mastering an epic front flip. Most kids seek comfort and entertainment from activities they enjoy. As your kids grow up, they’ll probably lose passion for a particular hobby, connection with a friend group, or interest in a school subject. This is different, though, from a complete disinterest in any activities. Total lack of interest in once-loved pastimes is a common sign of child depression.

Physical Appearance and Demeanor

Depression can affect the body in many different ways. Physical symptoms are sometimes a lot more obvious than emotional ones, especially when your teen will do just about anything to avoid showing how they’re really feeling.

Physical signs of child depression often include the following:

Academic Changes

School can be a struggle in itself, aside from social and parental pressures to perform. Kids who normally show effort toward and interest in their school work might suddenly stop caring altogether. If this is out of character for your child, then it’s definitely a sign to note. 

Abnormal Behavior

Here, we’ve used abnormal to mean different from how your child typically acts. Are they usually confident, expressive, and social? Are they now acting moodier and disconnected from what they generally enjoy? Everyone has bad days, and that’s more than understandable. Adolescence is full of ups and downs. But, no one knows their kid better than you, and you’ll likely notice right away if they have lost key pieces of their personality.

Depending on your child, signs of abnormal behavior could include:

Sadness is a normal emotion for everyone, and kids can feel it quite often. Temporary sadness due to the loss of a friendship or social rejection is common. However, persistent feelings of sadness are definitely a sign of child depression to watch. If your child can’t explain why they feel sad, then they might be experiencing longer-lasting effects of depression. 

Unusual or Alarming Online Activity

Kids can gravitate toward certain online behaviors and communities if they’re experiencing depression. Interest in darker subject matter is common during bouts of depression and other mental health struggles. For example, children could be more likely to seek out online content about acts of self-harm or other expressions of difficult emotions. 

Signs of troublesome online behavior might include:

Mature content is often found in message boards, private chat rooms, messaging apps, and other online resources that are hard to find and even harder to track. We’ll talk about how to address this problem later by using Bark’s content monitoring tool

How to Spot Warning Signs of Child Depression

Now that you know common signs of teen depression, how do you keep an eye on your kid when they’re at school, hanging out with friends, or working at their after-school job? We’ve compiled some of the best tools, resources, and methods for tackling this difficult task. In the sections below, we look at both online and offline ways of monitoring behavior to keep your child safe.

Online Activity and Sentiment Monitoring

If you’ve spent time trying to manually check your kid’s social accounts, then you know it’s hard and very time-consuming. Connecting with your kids on social media and messaging apps can help, but it’s just the start. Since social media platforms allow users to hide certain activities from specific followers, it’s impossible to know exactly what’s happening in private. 

A tool like Bark parental controls can help you easily keep tabs on your child’s online activity. By monitoring social media, texts, messaging apps, and email, we help identify and report on alarming digital behavior. Bark’s sentiment monitoring also uses the tone of messages to give parents insight into their child’s emotional state. Together, these insights can help parents take action sooner and build better relationships

Offline Accountability

Offline monitoring can be hard, too. Though most kids have some supervisory presence nearby during the day, a lot of activity still goes unnoticed. The following two suggestions can help you keep an eye on uncharacteristic behavior:

Tips for Approaching a Teen Who’s Experiencing Depression 

If you’re regularly seeing signs of teen depression, the next step could be to get involved. Experts note that open communication is vital for helping a child who’s experiencing depression. Having a safe place to discuss feelings or verbally process frustrations can be helpful for reducing the effects of depression. 

How do you naturally start this conversation while respecting their boundaries and showing empathy?

  1. Address the subject directly and compassionately. Though it might feel uncomfortable at first, it’s usually better to get the issue out in the open. Do your best to remove shame, embarrassment, or reluctance to talk about feelings.  
  2. Actively listen. Acknowledge your child’s experience. This will show that you respect their opinion and believe their symptoms. During face-to-face conversations, use non-verbal cues to show that you’re hearing and processing what they’re saying.
  3. Use their preferred method of communication. Younger kids often prefer to open up through text, chat, messaging apps, and other communication tools. These ways of talking might feel impersonal to you, but to your child, they might feel safe, comforting, and familiar.
  4. Develop shared ways of talking about depression. Depression can be hard to identify and diagnose because kids can’t always explain how they’re feeling, or why. Working on common language and explaining terms related to depression are helpful practices.  
  5. Provide healthy outlets for conversation and connection. A shared hobby or activity, especially one that your child enjoys, might help them open up and talk.

Of course, if you’re concerned your child might be depressed, reach out to their pediatrician, who can recommend a licensed therapist to help them navigate this time. Childhood depression is a clinically-recognized and treated condition. Treatments range from therapy to medication that can treat chemical imbalances. Remind your kid that there’s absolutely no shame in getting help. In fact, it’s a radical act of strength and self-care.

What to Avoid When You See Signs of Teen Depression

When signs of teen depression first appear, it can be tempting to brush symptoms off as typical teenage moodiness. Even if you’re unsure what your child is experiencing (and why) there are some things that you don’t want to do:

Key Takeaways about Child Depression

It’s totally understandable if this all feels a bit overwhelming. The key takeaways are simple:

This will all go a long way toward early and healthy forms of intervention. As a final encouragement to any parent working through these difficult issues with their family: it’s very important to care for yourself amidst the busyness. Regular mental health check-ins with your own therapist can help you keep the right mindset and a patient attitude during difficult times. Having a dedicated partner for discussion and insight can be invaluable.