Five Things Parents Need to Know About Group Chats
We can all probably agree that group chats are one of the most convenient parts of texting. Instead of messaging each of your kids individually, you can simply throw them all in a group chat and say things like “We’re having tacos for dinner tonight” or “Don’t forget to tell Grandma happy birthday!” But when it comes to kids being in their own group chats with friends, it can be a little trickier to manage.
For many kids, group chats are simply the way they communicate with each other. That’s why there are so many apps dedicated to messaging, like Snapchat, Messenger Kids, Kik, GroupMe, Discord — it’s just what the kids are doing these days.
Some friend groups naturally pick up on “group chat etiquette” without much coaching. However, kids can sometimes get carried away with the influx of notifications or find themselves at the center of group chat drama.
We’ve picked the top five most important topics around group chats that parents should keep their eyes on. Consider talking with your kids about these, whether they’re about to join their first group chat or even if they’re already a part of several.
Top Five Things Parents Should Know About Group Chats
1. More notifications mean more pressure
Sometimes, when some kids join their first group chat, they feel they need to send a message for every single thought they have. And sometimes, they decide to send one thought in seven different messages. Suddenly, a group chat could be sending and receiving dozens of messages in the span of a few minutes — which is a notification nightmare for some parents!
But for children, it’s not only just distracting, it can put a lot of pressure on kids to keep up with every new message and feel like they need to be sending just as much as their friends. It can quickly turn into a real fear of missing messages anytime they're away from their device. Make sure your kid knows it’s okay to put some group chats on “mute” or even put the whole device on Do Not Disturb mode.
2. Misunderstandings over text can be intensified in group chats
We all know what it’s like when we send a text — and because you can’t send tone or facial expressions with it — your message gets taken the completely wrong way. With a group chat, you now have multiple other people who can misread your message in tons of different ways. Now add in kids who are often not mature enough to consider all the different meanings of a text, and you’ve got a radioactive zone for tons of unnecessary drama.
It’s a common scenario for kids to start group chats with an entire class or even an entire grade. This means your kid could be messaging with people who don’t know them well enough to interpret their message correctly. The drama becomes ten times more complicated when the misunderstanding happens with someone totally outside your child’s social circle.
3. When the chat makes a kid feel left out
Group chats can bring friends together, but they can also be very exclusionary. Sometimes this happens on accident with no ill intent, other times it’s done on purpose as a form of cyberbullying. Kids will create a group chat just for the sake of having one without a certain person and use it to talk behind their back.
Kids can also feel left out even if they’re in the group chat. It’s one thing to not be invited to a certain event or just simply have to miss it for various reasons, but it’s another thing when your phone starts blowing up with pictures and messages about said event and you’re not there. FOMO (fear of missing out) is real.
4. Hot spot for spreading inappropriate content
Speaking of impulse control, sometimes when kids come across something interesting on the internet, their first impulse is to share it with their friends. Kid group chats often function as a trading space for memes and funny videos, which can be totally innocent and harmless. But sadly, it’s not uncommon for kids to think it’s funny to send something inappropriate and get a reaction from the group. It’s easy to be exposed to things like porn links or disturbing videos from YouTube or TikTok while in a group chat.
Group chats are also a hot spot for swapping nudes. A study by Thorn reported that 1 in 6 kids (ages 9–12) admitted they had seen non-consensually reshared nudes of other young people. Sadly, in the age of sexting, this seems to be increasingly common among kids and teens.
5. Group chats have become a normal part of growing up
While group chats can certainly be high risk, it’s important to remember that not all group chats will have these problems. In fact, they’re just a normal part of friendships for kids nowadays. Group chats can be used to plan in-person hangouts or share funny memes and say “this is you!” Or it can be just a space to talk about the things they didn’t get a chance to during school — like how we grew up calling our friends to chat after school in the 80s and 90s.
The best thing to do as a parent is to consider if your child is ready for the responsibility of group chat. And, if they are, use it as a teaching opportunity for online safety as well as how to be a good friend in the digital world.
Group Chats Got You Down? Let Bark help!
Giving your kid free rein on group chats can be scary, considering the potential dangers they come with. But Bark’s got what you need! Our content monitoring can keep an eye on your child’s texts without having to scroll through hundreds of messages yourself.
Bark uses a highly trained AI to look for issues such as cyberbullying and inappropriate content, and this includes things in texts, images, and videos. We can also monitor many of the popular messaging apps like GroupMe and WhatsApp. You can take the Bark app for a spin with our free, 7-day trial.
Also, consider the Bark Phone — our kid-friendly device that comes with Bark’s parental controls built in. With it, you get the added protection of contact approval, the ability to prevent text message deletion, and so much more. If you only want your kid texting certain people, texting at a certain time, or both, you have the power to create those settings with the Bark Phone — which can greatly increase your peace of mind when your kid is online.
Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.