If you have been following our posts and guidance since we launched Savvy Cyber Kids as an educational 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2007, you know how we feel about parenting in a world filled with technology.
If this is your first visit to our site, and one of our TechTalk resources (this blog post), welcome! At Savvy Cyber Kids our mission is to enable youth, families and school communities to be empowered by technology, while recognizing that children are “Digital Naives” who, without intervention, completely lack understanding of the implications of their digital actions.
That’s where you come in. It doesn’t matter if your child is in preschool or in high school, we have a responsibility to educate and empower our kids to make appropriate decisions while growing up in a world filled with technology. And as with any tool, the technology our kids have access to can be used for good or cause harm to themselves or others.
Deciding when to give your child a phone is a major decision in a parent’s life (and by the way, a decision our parents didn’t have to make). We provided advice on how to think through the process for your family in The Right Age for a First Phone.
When you have made the decision that the time is right for your child (remember, maturity of your child is a larger factor than their physical age) the next step is to pick the best first phone for your child. There are loads of options out there, but the majority of them were not made with kids’ safety in mind. This means parents are left with the daunting task of protecting their kids from dangers that are now in the palm of their hands. Then there’s the other side of the spectrum: phones that were made for kids but have very limited capabilities. And that’s great—for some kids. But this is hardly a one-size-fits-all type of decision.
So what are parents to do? Well first, knowing the potential dangers can help you figure out what to look for in a phone. Let’s talk about some of the most common risks to give you an idea, and then we’ll tell you why we think the Bark Phone is your best option to help keep your kids safe. Keep reading to learn more!
Oh, and if you already purchased a different phone for your child that they may be using already or that you plan to give them, we recommend the Bark App, which runs on Apple iOS and Android OS phones and tablets.
Common Dangers of Giving Your Kid a Phone
Giving kids a phone can be a great way for them to connect with their friends and peers. But it also opens the door to potential cyberbullying. Unfortunately, this is a harsh reality that lots of kids face nowadays. Through social media and texting, kids could face harassment from other kids on their phones without their parents even realizing it.
Risk of increased screen time and addiction
Another risk is increased screen time. Lots of parents have found it difficult to limit overall time on devices when a phone is added to the mix. Most kids will want to keep their phones on them at all times, always checking every notification, and neglecting other activities they used to do before their phone.
Phones give access to all sorts of harmful content. Kids can very easily find things like violence, profanity, and explicit sexual content. There are tons of ways they could come across it, including social media, browsing the internet, or being sent something from a friend. Some apps and sites have parental controls to help block inappropriate content, but these are not always reliable—or even available—depending on the platform.
One huge danger for parents to be aware of is online predators. Predators will try to connect with kids and start grooming them to take advantage of them. They’ll use any social media or messaging platform to gain control. And like with cyberbullying, a stranger could start messaging your kid. The worst part? Kids might not even recognize the danger right away, or they might feel too embarrassed to say anything, which makes it difficult for parents to protect their kids from abuse.
Introducing the Bark Phone
Even with all of these risks, there is still a way to provide a phone for your child that gives you the built in tools you need to help make sure you have visibility and control of their online life in a seamless way (plus your kid will be thrilled you FINALLY gave them a phone). The Bark Phone was built by a dad of two along with genuine input from other parents on what they wanted in a kid’s phone. Here are just a few of the features the Bark Phone has that are sure to impress families.
The Bark Phone has parental control software built into (yes, the same Bark software we have been recommending for years on our parenting tools page) the phone that monitors your kid’s phone for concerning texts, DMs, social media posts, and more. The software searches for content related to cyberbullying, predation, and more, as well as mental health concerns like depression or suicidal ideation. This helps parents stay in the loop without the weighty task of combing through all the messages themselves.
Screen time functionality
Setting healthy, consistent boundaries with your kid’s phone is made possible with the Bark Phone’s screen time functionality. Parents have the ability to set time limits for the phone, or for specific apps, to ensure kids aren’t spending too much time in front of a screen.
Grows with your kid
The Bark Phone has loads of features, such as screen time capabilities, app download approval, GPS tracking, and the ability to manage your child’s contact list. But the best part is that all of these features are customizable, so the phone can fit your family’s exact needs! If your child is younger, then you can essentially make the phone a “dumb” phone and only allow calling and texting for a small list of contacts. But as they get older you can introduce more options, like access to the app store, more contacts, or increased screen time. It’s a phone that lets the parents call all of the shots when it comes to parental controls.
Tamper-proof parental controls
One of the best parts of the Bark Phone is the tamper-proof parental controls. Once you create your settings, kids won’t be able to find any loopholes or workarounds to access the things you’ve restricted.
Learn More About the Bark Phone
The Bark Phone starts at $49 a month, with no upfront cost and no contract required. Learn more about how the Bark Phone can work for your family and help protect your kids. And yes, Bark makes a donation to our non-profit each time you sign up to be a customer of the Bark App for Android and iOS devices (plus you get a lifetime discount!), so thank you for your support of Savvy Cyber Kids!
Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for our free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics. See more cyber safety and cyber ethics blogs produced exclusively for EarthLink. Looking for a social media parental control? Try a 30-day free trial of Bark. If you sign up after your trial, Bark donates 25% of your monthly fee to Savvy Cyber Kids.
Thank you to the Savvy Cyber Kid’s sponsors!
Interested in becoming a Savvy Cyber Kids sponsor? Email Ben Halpert.