ATLANTA — Over 90% of teens are consistently talking about drugs, sex, violence, and more.
That’s according to new data from Atlanta-based company Bark, an app that monitors children’s phone and internet use for red flag content.
Bark is a paid app that parents download on their kids' devices. It’s algorithm monitors texts, email, YouTube, and 30+ apps and social media platforms for signs of issues like cyberbullying, sexual content, online predators, depression, suicidal ideation, threats of violence, and more.
In 2021, Bark analyzed more than 3.4 billion messages. The company just released trend data for the year.
“It's shocking," said Titania Jordan, Chief Parenting Officer at bark. "This is very, very sad and very hard.”
Jordan, a parent herself, is troubled by the data, which is compiled over the last year monitoring the virtual activity of nearly 6 million kids.
"It's a really, really stomach-churning thing to try to process, but your children have got to be aware and be protected," she said.
"It's not easy to to process and come to grips with the fact that our kids are dealing with this but they are, so we feel it's vital for the general public to see just how common it is," she continued.
Here are Bark's findings for 2021:
- 72.09% of tweens and 85.00% of teens experienced bullying as a bully, victim, or witness.
- 32.11% of tweens and 56.40% of teens engaged in conversations about depression.
- 68.97% of tweens and 90.73% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature.
- 75.35% of tweens and 93.31% of teens engaged in conversations surrounding drugs/alcohol.
- 80.82% of tweens and 94.50% of teens expressed or experienced violent subject matter/thoughts.
- Bark has escalated 16 credible school shooting threats to law enforcement.
- 9.95% of tweens and 20.54% of teens encountered predatory behaviors from someone online.
- 1.96% of tweens and 7.66% of teens engaged with or encountered content about disordered eating.
- 19.69% of tweens and 42.05% of teens used language or were exposed to language about anxiety.
- 43.09% of tweens and 74.61% of teens were involved in a self-harm/suicidal situation.
“We have escalated 421,000 thousand severe self-harm situations. That’s imminent danger to a child's life," Jordan said. "That's too much.”
Bark offers these tips for parents when it comes to discussing self harm and suicide with children.
"You don't think it will happen to you or it can't happen to you until it does," Jordan said. "And then it's too late."
The company hopes the data they've released helps open parents' eyes to the reality of being a kid in this digital age.
“Your children, more likely than not, are exposed to some of the hardest things you can imagine when it comes to humanity, and at a younger age and a more frequent rate," Jordan said. "So if you think you need to talk to your child about any topic at like 10, 12, 15. Think again, think like 6, 8, 9."
"Please don't fall into the camp of not my child," she continued. "It is your child. We have to do better by our children. They need us and they are struggling right now.”
In addition to their app and AI software, which is also used in 3,000 school districts, Bark runs a free Facebook group for parents called Parenting in a Tech World. It has over 166,000 members.
If you choose to download Bark on your child's device(s), Bark offers these tips for discussing it in your family.
In their report, Bark also highlighted the top apps/platforms for concerning content.
Top 5 Apps/Platforms Flagged for Severe Sexual Content
Top 5 Apps/Platforms Flagged for Severe Suicidal Ideation
Top 5 Apps/Platforms Flagged for Depression
Top 5 Apps/Platforms Flagged for Body Image Concerns
Top 5 Apps/Platforms Flagged for Severe Bullying
Top 5 Apps/Platforms Flagged for Hate Speech
Top 5 Apps/Platforms Flagged for Severe Violence