“Sexting” and Middle School Shouldn’t Go Together!
Ready or not, here they come. My baby girl (well, she’s 11 now but… she WAS a baby… and then I made the mistake of blinking) is headed to Middle School next year. And today made it official. This morning she boarded a bus with her friends, and they headed to tour their new school. She discovered there’s no playground, saw lockers for the first time, and learned about cell phone rules… wait, cell phones?!?
Naturally, our discussion over dinner tonight was “mom, when can I get a cell phone?” And while part of me wants to delay that milestone, the other part can’t deny that there is a convenience factor in having a cell phone.
She has extracurriculars that sometimes finish early or late, she will start staying at home by herself occasionally (and we have no home phone), and she will want a way to stay connected with her friends. Although she’s a baby in my eyes, I know she’s growing up and my mom intuition tells me that it is time to cross that cell phone bridge.
As with every other milestone we have reached together, I plan to be there by her side. When she walked for the first time, I held her hand. When she learned to ride her bike, I was there. And similarly, as she enters the world of social media (even in the sense of text messages, etc), I will be here to help steer her in a healthy direction. I am well aware that a cell phone gives her a window into a world she isn’t ready to handle alone.
I’m not even ready to handle it alone. Our Middle School principal, partnered with Bark Parental Controls, recently hosted a “Let’s Talk About Sexting” community event for parents. It just doesn’t seem right that “Middle School” and “sexting” should be used within the same sentence, but it’s important that parents are informed and have open conversations with their children about social trends… even, unfortunately, sexting.
Sexting isn’t the only area for concern though…
Did you know?
- In 2021, Bark saw a 25.15% increase in alerts for self-harm and suicidal ideation among kids ages 12–18, as compared with 2020. (Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for ages 10-24)
- Over 68% of tweens and 90% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature.
- More than 19% of tweens and 42% of teens used language about or were exposed to anxiety.
- In 2021, Bark saw a 21.2% increase in alerts for drugs/alcohol as compared with 2020.
- Over 32% of tweens and 56% of teens engaged in conversations about depression. (In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatricians declared a state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health)
- For the full Bark annual report, click here.
It’s no surprise that kids in 2022 are under a lot of pressure. They are re-entering a post-pandemic world, learning how to navigate “normal” again, and, let’s be honest, “normal” for them was stressful even before 2020.
Given these heavy statistics and scary words like “sexting” and “nudies”, why in the world would I consider giving my daughter a cell phone at age 11? Well, because cell phones, apps, texts, etc… aren’t going away any time soon and I would like to be there for her as we navigate the “rights” and “wrongs” of the digital world.
Now to determine how she and I can help navigate the sometimes scary world of technology together…
I do NOT want to monitor every single text message she receives. I know she is social, she is silly, she has crushes and inside jokes and I want to respect her space and privacy.
What I really need is a way to be alerted in case inappropriate things come her way. I would like the ability to manage screen time and also restrict certain apps and websites that may not be right for her.
Bark was actually founded by a dad looking for a way to keep his two kids safe online while preserving their privacy. It monitors 30+ of today’s most popular apps and social media platforms (complete list here) and works on Android devices, iOS devices, Amazon Fire tablets, and Chromebooks. Bark runs in the background, scanning your child’s online activities, and sends you an alert if it detects something you need to know about – issues like predators, sexual content, bullying, depression, and more.
How will I use Bark?
If my daughter searches something like “what depression feels like”, Bark will let me know so we can have 1:1 conversations and work through her emotions together or even with professional help.
I can block access to certain social media apps that we aren’t ready for, like Snapchat.
I am able to block categories of websites so that she doesn’t stumble upon something that she shouldn’t.
I will also manage when apps can be used throughout the day – for instance, “No YouTube during the school day” or “Only music apps after bedtime.”
We can discuss the impact of sharing inappropriate images – y’all, currently “nudie” in our house is a tan leotard she wears under her dance costumes… so we have a lot to learn.
(If “nudie” becomes a legit term in your house, check out this post on how to navigate this conversation.)
One other VERY exciting function Bark just launched – the ability for her to share her location with me! Bark will let me know when she gets to school safely when she gets home at the end of the day, and that she’s at a dance when she should be.
Our kids are amazing. They deserve opportunities (even ones like getting their first cell phone) to give them the opportunity to learn. They may not always make great choices, but that’s what parents (and Bark) are for… to be here to help them grow and make better decisions along the way.
Check out these other great Atlanta Mom Middle School parenting posts: