I hate checking Bark Alerts. How do you handle the emotions brought up by the stuff you discover?

I hate checking my teen’s bark alerts because I end up seeing conversations with his friends that aren’t necessarily something I need to know. Meaning, he or they are not in true harm but the content is disturbing for me as the parent. There is a lot of sexual exploration being done on their own (phew! Thanks, COVID!) and talked about with friends, identities and stuff being considered. The kid I see in these messages is not the kid I see in person and reading these is totally affecting my mood and how I view my kid. Is anyone else experiencing this? How do you manage it? I have tried to get my husband to take over some of the monitoring, but he often doesn’t. And, he doesn’t have my detective nature so I am afraid he will miss the concerning bits.

I have the sensitivities set low because often some concerning situation is actually couched in a more simple conversation but that means I get to see all the yucky stuff too.

How do I keep a filter in mind when I am reading the alerts–like a filter for “this is probably normal teen private friend conversation” (even if I don’t like it) vs. “this is the concerning stuff”?

@aubrieentwood - Hi! Thanks so much for reaching out and sharing. First, let me say the struggle is real; and you are not alone. While these tough subjects have always been difficult to broach, it can seem 1000x times worse when maybe we discover something about our kids that we didn’t know, or even wished to know. As a parent, it’s definitely a fine line in determining where the issues fall between the child we’re raising and the independent people they are becoming. :orange_heart: Hugs.

Thought maybe this What to Do When You Get a Bark Alert blog post might give you some ideas on how and when to have a conversation.

Additionally, this Parent Response Toolkit could provide some insight on how to help your child through common issues of concern, should you decide a conversation is needed.

Talking to our kids and keeping an open line of communication is key, regardless of how big or small the “stuff.” And sometimes, all it takes is to simply let them know they are loved, and that you are there for them. Reminding your son of these things when the little yucky stuff comes up, might just help you move forward until the next time. :wink: I do hope this helps! Please feel free to reach out to us any time. We’re here for you! >> help@bark.us

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I try and look at alerts and things I come across as: is this potentially dangerous or will get my child into real trouble? Or is this just behavior I don’t like or agree with, but their personality.

Also- they are still SO immature! As I look back on my own teen years, the things I said and did horrify me now as a parent! As in, if me as a parent caught my teen saying or doing the things I did as a teen I’d be extremely upset. I almost 100% attribute that to immaturity. Guess what? I matured and found my own way, and with my parents’ gentle guidance I became a well rounded adult that my parents are extremely proud of.

Would my parents have been proud to hear me (multiple times) proclaim myself a “nympho”, talking about sex and sneaking out to drink and whatever else? Heck no! But they never found out because we didn’t have this technology back then. At the end of the day they raised me with good values and although I may have strayed and went a little wild, I’d say I began to straighten out at about 19 and have had a fantastic life since then.

Try to separate between “is this a real safety concern” and “is this not how I want my teen to act”. Know that you’re doing a good job and the rest will come around in time.

The harder you push, it seems the harder they buck. Keep instilling good morals and values gently, I bet that will stick and will show in time with maturity.

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Hi! I’m reading your post, and it sounds exactly like me (and most of my other friends who have teenage kids). When my son first got a phone in junior high, we let him get on social media (we don’t allow Snap), and it wasn’t long until we began to see some very inappropriate things from other kids. He knew we would be watching his phone, texts, Instagram, and email constantly and that I was going to ask. He gave me the argument that other parents don’t do that, he needed privacy, etc., but I believe (and still do) that if we didn’t pay attention, we wouldn’t be able to teach him to make good choices.

I decided then and there that no matter how awkward, we were going to talk about it. Believe me, we’ve had some very uncomfortable conversations about peer pressure, life choices, STDs (yes, really), consequences, etc., and for a while, I was really concerned he would shut me out. However, to my surprise, it’s been quite the opposite. I’ve seen my now 16-year-old being up front about why he doesn’t have Snap, talking to girls about not sharing too much on social media, and encouraging and giving praise to others.

Now…that’s not usually the kid I see in my house (he can be a turd sometimes), so that’s where my emotions come in, but knowing our conversations are somehow getting through that thick head have helped me pick my battles. I’m sure once my child (and we have to remember, they are still children) starts dating, it’s going to get harder, but hang in there and have those awkward conversations. Someday they will appreciate it!

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I 100% support what Amywarmke is saying and her parenting style is similar to my own. (In today’s world it is called the “strict” parenting style, but in reality it’s a parent that is actually taking the time to be involved in their teenagers life)

I’ve had several uncomfortable conversations myself. the toughest challenges i have faced were

  1. conveying that my teen would not get in trouble for what other people said
  2. would not be in trouble for bad language.
  3. different between bad language and disrespecting someone else (especially opposite sex)
  4. Snapchat. i may ultimately go Amywarmke’s route and take Snap away altogether, HOWEVER that is becoming almost impossible these days for a highschool teen. Where we live, ALL high school teens coordinate EVERYTHING through Snap. All social gatherings, sports, school events. so kids without snap don’t get invited or notified…

***my wife someones gets emotional and discouraged when monitoring bark, so i handle most of it when that happens. I am able to separate the “normal teenage weird stuff” from the more concerning stuff like disrespect,suicide talk, drugs, vaping, inappropriate sex talk. Again, i’m not saying i’m good at this, just i can handle the stress of it better than my wife.

So while your husband may seem like he is less concerned and not doing the detective work, you may balance each other out. Husbands can help identifying what “normal” teenage boy behavior is, it’s an eye opener for moms. (just like it’s an eye opener for dads on how high the level of drama can reach for teenage girls)

-Dennis

Thanks for all of your advice. I knew I couldn’t be the only one. We found out some concerning self-harm behavior because of Bark when we first started using it and we acted quickly. I know there is no way my husband would have made the subtle connection with the bark alerts to then go digging into the kid’s instagram and finally searching his room. So, I think we need a balance between the two of us checking the alerts.

I also think you’re right, Dennis, that my husband might be able to identify normal teen boy behavior better than me. I think it is the sexual discussions that have both of us floored because they were not things we were talking about with our friends at his age (or even older). It does seem that our kids are far more knowledgeable about the range of sexual activity at 14 than we were in our 20’s. So, you have to sort out what’s the norm these days.

I am going to need to learn more about what the concerns with SnapChat are. I thought Bark was able to monitor that but it sounds like maybe not. I suppose we need to occasionally spot check his phone.

We are also being cautious about what we bring up from the bark alerts. We’ve talked to him about the self-harm issue but we’ve also told him we were letting his friend’s mom know about some things going on with his friend. Now the conversations are like, “do you think your mom’s software will pick this up? you should delete that text where I told you I drank vodka”. We do fear the more we find out and the more we act, the more it pushes the kids into apps, etc. that can’t be monitored.

Circling back. Dennis is right that my son gets left out of some things because he’s not on Snap, and he’s okay with it (sometimes I worry, but that’s another topic). However, most of his friends know he doesn’t have it, so if it’s important, they text him directly.

Some kids these days have no self-respect, so we hear of many instances where kids will Snap nude pictures, videos, etc., and we just don’t want that on our phones (I pay for it, so it’s MY phone). I pay close attention to his Instagram too, and you wouldn’t believe the solicitation from random people, so you definitely need to have conversations about that, as well.

I know we can’t helicopter-parent forever, but I’m hoping enough of these conversations will sink in so that when he leaves home in a couple of years, he will make the right choices and lead others to do the same.

Thank you for this- it’s exactly what I needed to hear. I don’t like reading all the vulgarity sexual innuendo and cussing on my sweet 15-year-old daughters text messages either but I think you nailed it on the head when you said about the immaturity factor. I know I did so many of these things too but like you sad at my parents never knew because we didn’t have a Bark.And if I were a parent reading or doing what I did as a teen I would be horrified to and now I’m a well-adjusted woman. So thanks for that feedback