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Social media parental control app saw 25% increase in teen self-harm and suicide alerts in 2021

Bark, a parenting social media monitoring app, found a 25% increase in self-harm and suicide alerts among young people aged 12 to 18 in 2021, according to research published Friday.

The app, which alerts parents when it “detects potential problems” in children’s text messages and app activity, has analyzed more than 3.4 million messages across texts, emails and social media platforms in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced thousands of children across the United States to spend hours online every day.

“Based on recent congressional hearings, we’ve seen a great need for transparency around data, especially around minors and harmful content/people,” said Titania Jordan, director of parents and CMO of Bark. , to FOX Business in a statement.

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“We’ve provided what we have access to in the hopes of protecting even more children. It’s time for other tech companies to do the same. It’s also time for big tech to let users truly own their data – instead of outright preventing parents from keeping their children safer online.”

More than 43% of young teens and nearly 75% of teens have been involved in self-harming or suicidal conversations or situations, Bark found in his survey of social media posts and activity. Bark did not specify the age range between “tweens” and “teens” in the report.

Early estimates for 2020 show more than 6,600 suicide deaths among young Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

ED visits for attempted suicide among teenage girls, in particular, increased by 51% during the pandemic, and teen ER visits increased by 4% over the same period, CDC the data shows.

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“Given that suicide is the second leading cause of death among children in this country, this is an alarming trend, and we need to do more for our children (and faster),” Jordan said.

Anxiety alerts were most often sent to 15-year-olds, Bark found. Additionally, 32% of young teens and 56% of teens have started conversations about depression.

About 25% of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 suffer from anxiety, according to the American Anxiety and Depression Association. About one in four children worldwide have suffered from depression during the pandemic, according to researchers from the University of Calgary in Canada find.

WeChat, Twitter, MeWe, Telegram, Signal, Instagram, Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp social media app logos displayed on an iPhone screen. (Photo illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)

The vast majority of young teens (72%) and teens (85%) have witnessed or experienced online bullying, otherwise known as cyberbullying. The CDC found in 2019 that approximately one in four minors engage in cyberbullying.

While alcohol consumption decreases in 2020 and beyond decreases by 2021, more than 75% of young teens and 93% of teens have engaged in conversations about drugs and/or alcohol, Bark found.

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Jordan noted that kids use Snapchat to buy drugs that sometimes contain harmful substances like fentanyl.

“The unfortunate and preventable deaths that resulted, we need to focus on making tangible improvements there as soon as possible. Children shouldn’t have access to drug dealers through a social media app,” she said. declared.

Nearly seven in 10 young teens and about nine in 10 teens have encountered “nudity or sexual content” in their texts or on apps, according to the monitoring app. Additionally, 10% of young teens and 20% of teens have experienced predatory behavior online.

Two girls with face masks looking at their mobile phones, the day before the entry into force of the mandatory use of masks outdoors, on December 23, 2021 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via Getty Images)

Two girls with face masks looking at their phones the day before the mandatory use of outdoor face masks comes into force on December 23, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via Getty Images)

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children recorded a 95.7% increase in online incitement reports in 2021 compared to 2020.

The apps Bark ranked worst for serious sexual content, in order, were messaging app KiK; the Tumblr blogging application, which recently added a sensitive content filter; the face-to-face chat app Houseparty; Discord communication app; and the Google Dropbox cloud storage app.

“Given that nearly 10% of tweens and 20% of teens have encountered predatory behavior from someone online, our data suggests that we need to do more to protect our children from sexual abuse, whether they take place in real life or virtually,” says Jordan. “The ways in which a child can be abused online are rapidly outpacing the protections that currently exist to prevent that abuse.”

Jordan called on social media companies and tech giants like Google and Apple to “turn a blind eye to this abuse and post ads that lead people to believe their new regulations will actually fix these problems.”

“Unfortunately, they haven’t shown the ability or the will to adequately self-regulate, so parents and lawmakers need to step up and stop that,” she said. “We are still at a point where minors will expose child sexual abuse content – ​​which involves them – to major platforms, and those platforms refuse to remove it unless there is pressure from law enforcement. “

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Apple and Alphabet Inc. google touted parental controls as a way for parents to keep tabs on their kids’ technology usage. Google offers a parental control called Family Link that allows parents to manage kids’ apps and screen time.

“We are committed to providing our users with powerful tools to manage their iOS devices and we are always working to make them even better,” an Apple spokeswoman previously told FOX Business.