Kids consistently exposed to 'stomach-churning' content in 2021

A study that tracked the online activity of nearly six million kids, found 90% of teens and two-thirds of tweens consistently encountered "stomach-churning" messages around drugs, sex, and self-harm.

The research was based on an analysis of more than 3.4 billion messages sent by tweens and teens in 2021 across texts, email, YouTube, social media platforms and gaming apps. Among its most troubling findings were sky-high figures for bullying, self-harm and suicide, and predatory behaviour.

Conducted by Bark Technology of Atlanta, Georgia, the analysis found

  • 43% of tweens and 75% of teens were involved in a self-harm/suicidal situation.
  • 69% of tweens and 91% of teens encountered nudity or other sexual content.
  • 75% of tweens and 93% of teens talked online about drugs/alcohol.
  • 72% of tweens and 85% of teens experienced bullying as a bully, victim, or witness. 
  • 32% of tweens and 56% of teens had online conversations about depression. 
  • 20% of tweens and 42% of teens used language or were exposed to language about anxiety. 
  • 81% of tweens and 94% of teens expressed or experienced violent subject matter/thoughts.
  • 10% of tweens and 21% of teens encountered predatory behaviors from someone online.

The research also identified Kik, Tumblr, Houseparty, Dropbox and Discord as the top five platforms for “severe” sexual content.


"It's not easy 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,” commented spokesperson Titania Jordan. 

"It's a really, really stomach-churning thing to try to process, but your children have got to be aware and be protected."

“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’. It is your child. We have to do better by our children. They need us and they are struggling right now.”

And all indications are that they will continue to do so into the future, as we edge closer to a world in which the distinctions between online and offline become increasingly meaningless.

Digital wellness experts agree that early and ongoing conversations about what kids are experiencing online - in combination with parental controls to block inappropriate content and manage screen-time - are the best defense against digital harms.

"Please don't fall into the camp of ‘not my child’. It is your child."

(graphic credit: Bark) 

Use Family Zone's acclaimed parental controls to ensure your child's online life stays healthy and balanced.

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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, online safety, cyberbullying, online predators, online pornography, depression, anxiety, sexual abuse of children

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