#34 - How to protect your kids with Cheif Parent Officer at Bark Technologies, Titania Jordan

October 10, 2023
Titania Jordan

Episode Summary

Join Aro co-founder, Joey Odom, this week as he sits down with Titania Jordan, the Chief Parent Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Bark Technologies, an internet safety solution. They dive right into the trials and tribulations faced by kids growing up in a digital world, especially shedding light on the mental health effects that many young women face in the "comparison trap." Titania also shares how Bark can help parents protect their kids in our technology-dominated world. In addition to discussing screen time, Joey poses the tough question of when it's the right time to give a child a smartphone. Their conversation also bravely tackles the topic of kids' exposure to pornography, offering valuable insights and guidance. This episode is sure to deepen your understanding of navigating the digital landscape as a parent and creating a safe environment for your children.

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Episode Transcript

Titania Jordan (00:00):
That was already a problem again before social. But if you're growing up and you're seeing everybody's perfect, filtered, beautiful, curated stories and feeds, profile pictures, et cetera, that can be damaging. If you're basing yourself worth on follows and comments and likes and inclusion in certain private direct message groups, it's hard.

Joey Odom (00:34):
Welcome back to The Aro Podcast. Hey, it's Joey Odom, co-founder of Aro, and you may know if you listen to the show. I have a 15 year old and I have a 13 year old. And if you're a parent of teenagers, of kids who are preteen, I bet that you have some kind of trepidation when it comes to technology. You may fall in a few different categories. You may feel a little overwhelmed, don't really know where to start. You may feel a little bit fearful or just feel like you lack information. You have maybe a little bit of ignorance on the topic, and it's something that we all feel. I think that's probably important to know that you're not the only one that's feeling this way, that nobody really has it figured out. We're all looking for help and that it's hard, but there are resources out there and there are people, and there are groups who are looking at this in ways.

How do we educate parents? How do we protect our children? How do we teach them to have good relationships with technology and harness the good and shield out the bad? And we have one of those people with us today. We have Titania Jordan. She is the chief marketing officer and chief parent officer at Bark - that's bark us. And we have a really, really great conversation that goes, it goes deep, it goes lighthearted, but we do talk about questions that probably all have, when is my kid ready for a smartphone? Is what happens if my child is exposed to pornography. I mean questions like that that we may not necessarily think about that are looming for every parent. And by the way, I'll say that for every parent, these are questions we all have, and it's okay to have these questions. How do I spot signs of trouble in my kid if something may be going wrong?

Those kinds of things. Titania gives a really, really great answer for that. So I love this conversation. You're going to love it. And before we begin, will you do us a favor? Will you go give us a five star rating wherever you're listening to this podcast that's important to us? We would love that. If you like the content that we're bringing to you, we would really, really appreciate that. If you're feeling extra generous, you can even write a review, but I'll just ask for now, just give us the five star rating. We would really, really appreciate that. And once you do that, you can hit unpause, relax, and enjoy my conversation with Titania Jordan from Bark.

Hey gang, did you know that being thirsty sometimes has nothing to do with water? Did you know that the noodle emoji might not mean spaghetti? Do you know what bread ghosting and busing means? Well, our guest does because she lives at the intersection of parenting and tech and has for her whole career. She also knows that you might feel a little lost when it comes to technology in your home and she's here to help. I got to warn you, she doesn't bite, but she does bark. Please welcome to The Aro Podcast, chief Marketing Officer and chief Parent Officer at Bark, Titania Jordan. Titania welcome to The Aro Podcast.

Titania Jordan (03:25):
Thank you so much for having me. Best intro ever.

Joey Odom (03:30):
That's what I aim for. That's it. And we could just shut down. Let's just say thanks. Thank you everybody for joining. I couldn't tell Titania actually as I'm watching, I couldn't tell if your hands near your face was amusement or embarrassment or just a little bit of both. Probably both. A little bit of both. Sure. Well, I can promise you this. My 13 year old daughter who I hope listens is mortified right now. Just, I mean, absolutely mortified hearing me say bread crumbing, ghosting and busing.

Titania Jordan (03:56):
No cap.

Joey Odom (03:58):
No cap. Well, I'm just glad to hear that was not like a mid intro. That's another one that I'm learning here.

Titania Jordan (04:04):
This is great.

Joey Odom (04:07):
How old is your son? Your son? Debbie, how about you? Knowing all the slang, how does he take all that?

Titania Jordan (04:12):
Oh, cringe. Total cringe. He just says, don't, just don't stop.

Joey Odom (04:20):
Oh my goodness.

Titania Jordan (04:22):
He's in ninth grade, so he's actually finally approaching that age where I can ask him for insights. Somebody messaged me the other day about an app that they were worried about their child downloading, and I hadn't heard of it yet, and so I asked him, Hey, have you heard of the Rizzo app? And he was like, no. So I'm like, okay, well clearly it's not popular. Yeah, exactly.

Joey Odom (04:45):
Oh my goodness, that's so funny. At least I could see the daughter would be maybe more cringey like my son who's also ninth grade. I don't think he would very little bothersome be like, yeah, whatever, dad, you're embarrassing yourself. I don't care. So he won't care about my intro. Alright, so I'm curious, so you do, I said in the intro you sit at the intersection of technology and parenting and I'm curious, where did all of that begin? Where you are passionate about it, you're extremely knowledgeable about it. How did you get so passionate? Why are you so passionate? Walk us through some of that history that got you to where you're today.

Titania Jordan (05:22):
Sure. Gosh, I grew up and actually wasn't allowed to do a lot of the things that my friends and peers were doing. We didn't have cable, and even if and when we did, there was a lot of things I wasn't allowed to watch or listen to or read. So I know what it's like to be sheltered, but I also know what it's like to enjoy the beauty of reading and just playing outside and being bored and then combine that with some challenges I've personally endured without a screen helping to make them worse, whether it's eating disorder related issues. As I started to grow depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, I've struggled with all of those things and yet didn't have to deal with the exacerbation of social media and screens compounding it.

And then growing up in a time where we were moving from traditional media to social media and being a young professional in that time, it was really like a glass globe just shattered and every little piece of glass became another way to encounter problematic content or problematic people. So used a lot of, I guess, euphemisms there, but it is a perfect storm. It's being at the right place at the right time and having that unique insight. You and I are the only generation really ever in the history of humans living on planet earth that will understand the before and the after.

Joey Odom (07:02):

That's so interesting. You're right. Just having it came, I think you and I are right around the same age, so it did. I didn't have my first cell phone until college, probably very late college, and then even that was the dumb phone, and it wasn't until really in, and maybe you share the same experience. It wasn't really until I probably just about became a dad when I got a phone, which is terrible timing, just the most important thing that all of a sudden I get the biggest potential distraction I could have in a phone, right?

Titania Jordan (07:34):
Yes. I feel that acutely Facebook was a major thing while I, I started my career actually in traditional media at a local radio station in Atlanta. And so that was just crazy, right? Moving from everybody listening in their car to commercial breaks to wait Pandora and satellite and now iPods. It was a crazy time to be trying to sell airtime, but, and so I had a Blackberry, which was already introducing work into my work life unbalance. That was a whole thing. Then once my son was born, I remember getting an iPhone within his first year of being on this planet. And yeah, not a great thing. In hindsight, great for capturing photos of videos, not that, but otherwise,

Joey Odom (08:29):
Absolutely. It's interesting going back to you talking about your upbringing. I've never been a teenage girl, but I do feel like I just can't imagine. I can't imagine how difficult that is, and I even talk with my daughter and it's just sometimes just acknowledging to her, it's really hard to be a teenage girl, and I really can't imagine when you start throwing on all the other stuff that compounds it, and maybe some of this stuff is self-evident to Tanya, but I'd love to hear what are some of those things that are really putting a microscope to the difficulty of growing up. Let's just say specifically teenage girls right now, what are they really encountering? Maybe some of the stuff we do know, maybe some of the stuff we don't know.

Titania Jordan (09:12):
Gosh, where to begin. I'll start with the comparison trap. That's actually the title of a favorite book of mine by Sandra Stanley. That was already a problem, again before social, but if you're growing up and you're seeing everybody's perfect, filtered, beautiful, curated stories and feeds,

Profile pictures, et cetera, that can be damaging. If you're basing your self-worth on follows and comments and likes and inclusion in certain private direct message groups, it's, it's hard if you go home from school and you're in your room, but you don't yet really ever leave that social circle, you're at home, but you see everybody's at Taylor Swift besides you, or you open up Snap and everybody is actually going somewhere for spring break and they're down on the Florida coast, but you're not. You're having a fun staycation staycations. It's just constantly being reminded of what you're not, where you're not, because everybody's posting the best, the brightest, the filtered, the perfect. There's no acne, there's no cellulite.

Joey Odom (10:25):

Titania Jordan (10:26):
All good lighting. It's too much. On top of that, the pressure, the hypersexualization of young girls, I'm sure our listeners have seen the memes, right, of a 13 year old girl in 1980 and a 13 year old girl today, and this isn't to shame any 13 year old girl today, it's just to show how much more grown up they are. They have seen more and at a more frequent rate and at a much younger age. At 13, I was still playing with Barbies. I had no idea how to use eyeliner, and now there's all these tutorials on YouTube to help you figure all this stuff out. So it's a lot and compounding on top of that, there's the anxiety, there's the depression, there's the pressure to send nudes photos and videos because sexting is the new first base. There's a lot of unwanted incoming inbound nudes as well. Even if you don't want them, there's predation adults looking to speak to you and utilize you for nefarious purposes in your dms. And then suicidal ideation, it's, sorry, it's so hard to talk about, but suicide is the second leading cause of death in children in this nation. That wasn't something we even thought about when we were kids.

Joey Odom (11:56):
That's hard to believe, and the stakes are really high. When I go to your Instagram feed and when I look at bark's resources, there is a certain, there's a level. Your content is awesome, it's lighthearted, it's fun, but there are moments, there's a heaviness about it and I think an appropriate heaviness about it because of what's at stake. I would like to touch on, I want to touch on what you're doing at Bark Touch. I want you to talk a little bit about that because the stakes are so high. Bark takes it very seriously, and is the leader in protecting kids, will you talk a little bit about that and what Bark does and how they're combating and what you all are doing kind of on the front lines for all families?

Titania Jordan (12:43):
Sure, absolutely. Yeah. So Bark is technology that now helps to protect close to 7 million children across the globe, primarily in the United States. We're using AI not in a scary way or an overwhelming way, but we're using algorithms to analyze and then detect and then alert parents to problematic content and problematic people across their children's text, social media, email, YouTube, et cetera. So when our algorithm detects a danger, it'll send a parent an alert text email letting them know not only what happened via a small snippet, it's not going to give you everything, but it'll give you a small snippet just enough so that you are in the know. And then it'll also give you best recommended next steps for how to address. So that's our core flagship of what Bark launched with in July of 2015. We've grown over the past few years. We saw a need for our Tech in schools after the tragic shooting in Parkland in 2018. So now any school in the United States that wants to use our tech for free, absolutely can for

Joey Odom (13:52):

Titania Jordan (13:53):
For free. And we're in close to 4,000 districts now across the United States. So thankful to be able to help thwart true acts of violence and other issues at school as well. And parents were also coming to us saying, Hey, we love Barks monitoring and alerts, but can you also help us with screen time and filtering? And we're like, well, there's other players out there that do that, but if you really want it all in one,

Joey Odom (14:17):

Titania Jordan (14:17):
We'll do it too. It wasn't that easy or quick, but same time. And then we also have a device now for In-Home, because it's one thing to monitor children's smartphones, tablets, social media accounts, email texts, but gaming consoles and smart TVs, there's a lot to unpack there. So we have Bark Home that will attach to your router in your home to help manage some of the connected tech within your home that you can't connect to the account level. Deep breath. And then finally, almost a year ago, we launched a safer smartphone for kids, not because more kids need more smartphones. They certainly do not before they're ready, but we found that so many parents were either giving their children hand-me-down iPhones or brand new iPhones, which were not safe, or they were giving them other Android devices that weren't as safe. So we decided if parents are going to continue to give their kids smartphones that are not safe, let's launch one that is. So that's what we do.

Joey Odom (15:23):
And the reason I tied in bark so quickly with the suicide discussion was because of what you're doing, and I'd like to hear maybe how does that actually work within, let's say, suicidal ideation, for example, how does Bark pick up on, you have the ai, so it'll pick up on some kind of tone that may be getting close to suicidal ideation. I would love to hear how that happens. Then will you tell us maybe some stories of intersecting there before it was too late and maybe, I mean, literally it's no dramatization to say you are saving lives, so I'd love to hear some of that story behind that, some of those stories behind it. Absolutely.

Titania Jordan (16:00):
Yeah. Unfortunately, there are too many stories to share, but fortunately, we are so thankful to be a part of the solution and a lifesaving solution. In fact, at Bark every single day, we are sending between 85 and 100 severe self-harm or suicidal ideation alerts

Joey Odom (16:25):
Every day,

Titania Jordan (16:26):
Each day, every single day. Now, we've multiple on multiple occasions had parents write in after the fact, after they've gotten past that initial crisis moment. Thank you so much. This Spark Alert helped to save my child's life. I had no idea that my child was struggling. So many parents echo that same sentiment, I didn't know. And these are families full of love and well-educated, and they'll want to do everything they can for their kids, and sometimes you just don't know because it's buried deep in their digital signal. So yes, and there have been too many to count, and I'm so thankful for the brave parents who after the fact have reached out and shared how Bark has helped to save their child's life.

Joey Odom (17:13):
And so practically, so for my kids, I have two kids, both of 'em with iPhones, so that would attach to their, their iPhone, it would bark, would be monitoring the content of their texts, for example, to see what's in there, and then that would send reports to me. Is that correct?

Titania Jordan (17:29):
Yeah. Not only that, but let's say they have the Google Docs app and they start to write a note indicating their plans, or they do a search through Chrome or Safari trying to learn about different ways to go about executing certain plans. Let's say they take a screenshot of something they maybe saw on Instagram that gives them details and that saves their camera roll. There's so many different rabbit holes and nuance ways that bark could get a signal that, hey, something's not right, and then bring it to your attention.

Joey Odom (18:11):
Wow. As I get older, one of the big fears I have health-wise to say that one line, I wish we'd have caught it earlier, and you alluded to that, that's the exact same thing when you think of our kids, what terrible thing or how did I miss that? And part of it goes back to, I know you all talk about this too, is this whole like, no, not my kid. The whole mentality that the not my kid, and that has to be common within parents, right? Just that whole mentality like, oh, my kids wouldn't look at that. My kid wouldn't think that. Is that something you encounter pretty, pretty frequently with parents?

Titania Jordan (18:44):
Oh, absolutely. And I felt it myself. I do this every day for a living. I know what I know. I have had all the awkward, frequent, candid conversations with my son. He's like, please stop. Yet there have still been some things that we've encountered because growing up is hard. Middle school is hard, and your kids, as much as they know that you're a safe place, just don't always want to tell you certain things, nor do they always have the words to describe what's going on. Sometimes it's so painful. Yeah.

Joey Odom (19:17):
Have you ever, I try to tell my kids that I'm the cool parent, they just don't believe me Do. Do you ever do that? Try to convince your son, you're the cool parent.

Titania Jordan (19:26):
Not only do I try to convince him of it, I have confirmation that he does understand. He's like, no, I know.

Joey Odom (19:32):
Oh, that's good.

Titania Jordan (19:33):
I can talk to you about anything. Anytime I know that mom, I just don't want to. And I'm just like, oh

Joey Odom (19:40):
God, man. Oh, that's so good. I love

Titania Jordan (19:44):
That. Yes.

Joey Odom (19:45):
Yeah, maybe. Yeah, maybe not. If you don't laugh, you'll cry. Right,

Titania Jordan (19:49):

Joey Odom (19:50):
You just got to keep telling 'em that we're the cool parents.

Titania Jordan (19:53):

Joey Odom (19:53):
Is it true, I mean, I read that you all have legitimately, you mentioned it, you said thwarted some stuff, but actually actual planned school shootings and bombings, that's something you all have intersected as well. Will you tell us a little bit about that?

Titania Jordan (20:07):
Absolutely. Yeah. We have multiple instances where our alert helped to thwart a credible

Joey Odom (20:19):

Titania Jordan (20:19):
School, shooting bomb, et cetera. Law enforcement has confirmed that there were guns in book bags or on campus. There were plans written out, and it's chilling. It's absolutely chilling.

Joey Odom (20:34):
So I was fascinated by this. So parenting in a tech world is really what you do. That's who you are. And then from that, you have a book, and then you have your Facebook group. The Facebook group. I was blown away that you have 390,000 members in parenting. That's wild Teton.

Titania Jordan (20:51):
I mean, I think we've gained like 5,000 members just over the past two weeks. This is a problem. We are not okay. We are struggling, and that's why I created the group because we need help. We need help.

Joey Odom (21:07):
That's so true, and I love that that realization is happening right now. We see it more and more too, is just that people are saying, because it seems easy. It seems easy. Like, oh, it's just your phone. Oh, you can just put your phone up or you just, it's very hard. And I think it's that recognition. I kind of liken it in some ways to the fitness industry when people are just saying, yes, it's easy to go burn calories. You put on running shoes, you run around in your neighborhood, you do some pushups, but it's hard still. Right? That's a difficult thing to do. So I love what you just said, that people are just saying finally saying, yeah, we're struggling. This is really, really hard.

Titania Jordan (21:42):
Absolutely. It's so much more than screen time. When your kid's younger, like birth to age five, your biggest concern is screen time. Okay, if so, how much is Peppa Pig going to mess up my kid? You know what I mean?

Joey Odom (21:57):

Titania Jordan (21:59):
Is so much more than that. So much more than that.

Joey Odom (22:02):
Yeah, it is.

Titania Jordan (22:03):
And the problem is you don't really have that heads up your pediatrician's office, bless them, thank God for them. They're not really warning you about what's coming, and then all of a sudden you find yourself in it and you're like, oh my gosh, what do I do? The best time to plan for a disaster is not when you're in the middle of it, and it is a disaster. It's a complete disaster.

Joey Odom (22:26):
Is there any way to estimate, let's think about people in that group, and this maybe just will be a gutshot from you, how many people are getting ahead of it versus people saying, holy crap, I'm too late. Is it split down the middle? Is it more? Do you see more one on the other side?

Titania Jordan (22:42):
I sincerely hope that because of the work that we've been doing over the past eight years, that there's more and more of a heads up because it hit me like a ton of bricks and I was already in it. So yes, we are seeing anecdotally more and more parents coming to the group before they've given access, whereas in the beginning it was help. I gave my kid X, Y, Z. How do I dial it back? What do I do? They've seen this, they've said this. I don't know what to do.

Joey Odom (23:12):
Yeah, I hope that's true. And it is. We tell people as you're within ra, we tell people, what about my kid who's 15, 16? They're on their screen all the time here. She's on their screen all the time. And we say, there, you got to set your goals a little bit smaller, but it's a lot easier when you start young and recognizing this is where I'm encouraged that people, I think like you're saying, have this self-awareness to say, well, it has to begin with me. I have to do a good job as a parent and model it. Well, that's the best way a kid will learn. So for you to say that I think is encouraging as well. Just people are getting ahead of it.

I got an email the other day from Jess in Idaho and she wrote a very excited email about her first RO session. She said, I got my first RO session today. My phone was in the box for over three hours this morning while I got some much needed housework done after having sick kids for a week in the midst of dishes, laundry, and tidying up. I sat down and spent about an hour just building puzzles with my son. She said, before you know it or realize that you might be using a good chunk of the time you're supposed to be spending with your partner or children focusing on your phone instead of on your family. And considering how busy families are today, all the time we spend on our phones is a heavy price to pay. Jess, we couldn't agree more with you. Thank you so much for your email.

If you would like to experience ro, if you're interested, just go to go ro.com. These are real stories from real people who look just like you, who are probably battling the same tension you are, and we're finding some relief with ro. So go to goro.com or follow us on Instagram at goro. Now, I'll tell you both questions here. One question I have is what are the biggest questions you're hearing within the group? And then the second would be, what should be the biggest questions? People are asking one thing, what should they be asking about? And maybe, I don't know if there's a difference between the two, but I'm sure you hear common themes, but then if you were to say, yeah, yeah, good question, but you really should be thinking about this.

Titania Jordan (25:16):
Yeah. Well, I just alluded to it. Really, most people start out asking how much screen time is okay. And what they should be asking is, how am I going to regulate the inevitable amount of screen time that my child will receive, even if it's not in the home at all, if they're not homeschooled, go to school, go to a friend's house. What happens when there's friends with phones? Do they all go in a basket? Do they have sleepovers? What happens with tech? There are so many questions beyond the how much screen time. Additionally, so many parents are asking, when is the best time to give my child a smartphone? And that's another nuanced question. Then it becomes, my kid really wants Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok. Should I let them? I don't want them to be left out. It is just like waves. They just keep coming.

Joey Odom (26:15):
How would you answer some of those that you just mentioned, some of those questions that you hear, can my kid have Snapchat? When should they get a phone? How do you address some of those questions where people are looking for black and white in what's inevitably going to be at shades of gray answer?

Titania Jordan (26:33):
Totally. So sometimes I like to go back to if I could go back in time to when my son was a certain age, and then other times I just go straight out with the Here's what you should do. Because a lot of times parents just want, just tell me what to do. Don't make me think. And I respect that. So my friend Chris McKenna of Protect Young Eyes says Delay is delay. And I firmly adhere to that. I have never heard a parent say, I waited too long. I really should have let my child have whatever sooner. Never heard that. And I'm open. If somebody wants to tell me that, I'll stop saying it. Haven't heard it yet. Flip side, so many parents, myself included, have said, I just wish I would've waited just a little bit longer.

So don't hesitate to delay. Encourage your children's friends, parents to be in it with you because they're going to want to do what their friends are doing. And if you all kind of decide together, Hey, as a community, we are not going to let our kids have X, Y, or Z until this age, this grade, excellent choice. If a child wants any social media platform before the age of 13, feel free to lean on the law, their terms of service, say you have to be 13 to use this. So that's what we're going to do,

Joey Odom (27:51):
Like that.

Titania Jordan (27:52):
And then

Joey Odom (27:52):
After that, you just moved to Montana, right? Because then kids can't, they can't have Exactly.

Titania Jordan (27:56):
Yeah. Get a yurt, no wifi, and invite me because that sounds kind of fun for a day. And then for the smartphone question, before bark had a smartphone, I had one answer, which was just, wait, please wait. Please, please, please, please wait. We launched our smartphone because kids are going to keep getting them and they need to be safe, right? Some kids in dual households or with health issues or whatever, need that access that perhaps a smartwatch will cut, won't cut it. So if and when you do decide your child has needs that are best met by a smartphone, make sure that you go with the safest option. Obviously I feel that bark is that option, but whatever you go with, just make sure it's not full unfettered access to the internet with no screen time parameters in place. Determine what your kid needs to do before you determine what device you're going to give them. Do they just need to be able to text mom and dad? Do you need location tracking? Do they need the ability to download five apps from school? What do they need? And then work backwards to the minimum viable product that they need to accomplish that purpose.

Joey Odom (29:15):
What a great way to look at it, just even beginning with the natural current is, well, they're such and such age, they get a phone now, or all their friends are getting a phone, which by the way, it's such a great parent trick to band together because then it's I'm the last one. Nope, nope. I know that I got seven other parents with me. Right? It's such a good one. But then also, I like how you said that beginning with the need, what's the purpose here? Why are we doing this? That's a really good way. And I don't know that I've shocked. I don't know that I've ever heard anybody put it in that way, but it's so logical. It makes such perfect sense, which shows that we're flowing with a current right now without really stopping and standing in the middle of the river while the water's rushing around us saying, do I really want to go downstream right now?

Titania Jordan (30:00):
A hundred percent. An example of that mom I was speaking to recently said her daughter all summer long was begging for a smartphone. And she finally said, well, what's the one thing that you really want to do on this? And she's like, I really want to listen to music. And she was like, cool. Got her an MP three player. Hasn't asked for a smartphone since. So there you go.

Joey Odom (30:21):
That's brilliant. Yeah, exactly. Just beginning and not assuming too much and being, again, it's just being more intentional with it. I'm curious about the, I don't know if this question will fully make sense, and there are a lot of shocking stats out there, the suicidal, all that stuff, the child predators. So would you say that parents should be fearful? Is fearfulness an appropriate response to all of the stuff that's out there when it comes to technology and kids?

Titania Jordan (30:53):
It's a great question. I would say if you put your child in a car without a seatbelt, are you fearful? Oh,

Joey Odom (31:01):
That's good.

Titania Jordan (31:03):
Do you let them ride a bike without a helmet? I think there is a healthy level of fear and a crippling level of fear. So you should have a healthy fear of real present, tangible dangers. But what you don't need to do is be afraid of things that are unlikely to happen.

Joey Odom (31:24):
That's a good answer to Tanya. I mean, that was strong. I was trying to bust you there for a second. No, that's That's a great answer. And it's a perfect, yeah. Yes. You should be afraid of your kid playing in the middle of the highway. Yep. That's appropriate. But yeah, exactly. No, I love that. It's very, very, very good. The book, parenting in a Tech World, my impression of this book was, it was, we know all this stuff. Let's get it into something almost like as a starter kit. Was that the original intention for the book?

Titania Jordan (31:58):
Yes, it was. I mean, there's so many reasons for the book, one of which is I started this group on Facebook, but I don't own it. Facebook owns it. At any time, all of this amazing knowledge could just go away. So let's start documenting this. Let's get this into a tangible thing that we own, that we can curate, that we can update. And sometimes parents like to not be on a digital device and an actual paper copy of a thing. And also, there wasn't a book like that. There are a lot of different super scientific books that dug into super scientific specific aspects of dopamine and neurons and screen time and that sort of thing. But just in general, there's books that help you with breastfeeding, bottle feeding, first steps, teaching kids how to read, but there wasn't anything out there that was like, how do I be a good parent in a tech world or just a decent parent in a tech world,

Joey Odom (32:58):
Not terrible parent. Right? Yeah, exactly. In the intro to the book, you list some kind of common questions. These are the questions kind of floating around. There were a couple that jumped out to me. One of them was spotting signs of trouble in your kid when it comes to social media, or maybe if something's just a little bit off. What are some ways that you advise parents on that? And by the way, I do think you have to be hypervigilant on this and just looking for small, maybe nearly undetectable changes. What do you advise parents for that?

Titania Jordan (33:31):
Gosh, this sits so close to home. I've been there just the slightest, slightest change in, let's say sleep, sleeping too much, not getting enough sleep, grades dropping. All of a sudden your children are not hanging out with the same people they used to. Yes, friends change, interests change, but if there's more of a drastic, like they're not hanging out anymore, wonder what's going on there. If your child seems agitated or angry or just things seem a little darker, if they're shutting their door or locking their door, if they do have a device, if when it buzzes or dings, they seem agitated, they turn it over. If you come around, they're kind of, you're not looking at the screen. God bless kids. Just anything that seems off, yeah, dig into that. And a lot of times they will say, everything's fine. There's nothing wrong. And don't hesitate if you're worried to schedule a pediatrician appointment or talk to your child's school counselor, or if they have a therapist or a psychiatrist. Again, sometimes kids don't want to talk to you, but there are other people that they might open up to. And that's important.

Joey Odom (34:58):
And I think this is where this goes back to us, our responsibility as parents and how easy it is for us to become distracted by our own phones. I propose, and I know this just from firsthand experience, it's impossible for me to notice those small changes if I'm distracted myself. It is very, very hard to pay attention when we constantly are distracted by our phones, if we're checking emails or for on fantasy football or good or bad things. But as we as parents are on our screens a bunch, and we're all guilty of it, so there's no shame there that we need to recognize. I think what you're saying here is our responsibility, but also opportunity. What a cool opportunity for us to be kind of like detectives when it comes to our kids, always looking for things, but it does require us to be present and not be distracted by our own technology.

Titania Jordan (35:50):
A hundred percent. Yeah. I just want to reiterate that if you feel the slightest hint of something's off,

Lean into it. Lean into it because it's so easy to dismiss and you don't want to live with that regret. I also want to highlight just how buried things can be. Meaning if children are spending upwards of eight hours a day now on devices and front of a screen, et cetera, that's eight hours of childhood that used to be spent outside with peers, with parents around that could observe conversations and arguments and nuances and fights. And there's just, everything is just so much more buried and hidden and disappearing. Photos and messages and vault apps and camera rolls that have hidden albums. And it is harder for a parent to keep their child safe physically and mentally today because of these devices.

Joey Odom (36:51):
It's so true. It really is. And in some ways, I was reading a book, I dunno if you know Jenny Urich is she has the Thousand Hours Outside podcast, but she has a new book coming out that's great. And she has a line in there basically that today we are protecting our kids physically, like never before when you and I were kids, we run out on bikes, but we're not protecting them emotionally at all. We're just handing 'em, Hey, here's the internet. And if I had the internet at 14 to Tanya, I would've never slept. I literally would've never slept. And so we're doing this thing that's just so counterintuitive that we're overprotecting them physically, but protecting them in more emotional ways that are maybe even more damaging potentially.

Titania Jordan (37:30):
Yes, that put that on a quote, pop that on social. Yes.

Joey Odom (37:38):
I want to ask you about a sensitive topic, but I think that it's probably one that we all turn a blind turn a blind eye to, and that is kids, I didn't plan on asking this question. I'm just curious your thought on it. Kids' exposure to pornography. Will you tell us a little bit about is it prevalent? Is it more alarmist? What's actually happening? Tell us the real story on what's happening with kids' exposure to pornography.

Titania Jordan (38:05):
Absolutely. So I'm glad you brought that up. Every year at bark we run a report, and over 2022, we analyze more than four and a half billion data points

Joey Odom (38:18):

Titania Jordan (38:18):
Text, email, YouTube apps, social media, all of that. And what we found just in regards to sexual content is that 62% of tweens, that's kids, eight to 12 and 82% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature. So that's the rate at which children are encountering that sort of content. It's really not a matter of if, but when your child is going to stumble across something. Could be mild. Could be mild, I hope it is. But based on what we know, today's pornography and sexual content is not what we grew up with. This is not some magazine, this is not a still photo.

Joey Odom (39:08):

Titania Jordan (39:08):
Is so much more, and it's damaging and it's outside of your beliefs around sex and sexuality and age appropriate sexual curiosity, just the consumption of the sort of media, what it does to your brain, the pleasure center, the addiction center of your brain, and then how it can affect your long-term relationships when it is time for you to have a healthy sexual relationship with somebody. Again, long-term ramifications. So not to just all give you doom and gloom, there's also hope. I highly recommend the book, good Pictures, bad Pictures. Get that book, it's on Amazon, wonderful, wonderful book and read it with your child. And in fact, they have a book, good pictures, bad pictures, junior for even younger kids because you could maybe just need to grab a quick shower or work call hand your kid an iPad that is not protected and they stumble across something somewhere that they can't unsee and they don't understand.

Joey Odom (40:15):
Would you say that this is the, where would you rank this in terms of a parent's naivete when it comes to, oh, my kid wouldn't look at pornography. Is it very high on the list of a not my kid syndrome?

Titania Jordan (40:28):
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. Gosh, I can't emphasize that enough because it's not just the obvious website that people know about. It's subtle, subtle ways that children can encounter it without even looking for it. That's what parents realize.

Joey Odom (40:53):
That's a good way to put it. In some ways it's like if you're oversensitive to this, then you just suspect your kids are out there just searching for porn as hard as they can, which is probably not the case. So the more likely scenario, what you're saying I hear is just they are going to stumble upon it. That is going to happen, and they probably don't want to, and they're probably embarrassed. They're a little bit ashamed, so they won't bring it up to you. And so this is where you start that dialogue early and make sure they know and they have a safe place. And I think it begins Ta Tanya, this whole a quote, and as you guys were talking about the book, you said you don't have to keep up with technology. You said, when your relationship with your kids is solid, then technology won't be your biggest problem. I love that line. Will you expand on that a little bit about the Yes. It's all technology. Yeah, things are changing, but really this comes down to relationships.

Titania Jordan (41:50):
It does come down to relationships. I want to bring up one more example from the previous topic before I get into that, which is just before you know it, before you're ready, you'll no longer be the expert that your child comes to answer the questions. And Google or TikTok will be their new source of truth. And what you don't want to do is have an innocent search. When will my boobs start growing? Or what happens when my voice changes? Or just anything that is totally appropriate to want to know more about, but might be awkward for them to bring up to you in their minds, they're going to turn to less awkward ways to find out that information. And that's again, a part of the danger that could come up of it's not just organic search that has been vetted. There are paid advertisements, there's spam, there's algorithms that all of a sudden see, oh, you want to see content about sex and sexuality and puberty and whatever.

How about this, this and this. All the recommended things. It really is a rabbit hole. So deep breaths, pause there, go to the relationship. But actually it's a segue because if your children know that they can come to you, that you are a safe place, that you will navigate it together. It's a much better position to be in a few other things, birth to age 20 is a different relationship than 21 to 80, hopefully later is longer. Hopefully you can be your child's friend for a very, very long time. But in the beginning, they do need to know that you're their source of guidance and protection. And it's because you love them, not because you are power hungry freak. Not only that, but this isn't a you versus them dynamic. It's a, we're in this together. So child, you want Minecraft. Okay, let's do some research together.

Let's Google the pros and cons, the dangers, the fun things. What can you do on it? What should you avoid on it? And much like your child, whenever they start to embark on any journey, we'll be experiencing it for the first time. You as the adult and parent can do it with them. It's almost like you get to be a kid again. You get to explore with them. You guys can learn Minecraft or Roblox or whatever together, but then you use your adult wisdom and lens to guide them on the, here's the parts we'll stay away from, and here's the parts we will lean into.

Joey Odom (44:22):
I love the question you recommend, which is just asking your child, Hey, can you teach me? How will you teach me how Roblox are, Hey, will you teach me? What a great question. Yes.

Titania Jordan (44:31):
Because they

Joey Odom (44:31):
Love to explain it

Titania Jordan (44:33):
And it's time you get to spend together doing what they want.

Joey Odom (44:37):
Yeah, that's right. I love that. I'm going to go back to what you went back to, which this whole, to your point, yeah, I just imagine, and Teton, it's heartbreaking when you think about a girl going through puberty who goes to the internet for answers and is exposed to something that they didn't want to be exposed to, and then having some innocence taken from them in that moment

Titania Jordan (45:10):
Or thinking that that's the norm or that's expected.

Joey Odom (45:17):
And I don't know exactly even how to ask this question is that you see, you're on the front lines here and you, you probably see some heartbreaking things in terms of suicidal ideation, in terms of young kids being exposed to things that no one should frankly be exposed to. How do you balance out that heaviness that you probably come across the war that bark is in for our kids? How do you internalize that? How do you soak that in? Does that question make sense?

Titania Jordan (45:53):
It does. It does. So to the first part of the question, I actually don't see it firsthand because child privacy and safety laws, nobody at bar wants to or needs to see very much, right? Because it's our algorithm that's doing that hard, heavy lifting for us.

Joey Odom (46:17):
Got it. Love it. What

Titania Jordan (46:18):
I do, I would say, see, it's more like what I do here. What I do read is that feedback from parents like Bark sent me this alert, then they tell me what happened. Then I know about it. And then of course it weighs heavily on my heart. And it is, it's hard, but it's nothing compared, I would say to the first responders. My heart goes out to the people who are showing up when certain things have taken place or when they have to rescue a child from a terrible situation or deal with the aftermath, the rehabilitation that they, we are just a small but important part, and I'm proud to be a part of it. It's an important mission. So then it comes back to balance, right? I can only take so much and then I need to love on my dog. If my kid will spend time with me, I'll take it, exercise, paint, sleep, whatever.

Joey Odom (47:20):
Yeah, that's awesome. So two questions to close out, and the first one is what's the, you're in this, we've talked a bunch about it. What bark's doing, what you're doing, what your personal passion is behind this. What would you say is the world you'd like to create? What are you aiming towards here?

Titania Jordan (47:39):
That's a good question. I would love, love, love, love for Apple to give parents the ability to opt in to keeping their kids safer online

Right now, it's kind of like my way or the highway with them. They offer what they offer and it has bugs. And if you want to use anything else, it's cumbersome and clunky, and kids are in trouble because of it. Kids are struggling, kids are dying. It's not okay. Not only Apple, but the biggest platforms, Snapchat, TikTok, et cetera, right now, they're releasing every few months a new feature that they tout is being safe and better for kids and families. They have their own parental controls, but they're bogus. They're bogus. They're not really moving the needle. And so my hope is that whether it's Apple or Snap or TikTok or anybody that has a huge mass of children consuming their device or content in any way, shape or form, that they actually do the right thing and work with companies and entities, companies like Bark, but also law enforcement and therapists and that sort of thing to make it safer for the kid upfront versus just letting the kid have access to everything and putting the onus on the parent to try to dial it back and block the thing. And I'm rambling now, but it's essentially a world where kids can utilize the positive aspects of tech without being so negatively impacted by the negative aspects of

Joey Odom (49:20):

Titania Jordan (49:21):
It's a possible thing. It can happen.

Joey Odom (49:24):
Yeah. You're not describing the farfetched world that's so ethereal. It's something that they have in their control. They can absolutely do it. And what I love about that answer too is that actually probably if that world, that world existed, it would probably negatively impact park's business model to some degree. But the reason I love it is because you're just saying, we just want to help kids. Let's just help kids and we'll figure out all the rest.

Titania Jordan (49:51):
Let's not

Joey Odom (49:51):
Worry about a revenue model. Let's just help kids

Titania Jordan (49:55):
Empower parents. Let's educate parents. Let's protect kids. Because right now, parents are struggling and kids are struggling. Not good.

Joey Odom (50:06):
Yeah, it's not good. So the last thing, what is everybody listening today? What's the baseline thing? Let's get just one thing. If you're going to do one thing today as a parent, what's the very baseline thing you should do when it comes to your family and technology?

Titania Jordan (50:21):
Do not let your children have unfettered unmonitored access to connected tech. Please use something. Please take a minute to Google parental controls and whatever your kid spends the most time on, whether it's an Xbox, an iPad, YouTube, whatever, and just figure out one step that you can take today to limit the time, set some filters, set some restrictions. Just take a little baby step towards a safer internet for them and a healthier balance with screens versus non screens.

Joey Odom (51:02):
So good, good way to do that is looking into bark. Where can people find you find bark? What's the best way for people to learn more?

Titania Jordan (51:12):
Well, luckily I think everybody knows how to spell bark. So you just go to bark. But then you go to us, not.com. not.org, it's bark us. That's our site. We have so many free resources there, whether you sign up for the service or by the phone or not. So yeah, bark us

Joey Odom (51:33):
And follow you. Is it at Tatanya Jordan?

Titania Jordan (51:36):
Yes. Yeah. I am cranking out those reels.

Joey Odom (51:40):
You are. I'll tell you, you're Steve Jobs reel. That's worth an Instagram visit. That was very strong. That was very good. Thank you. That was very good. Everybody say that's a teaser. We call it a teaser in the biz. Peter are going to have to go check that out because it was awesome. Thank you. So Tanya, thank you for what you're doing. Thank you for your passion behind it, your heart behind it, and the work on the front lines. Literally, I'll say it again. Literally saying saving lives. And I hope people listen to this a few times to soak in what you said. There's a lot in here that we should all apply and just begin to wrap our minds around. So thank you for what you're doing and thank you for joining us today.

Titania Jordan (52:20):
Thank you for what you're doing and your team, and thank you for having me.

Joey Odom (52:26):
Alright, appreciate it. Ta Tonya, thanks so much. Two things TA Tonya said. I asked her at the end, what's the baseline thing that all parents should do? And she said, do not let your children have unfettered unmonitored access to connected devices. It's very good advice. Let's just not give them everything. Let's not give them infinity in their pockets as Andy Crouch calls it. That's great. And then the second thing she said, and this really, I think we should all as parents internalize and think about this one, Tonja said that if we have the slightest hint, just the slightest hint that something may be wrong, something may be off with our kids, lean into that. Listen to that. Go talk to your kids. I promise you it may be just a half second of embarrassment. Or them say, no, there's nothing. Wrong but's okay, but you won't regret asking that question.

You will regret if there was something and you ignored that feeling inside of yourself. So you know your kids better than anybody. So if you feel that slightest hint that something may be wrong, lean into it. I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Titania. Thank you very, very much for listening to The Aro Podcast. We'd love to tell some other people about this, share this episode with others. We'd appreciate that. We want to continue to get inspiration and tools to help people live out an intentional life through The Aro Podcast. Thank you for joining us. We can't wait to see you again next week. The Aro Podcast is produced and edited by the team at Palm Tree Pod co. Special thanks to Emily Miles for video and digital support and to our executive producer, Aro's own, Katelyn Farley.