Social Media Monitoring: Bark App Review

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Bark Leads the Pack of Parental Control Apps

Bark is a longtime favorite of SafeWise for social media monitoring. On top of their research, they have had multiple kiddos, teens, and parents give it a try. Find out why Bark is the top recommendation for keeping kids safe on social media.
 

Bark impressed during testing with its monitoring alerts for 24 social media platforms. A nice feature is the adjustable sensitivity settings and how Bark encourages you to have conversations with your kids about online safety.

Pros 

  • Monitoring across 24 social media apps

  • Alerts for texts and emails

  • Compatibility with most devices, including Android and iPhone

  • Tips to help parents start honest conversations with their kids

Cons 

  • No iOS app

  • No website blocking

  • No screen time controls

Bark is going to cost a little more than other parental control apps, but it also does a lot more than its competitors. We think it’s worth the extra $10.
 

That said, we recommend taking Bark up on its seven-day free trial offer before you opt into a monthly or yearly plan. When you log into your account, you’ll see a countdown of days left in your trial. You can cancel anytime before the trial ends to avoid automatic billing.
 

After the trial period, if you’re certain Bark is the faithful online companion your family has been waiting for, go for the yearly subscription to save money in the long run.

Bark’s Monitoring Features

Most parental control filters shield children from sensitive content by restricting access, but Bark believes safety comes from transparency.
 

Bark’s founders and board members, who are parents and psychologists, designed this parental control app to encourage open conversations.¹
 

Unlike some other online filters that rely exclusively on keywords, Bark uses advanced machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to screen social media, texts, and emails.
 

Parents receive alerts via email or text when Bark detects suspicious activity. Here are the concerns Bark screens for:
 

  • Cyberbullying

  • Sexual content

  • Drug- and alcohol-related content

  • Violence

  • Depression

  • Self-harm or suicidal content

  • Profanity

  • Inappropriate behavior or content

  • Risky app or website usage

  • Changes in account activity

  • Weapons
     

In testing, we were particularly impressed with how well Bark handles Google’s suite of products. Many middle schoolers and high schoolers now use Google accounts to connect with friends and share content. Often, they’ll use comments in Google Docs instead of chatting on social media.²
 

While parents seem to be aware of the dangers of Facebook and YouTube, they may overlook Google Docs as a potential source of cyberbullying. Thankfully, Bark does an exceptional job of monitoring Google accounts and sending snippets of concerning conversations and social interactions in its alerts.
 

Bark’s Adjustable Sensitivity Settings

In our testing, Bark was surprisingly adept at catching slang, acronyms for swearing, and even questionable emoji use. At one point, an emoji-heavy text from an 8-year-old triggered a warning for alcohol-related content because it included a beer mug.

While it’s nice to know that Bark won’t miss anything, all those alerts can get pesky. Bark makes it easy to adjust the settings for each type of concern so you can customize based on your child’s age and how much information you want.

There are three options: relaxed, moderate, and strict.
 

The “relaxed” setting will alert parents only for the most serious concerns, while “strict” is liable to turn up some false positives. For instance, on the strict setting, Bark flagged an email between a father and son about a haircut appointment as a self-harm risk.

There are a few types of alerts, like those for inappropriate behavior or risky app and site usage, that you can set as either on or off. But the majority of alert settings are customizable from relaxed to strict.
 

Bark App Installation

One of the challenges of parental control apps is that they can be tricky to install, especially if you’re not particularly tech-savvy. But Bark does an exceptional job of walking parents through each step of the installation process.

For devices like Chromebooks and PCs, it takes just 20–30 minutes to connect one child’s social media accounts and email accounts to Bark. Multiply this by how many kids you want using the app.
 

Installation gets wonky with iOS devices, though. This complexity isn’t Bark’s fault, as Apple doesn’t always play nice with other platforms and apps. You’ll need to connect your iPhone or other iOS devices directly to your laptop or computer and use Bark’s desktop app to finish the installation process. During testing, the download slowed to a crawl and took 30–45 minutes to complete.
 

Bark’s Check-in Feature

While Bark doesn’t offer website blocking or the ability to set limits on screen time, it does have a check-in feature. Once connected, you can ask your child to check in, and Bark will notify them and request a response.
 

A check-in doesn’t give you location information like kids’ GPS trackers do, but it can help relieve some concern when your child is away from home.
 

Bark’s check-in feature is pretty basic, so if you want to communicate directly with your child on their mobile device, look into the best phones for kids instead.
 

A Word about Privacy and Parental Controls

You could install a parental control app on your child’s device without letting them know, but Bark discourages this. During the installation process, Bark reminds you to have a frank conversation with your kids about why you’re using Bark and what they can expect.
 

Experts agree that one of the best ways you can ensure your kids’ safety on the internet is to encourage communication.³ By limiting strict control features and expanding monitoring instead, Bark puts those critical conversations about staying safe online in a parent’s hands.
 

Bark’s parental alerts do include content and comments from people your child interacts with, but the notifications are only snippets of conversations. These alerts strike a balancebetween respecting the privacy of others and safeguarding your child.