The Dad 2.0 Summit in San Antonio last month was an outstanding experience. Program speakers, interaction with other dads and amazing vendors made the Westin Hotel’s food and hospitality a truly unforgettable experience. My favorite vendor, without a doubt, was the people from Bark who have created an online, artificial intelligence monitoring tool that helps you keep your kids safe on the internet. The tool monitors your child’s email, text messages and 25 social media platforms, sending you an alert if they find something you would want to know about.
Is your teen experiencing cyberbullying (2/3 of teens are!)? Are they engaging in conversations that express depression or anxiety (over half are!)? How about encounters with nudity or sexual content (almost ¾ of teens are!)? About the same number are exposed to illegal drug and alcohol content and 4 in 10 have expressed or encountered violent subject matter or thoughts. That doesn’t count almost 1 in 5 who are involved in self-harm or even suicide! And our Tweens are right behind them in slightly lesser numbers.
The Bark people have done their homework. They analyzed over 500 million messages during 2017 to learn those patterns. Thankfully they don’t just tell you the bad news; they offer recommendations and a list of resources for dealing with the issues contained in these alerts!
Bark is offered on a trial basis. You sign up for a seven-day trial and after the seven days, it costs $9 per month or $99 per year (unless you use my referral as an affiliate and receive a 20% discount). The entire family is covered on an unlimited number of devices using an unlimited number of accounts. You sign up, download the app and set up your account. That lets you begin linking their accounts. You’ll need their username and password for each email and social media account they use. It’s not simple but it’s certainly powerful.
If you are an Apple user, Bark cannot monitor Instagram, Snapchat or TikTok direct messages. That’s an IOS limitation, no reflection on Bark. On Android, you can. Similar limitations happen on YouTube content. Some experts believe your child’s first device should be Android for that reason.
The list of platforms (see below) is daunting. They include Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and even Flikr and OneDrive and Dropbox. The Bark team will stay up to date adding additional platforms as part of their regular updates. They’ll even take your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Naturally your child’s best defense is a friendly, well-informed parent. Talking with your child about the dangers they face give you the opportunity to demonstrate that you care and that you understand why they would want to use these amazing communication tools. A smile and an attitude that seeks only to equip them for what they face (rather than discipline them away from danger) will keep the communication lines open between you. That will be the priceless component of all this effort. I’m sold on the Bark Monitoring and I knew you would want to know about it!
Bark currently supports the following social media, email, and messaging platforms:
- Outlook / Hotmail
- Yahoo! Mail
- Comcast Mail
- AOL Mail
- Messenger Kids
- iOS Text Messaging / Photos / Videos / Browsing History
- Android Text Messaging / Photos / Videos
- Amazon Fire Tablet
- Chrome web browsing (requires extension)