Bark Overview April 2023
I’ll say it clearly – Bark is not the cheapest option available, but it is considered to be one of the best parental control apps for monitoring social media. So when the company advertised they have special deals and free trials, I saw it as an opportunity to see what it’s all about.
I downloaded Bark on my son’s Android and connected it to his Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Gmail accounts, to test its monitoring capabilities. I also implemented screen time limitations, enabled the web filters, and created a geofence, to see if my son could bypass the parental control features.
My conclusion: Bark is well worth the subscription price, It did a great job monitoring the social media and web content. It sent me alerts for a wide range of potentially dangerous or inappropriate comments and posts. The parental control features were strong, and my son couldn’t bypass them. You can also take advantage of their current offer and test Bark free for 7 days.
Don’t Have Time? Here’s a Short Summary (1-Minute Read)
- Monitors 30+ social media networks: Bark is the only parental control app that connects directly with the child’s social media accounts. It uses AI to recognize the content and sends alerts when its filter is triggered. Read more about social media monitoring here.
- Create a custom screen time schedule: Build a routine and set the rules for what apps are available throughout the day and evening. There’s also a Pause Device option for when you need your child to get off their phone. Get more information here.
- Web filter with 17 categories: Sends real-time alerts when the system detects text or images related to a wide range of inappropriate, dangerous, or hateful content. Find out more about managing this feature here.
- Location Tracking: Send a Check-In request to your child and add geofences to stay updated on their live location. Read more about location tracking here.
Bark has the crucial features that I need to monitor and control my son’s phone usage. It shows me his top contacts, the main apps he’s using, and data for what types of websites he opens. Bark isn’t a spy app. I couldn’t read my son’s private messages or emails unless something triggered the filter. In that case, Bark takes a screenshot and uploads it to the dashboard.
Here’s a quick summary of Bark’s features:
Bark Features – Updated in April 2023
|$5.00 a month – Unlimited devices
|Screen Time Management
|Call and SMS Monitoring
|Live chat, schedule phone calls, FAQ
|PC, macOS, Android, iOS, Amazon, and Chromebook
Bark Monitors Devices, Email, and Social Media Networks
The strength of the Bark app is in how it recognizes worrisome content across a wide spectrum of social media networks, devices, and email accounts. The Bark app will record and take screenshots of every alert, so there is no confusion or lack of context.
Bark monitors the following devices, email, and social media networks:
Bark can connect with devices using most major platforms:
|Amazon Fire and Kindle
Bark can read emails from the following services:
Bark can connect with over 25 social media networks:
|Snapchat (Doesn’t work on iOS)
|YouTube (Can’t access Views and Searches on iOS)
|TikTok (Doesn’t work on iOS)
|Instagram (Can’t access DMs and Searches on iOS)
|Skype (Doesn’t work on iOS)
|Discord (Doesn’t work on iOS)
|Messenger Kids (Doesn’t work on iOS)
|VSCO (Doesn’t work on iOS)
|Holla (Doesn’t work on iOS)
|Houseparty (Doesn’t work on iOS)
|Lipsi (Doesn’t work on iOS)
I had to log in to each of my kids’ social media accounts to get started. This means that I needed them to sit with me and enter their usernames and passwords for each account. While this was time-consuming, I knew it was a one-time deal (although Facebook does make you reconnect once a month), and once the setup was complete, I didn’t have to deal with it again. One of the benefits of this was that it required me to have an open dialogue between my son and me, so he knows what is expected of him and what kind of content he must avoid.
Create a Daily Screen Time Routine
Bark has a unique method for creating screen time rules. The idea is to create a routine, or a schedule, for when the phone can be used throughout the day.
What separates it from other parental control apps is that I was able to customize rules for what apps and website categories are allowed at different points throughout the day.
Bark has four types of screen time usage:
- School Time: I only allow access to apps and websites my son needs in school, like Microsoft 365, Google Docs, and his school app. Everything else is blocked.
- Free Time: When my son has free time, I give him access to all his apps.
- Bedtime: I blocked all apps except his music app, so he can listen to music when he goes to sleep.
- Default: If you don’t set rules for a specific time, the default filter and app permission will be enforced.
Bark also has a Pause Device button that allows me to remotely block the internet from my son’s phone. I like this feature if I need him off the phone, but I don’t want to make any changes to the daily or weekly routine.
Two Types of Web Filters
I was very impressed with the types of web filters that Bark offers. The first is implemented in the screen time rules mentioned above. I can block all sexual content, specific apps or app categories (for example, entertainment, games, and streaming services) and enforce SafeSearch on Google, DuckDuckGo and Bing. There’s also the option to enforce Restricted Mode for YouTube and block all unknown apps and websites.
The second web filter uses artificial intelligence (AI) and scans the content and images in websites, apps, and connected social media networks. The 17 categories include Anxiety, Bullying, Drugs and Alcohol, Medically Concerning Content, Self-Harm or Suicide, Sexual Content, and Weapons. I was able to adjust the settings for each category, which can help limit the number of alerts that are not really relevant.
My only complaint with the AI filter is that it doesn’t block the website or app from opening. It just takes a screenshot and uploads it to the Alert section of the dashboard.
Get Live Location Updates and Create Geofences
Bark has a different method for tracking the child’s live location from other parental control apps I’ve tested. Instead of opening the dashboard and seeing my child’s avatar on a map, it’s up to my son to send me a Check-In. The way it works is simple: I can send a Check-In request to my son through the dashboard, and he receives a notification on his phone.
He then opens the Bark Child app on his phone and presses the Check-In button. Once he checks in, the map on the dashboard is updated with his location. However, it won’t update until my son checks in again. There’s a Get Directions button under the map if I need to go pick him up or we’re meeting up somewhere.
I was happy to see the Bark has a geofence feature. It allows me to add a location or address, and when my son enters or leaves that area, it adds an alert. This feature is helpful because my son goes to school by himself, and Bark lets me know that he made it in the morning and when he returned home in the afternoon.
Receive Alerts and View Insights on the Dashboard
The parental dashboard is where all the important data and alerts are stored. I like that it has the Alerts on the main page, so I can quickly see if there is anything that I need to deal with or be concerned about.
Bark also has an Insights section that highlights the top contacts, recently installed apps, and data on the websites my son visited over the previous 7 days. The only data that I feel is missing is a browser and search history, so I can stay up to date with the websites my son is looking for and opening.
Bark has three sensitivity levels for triggering alerts, which is nice because initially, I was overwhelmed with alert messages, including several “false positives.” For example, an email with an emoji of a glass of wine triggered an alcohol alert. I was able to specify the sensitivity level for each app it monitors, which helped drastically reduce the number of alerts.
Get Advice From Other Parents
The Bark app has an active forum with parents from all over the world. I found this to be a great space to ask questions, such as how to talk with your kids about pornography, what sites to look out for, or learning the latest slang. The forum is organized based on the age of your kids, so you’ll be able to find advice that is actually relevant for your children.
There are two parts to installing Bark to monitor your kids’ social media activities. First I created a Bark account (I got a great deal from this hidden page) and then added a child account for each of my children. After asking for the name and age of each child, there were two remaining steps I had to complete:
- Grant permissions to Bark to have access to each site.
There are some apps, such as WhatsApp, that require the app to be downloaded on the kids’ devices. This is where it can get tricky for some. Bark has removed the Bark for Kids app from Google Play because of the restrictions that Google put on monitoring apps. The Bark app for parents is available through Google Play and can be downloaded like any other app. Once it’s on your phone, log in with the same credentials used when purchasing the app, and you’ll have instant access to your dashboard.
How to Download Bark for Kids on Android
Using the Chrome browser on your child’s device, go to Bark.us/android and download the file.
If you haven’t done so in the past, you will need to allow your phone to install an app from an unknown source. Click on Settings and then turn on the option to Allow from the Source (the dot should be blue.)
All that’s left to do is click on the Install button and Bark for Kids will immediately download and install on the phone.
How to Install Bark for Kid on iOS
After the latest update, you can download Bark from the App Store. You will also need to have Bark for Desktop downloaded on your Mac or PC because the app will back up all the data, alerts, and screenshots when the two apps are connected to the same wifi network.
Ease of Use9.6
Once you get past the download and installation steps, you’ll have to spend some time connecting each of your kid’s social media accounts to Bark. I was able to connect most of their accounts through the desktop app, but there are a few apps that will require the Bark app to be on your kid’s device to work.
The whole process was pretty time consuming, especially if you’re using it with multiple kids. It took me around 15 minutes per child to get everything properly set up.
I like that Bark has a task checklist when I first set up the app. This way, I knew that I didn’t forget to create the rules, connect all the accounts, and set up the screen time.
While the dashboard has a fairly basic layout, I had to use it multiple times before I knew where all the different settings are located. For example, when looking for the web filter, I clicked through the Monitoring section, but it just showed me the devices and apps that Bark monitors. It was only when I went to the Screen Time section that I found the web filter, which is connected to each of the screen rule segments.
Setting the screen time is fairly easy but can be time consuming the first few times. If possible, I recommend creating a weekly schedule instead of customizing the rules for each day.
After you familiarize yourself with the dashboard, Bark is extremely easy to use. You can see the alerts from the main dashboard page or click on the Alerts tab on the top menu bar from any page. The alerts are very clear, and include screenshots, so you can see exactly why you received the alerts. Bark doesn’t understand context, so any word that fits within one of the categories can trigger an alert. I like that Bark lets me adjust the sensitivity levels for each category so I’m not overrun with irrelevant alerts.
Bark has a few different options when it comes to customer support. The first thing I did when I had a question was open the Chat window. The first few responses came from an AI bot that recommended different help articles it thought could answer my questions. After providing the answer, the Bot asked if it found me an answer, I checked the “No” option, and after a few more attempts, I was rerouted to a real person who was able to answer my questions.
If you don’t want to play around with the chatbot, Bark also has a large selection of video tutorials that clearly explain the different setup steps, features, and how to understand the dashboard.
If you don’t need an immediate answer, you can submit a ticket to the Bark customer support team. Add in as many details as possible, and Bark says that they will get back to you as soon as possible. In my experience, the response team is very quick, usually within a few hours. I also recommend following the Bark blog, as their experts frequently publish articles with new updates, how-to guides, and tips for monitoring your children.
Is Bark safe?
There was some concern about the safety and security of the Bark app once it was removed from the App Store and Google Play. But I put the file through VirusTotal, and it came back 100% clean of viruses and malware. Create your account and get a free 7-day trial, to experience all the powerful features for yourself.
What does Bark monitor?
It can connect with over 25 popular social media networks and can recognize text messages, Google searches, posts, videos, etc. that are related to cyberbullying, drug use, suicide, weapons, online predators, and more.
Can I use Bark to lock my kids’ phones or tablets?
While there is no daily screen time limit, Bark has a customizable screen time routine, so you can block the phone at different times throughout the day and night. There is also a Pause Device option in dashboard. When the phone is in Pause mode, it will still work as a phone, but internet access will be blocked.
Is there location tracking on Bark?
While Bark has access to the phone’s GPS, a parent can’t access it to find the location of their kids. There is a Check-In feature, where a parent can request that their kid to check-in and, if the kids actually check-in, their location will be sent to the parents.
Will Bark work If I have an iPhone and my kids have Android devices?
The Bark parental dashboard can be accessed from any web browser. Additionally, there are parent apps for Android and iOS, so it doesn’t matter if your child uses Android and you have an iPhone, you’ll be able to monitor their actions and enorce the parental control rules. There is no limit to the number of devices you can monitor. Get the Bark 7-day free trial and start monitoring your kids online activities.
Bark has two pricing options:
- Bark Jr: Only includes screen time management, web filter, and check-in feature.
- Bark Premium: In addition to the Bark Jr features, it includes monitoring text, email, YouTube, over 30 apps, and alerts for dangerous and inappropriate content. There is no device limit with either plan, so you can monitor everyone in the family.
Bark offers a 7-day free trial, but you will have to enter your credit card information when creating the account. You won’t be charged until after the 7 days are completed.
There are two options when it comes to purchasing a subscription; monthly or annually. For the biggest savings, go to their hidden deals page, where you can save a nice amount of money on the annual subscription.