The Ultimate Bark Parental Control Review for Parents

November 25, 2023

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As a parent, keeping your kids safe online is a top priority. You want to protect them from inappropriate content, cyberbullying, online predators, and more. But you also don’t want to invade their privacy or limit their independence as they grow up.

That’s where a parental control app like Bark can help. Bark takes a different approach than spyware apps. It focuses more on detecting potential issues and encouraging open communication between parents and kids.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about Bark parental controls. You’ll learn how it works, what it monitors, its unique approach, how it compares to competitors, and whether it’s worth the cost for your family.

How Does Bark Parental Control Work?

Bark is a parental monitoring system available as a mobile app and web dashboard. It uses machine learning algorithms to analyze texts, emails, photos, videos, and activity across 30+ social media platforms.

When Bark detects any potential issues in your child’s online activity, it sends you an alert. You can then view the concerning content and talk to your child about it.

For example, if your child receives an inappropriate message on Instagram, Bark would notify you. You could then address it with your child as a learning opportunity without having to spy on all their private conversations.

Bark’s approach aims to balance your child’s privacy and independence with their online safety. It encourages open communication and teaches responsible digital behavior.

Let’s take a closer look at how Bark monitors your kids and keeps you informed.

What Does Bark Monitor

What Does Bark Monitor?

Bark monitors and analyzes:

  • Text messages
  • Emails
  • Photos and videos
  • 30+ social apps and platforms at the account level
  • Web browsing activity

It uses machine learning algorithms to scan all this content for signs of potential issues like:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Depression or self-harm
  • Drugs, alcohol, hate speech
  • Sexual content
  • Violence
  • Risky online behavior

You’ll get alerts for any flagged content in 15+ categories. Bark will share the concerning texts, images, videos, or post snippets with you.

The account-level monitoring is a key advantage. Even if your child switches devices, Bark will detect issues on accounts you’ve connected.

Bark can also monitor Spotify listening activity. If your child listens to explicit music, it can provide lyrics snapshots and song links.

Overall, Bark keeps you informed about serious online safety issues without spying on every single message.

How Does Bark Protect Kids Online?

In addition to monitoring concerning content, Bark has other features to protect kids online.

Bark can:

  • Block inappropriate websites based on category, keyword, or custom lists
  • Limit access to apps and social media based on schedules
  • Set time limits for apps and device usage
  • View location history and set location alerts
  • Receive weekly summary email reports

You decide which protections are appropriate for your child’s age and maturity level. There are 3 modes available:

  • Free time mode: For maximum access when kids are free to use devices
  • School mode: For restricted access during school hours
  • Bedtime mode: To limit distractions and ensure healthy sleep

With Bark, you get robust monitoring capabilities with the ability to selectively limit device and internet use when needed.

Why Is Bark Different Than Other Parental Controls?

Most parental control apps take an “all-seeing eye” approach. They track everything kids do online, sometimes without their knowledge. The focus is on catching every problematic behavior.

Bark aims to balance kids’ privacy and independence with digital safety. It only alerts parents to more serious issues like cyberbullying, depression, violence, etc.

The goal is to allow kids to make some mistakes and learn from them. But also give parents the insight they need to guide their kids through the digital world.

Bark encourages parents to discuss alerts openly with their kids. It provides conversation starters and talking points with each notification.

This helps develop trust and teach kids how to deal with tricky online situations. Many parents appreciate this educational approach.

However, Bark may not be the best fit if you require maximum oversight of your younger kids’ activities. Apps like Qustodio provide much more visibility and control options.

Bark is ideal for parents who want to protect their kids online while still nurturing independence and trust. It fills the gap between spyware and neglect.

At the end of the day, you have to decide what level of visibility and limits are right for your unique family situation.

What Makes Bark Easy to Use?

Bark aims to provide robust protection without complexity. The apps and dashboard interface are designed for simplicity.

Here are some of the ways Bark makes parental controls easy to use:

  • Intuitive mobile apps: The parent app and Bark Kid app are well-designed and user-friendly. Everything is clearly labeled and easy to navigate.
  • Minimal account setup: It only takes about 2 minutes to create child accounts and connect monitored platforms. Step-by-step guides walk you through any tricky setup.
  • Easy alert customization: You can adjust alert sensitivity as needed for each child. Turn certain categories on or off with one tap.
  • Clear alerts: Alerts clearly explain the issue detected and provide actionable next steps for you and your child.
  • Seamless cross-platform monitoring: Bark detects issues on connected accounts regardless of device. No need to install Bark Kid on all devices.
  • Automatic scanning: Bark automatically scans texts, photos, videos, and other content on kids’ phones for potential issues. No complicated rules to configure.
  • Customizable restrictions: Easily limit website and app access with preset schedules or on demand.

Overall, Bark strikes a great balance between protection and simplicity. You get robust capabilities without a complex interface.

How Does Bark Compare to Top Competitors?

To help you make the right choice for your family, here’s an overview of how Bark compares to leading competitors Qustodio, Norton Family, and Net Nanny:

FeatureBarkQustodioNorton FamilyNet Nanny
Social media monitoring30+ platforms at account levelFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTubeFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, RedditFacebook, Twitter
Text message monitoringYes, scans message contentYes, view all textsNoNo
Photo & video monitoringYesNoNoNo
Web filteringYesYesYesYes
App blockingYes, but can’t block offline useYes, blocks offline use tooYesYes
Time limitsNo per-app limits, schedule internet accessYes, per-app limitsYesYes
Location trackingYesYesYesNo
Activity reportsWeekly summary emailsFull app and browser historyFull app and browser historyFull app and browser history
Pricing$5/month and up$99.95/year$49.99/year$39.99/year

As you can see, Bark specializes in social media and content monitoring. It provides much deeper insights compared to Norton and Net Nanny.

Qustodio offers the most robust app blocking and time limit capabilities. It also records full app and browsing history.

Bark sits in the middle, balancing visibility with privacy. Take some time to consider which approach best aligns with your family’s needs and values.

What Are the Main Pros and Cons of Bark?

Based on our hands-on testing and research, here are the key upsides and downsides to consider about Bark:

Pros

  • Monitors 30+ apps and social media platforms at the account level
  • Uses AI to detect 15+ categories of concerning content
  • Encourages family communication and digital responsibility
  • Easy to set up and use on all devices
  • Provides clear alerts with talking points for parents
  • Lets you customize monitoring sensitivity as kids mature
  • Tracks location without being too invasive
  • Affordable pricing starting at $5/month
  • 7-day free trial available

Cons

  • Doesn’t record full browsing and app usage history
  • Only alerts you to flagged content, not entire conversations
  • Can’t set per-app time limits
  • Limited app blocking capabilities
  • Easier for kids to bypass than some competitors
  • No money back guarantee offered

As you can see, Bark excels at serious content monitoring across apps and accounts. But it lacks some finer controls like per-app time limits.

Evaluate your priorities as a parent to determine if the pros outweigh the cons for your situation.

What Do Other Parents Think About Bark?

Thousands of parents use Bark to keep their kids safe online. Here are some common thoughts from customer reviews:

  • “Bark detects concerning issues without invading my teen’s privacy. It’s led to many constructive conversations.”
  • “I like how Bark encourages teaching kids good digital habits, not just spying on them.”
  • “Setting up the apps and connecting social media accounts was quick and easy.”
  • “The alert customization by child is useful as my kids grow up.”
  • “I wish it had more powerful time limit and app blocking tools.”
  • “Overall it’s a good value for the social media monitoring alone.”

Many parents highlight Bark’s educational approach and say it improves trust and communication. But some were disappointed it lacks more robust restrictions.

Key takeaway: Bark is ideal if you want serious content monitoring with a learning-focused approach. But apps like Qustodio are better if you need maximum oversight and controls.

Does Bark Have Any Security Risks?

Using any online service comes with potential privacy and security risks. Bark takes data security seriously and has safeguards in place.

Some key facts about Bark’s security:

  • Customer data is encrypted both in transit and at rest.
  • No known security breaches have occurred.
  • Regular third-party penetration testing is conducted.
  • Strong password policies are enforced.
  • Employees have background checks and limited data access based on need.
  • Bark complies with COPPA and other data privacy regulations.

That said, no service can guarantee 100% security or prevent targeted hacking attacks. Before using Bark or any other parental control app, understand the inherent risks of online services.

Weigh the benefits of managing your kids’ safety versus potential privacy tradeoffs. Use strong passwords, enable two-factor authentication where available, and closely monitor account activity.

How Much Does Bark Cost?

Bark Cost

Bark offers very reasonable pricing compared to competitors. There are two main subscription options:

  • Bark Jr: starting at $5 per month or $49 per year. Includes web filtering, app limits, location tracking, and time restrictions. Does not include content monitoring.
  • Bark Premium: starting at $14 per month or $99 per year. Adds account-based content monitoring for texts, emails, social media, etc.

Both plans allow you to monitor an unlimited number of child devices and accounts. Most competitors charge extra for additional devices or kids.

All subscriptions come with a 7-day free trial. But Bark does not offer money-back guarantees if you are unsatisfied. Make use of the free trial to evaluate if Bark meets your family’s needs.

For parents wanting serious content monitoring at a reasonable price, the annual Premium plan provides great value. Compare costs vs. competitors below:

Bark PremiumQustodio PremiumNorton 360 DeluxeNet Nanny
Monthly price$14.00NoneNoneNone
Annual price$99.00$99.95$49.99/first yr$39.99

The Bottom Line

Bark takes a balanced approach between protecting kids online and allowing age-appropriate freedom. For families looking to nurture trust while still monitoring serious issues, Bark delivers great value.

It combines AI-powered content monitoring across 30+ apps with essential parental control tools. Easy customization makes it suitable for kids of all ages. And transparent pricing starting at $5/month makes it affordable for most families.

However, more permissive parents or those with older teens may desire more visibility, history, and blocking capabilities. Apps like Qustodio offer maximum oversight for a cost.

Use Bark’s free 7-day trial to determine if it provides the right level of insight and controls for your unique situation. For many parents, it hits the sweet spot between spying and neglect.

At the end of the day, you want your kids to thrive both online and off. With balance, communication, and the right tools, Bark can help your family find that healthy digital harmony.

Key Takeaways

  • Bark parental control monitors texts, social media, photos, videos, and location for signs of issues like cyberbullying, depression, violence, sexual content, and more.
  • It aims to balance kids’ online safety with privacy and trust. Bark encourages communication over spying.
  • Setup is quick and easy. Ongoing management is simple with customizable alerts and restrictions.
  • Bark excels at social media and content monitoring but has limited time management and app blocking capabilities compared to competitors.
  • With pricing starting at $5/month, it provides solid value. But lacks a money-back guarantee.
  • Use the free trial to decide if Bark’s approach provides the right level of visibility and controls for your family’s needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Bark monitor?

Bark monitors texts, emails, social media, photos, videos, location, and web browsing activity on your child’s device. It scans for signs of 15+ potential issues and alerts parents of anything concerning.

Does Bark record all of my child’s activity?

No. Bark only shows you snippets of content that trigger its machine learning alerts. You will not have access to entire conversations, messages, or browsing history without an alert.

Can Bark block apps and websites?

Yes. Bark can block website categories, custom URL lists, and restrict access to apps based on schedules. But its app blocking capabilities are limited compared to leading competitors.

Is Bark easy to set up and use?

Absolutely. Bark apps and dashboards are designed for simplicity. Most parents can set it up in about 5 minutes and find the interface intuitive. Detailed guides help with any tricky setup steps.

Does Bark work on iOS devices?

Bark supports both iOS and Android devices. iOS devices require some extra setup steps due to app restrictions from Apple. But Bark provides guides to help walk you through it.

What is Bark’s pricing?

Bark starts at $5 per month for basic filtering/time features. The Premium plan is $14 per month ($99 annually) and adds content monitoring. All plans support unlimited devices and come with a 7-day free trial.

Is Bark better than Qustodio or Norton Family?

Bark focuses more on content monitoring across apps and accounts. Qustodio and Norton Family offer stronger time limits, usage history, and app blocking. Consider which approach best fits your family’s needs.

Does Bark have a money-back guarantee?

Unfortunately no. While you can test out the 7-day trial for free, Bark does not provide satisfaction guarantees or refunds like some competitors do.

Can Bark monitor all of my child’s social media activity?

Bark supports 30+ social platforms at the account level, including virtually all popular apps. Even encrypted apps like Snapchat can be monitored through linked accounts.