Being a parent in the age of digital is no easy task. As parents, we, of course, want to do the right thing for our kids. But, like most parenting decisions, adopting new and giving greater access to technology is weighted down by a fair amount of gray area as to what (and when) is appropriate. The varied ways kids connect digitally alongside the breakneck speed of new technologies make it hard as a parent to keep up with technology. People always ask what parental control they should use to monitor their kid’s activities in social media and online.

There are different types of parental controls out there: hardware-based, software-based and the parental control features of the products you are already using. Hardware solutions include built-in features within in a router, Wi-Fi extenders and enhancement solutions, like Luma, and stand-alone hardware products solely focused on providing parental controls, like Disney Circle. Software-based solutions installed on a device, computer, tablet or phone have various capabilities, with examples including Boomerang, ScreenTime, and Net Nanny. Some go to the extreme of sending you the details of every tap, swipe, keystroke of what happens on a device (yes, every text, every photo and every post!); other solutions simply control how much time your child can spend on app or device; to solutions that combine aspects of these types of controls. The third type are parental control features built into operating systems you already use, such as Android, iOS, Windows, Kindle, and others. While the above is not a comprehensive listing of all types of controls, it provides a good representation.

While each one of these parental controls has pro’s and con’s depending on age of your kids and the actual restrictions and monitoring you are looking for, there is one parental control solution that seems to have the greatest applicability as your child grows and matures. That solution is Bark.

Bark is especially good for when your kid transitions from playing games and watching videos on a device to independently using social media. Bark provides a good balance of control and freedom for the kids to explore their digital worlds. A parent implementing complete control over an older child’s choices may ultimately do that child a disservice. Our kids need to develop a sense of right and wrong. They need to adopt a personal code of appropriate online behavior that will guide them into adulthood. But, as parents, we need to make sure they make this transition from child to adulthood safely.

Bark creates this very safety net. The program does not share with you an entire conversation or every picture. Rather, Bark lets you know when the intelligence behind their software platform detects something that may require a closer look by a parent.

As an example, if it detects nudity, Bark sends you an alert. You then know to go to your child’s phone to see the photo and determine the appropriateness of the image. If it detects a DM (direct message) in Facebook for IOS or Twitter that may be bullying-related, Bark sends you a snippet of that conversation for you to take a closer look. You decide if it something worthy of concern, and if it is, it’s time for you continue the ‘tech talk’ with your child. See the list below for a detailed explanation of what Bark monitors on the different social media apps. From a child’s perspective, it’s not an extreme solution that could be likened to spying or helicopter parenting, You are not looking at every message or communication … just the items that may be of concern. This strengthens your argument that you are just doing this to help them grow up safely.

We use Bark in our family. I encourage you to give it a try. Here is a link for a free 30-day trial. After your trial, if you sign up, Bark donates 25% of your monthly fee to Savvy Cyber Kids. Full disclosure, in addition to using the Bark solution, I am also an Advisor to the company helping them enhance their products in a way that addresses today’s digital parenting needs.

What Bark Monitors on the Different Social Media Apps

  • Snapchat: Currently, Bark monitors public/private Snapchat Stories. We’re working hard to integrate private messages and hope to have that covered in the near future!
  • Instagram: Bark monitors the images/videos your child posts and comments on those posts.
  • Twitter: Bark monitors your child’s Twitter accounts postings, replies, and even direct messages.
  • Facebook: Bark monitors what is posted on your child’s wall. We also monitor direct messages for iOS users. We are working hard to make monitoring of direct messages available for Android users.
  • GroupMe: Bark monitors your child’s group messages and private messages, including images and media associated with each.
  • Discord: Bark monitors the direct messages between gamers, including any media uploaded with the message. However, we do not monitor the general channel messages or voice chats.
  • Ask.Fm: Bark monitors the questions/comments your child asks and the answers they receive, as well as, the questions/comments they are asked and the answers they post.
  • Vine: Bark monitors the child’s posts and the post’s comments.
  • Google+: Bark monitors the child’s posts and the comments on those posts.
  • Tumblr: Bark monitors all posts made by the child.
  • Pinterest: Bark monitors the child’s profile, the images and descriptions that they pin.
  • Flickr: Bark monitors the photos your child posts and the comments on those photos.
  • WhatsApp: For iOS users bark can monitor your child’s chats and chat attachments (if available).
  • Kik: For iOS users bark can monitor your child’s chats and chat attachments (if available).
  • Tumblr: Bark monitors answers, chats, links, photos, photo posts, quotes and blog posts on Tumblr.
  • YouTube: Bark monitors the videos your child posts and comments made to those videos. Unfortunately, we’re unable to monitor the videos that they watch. However, YouTube does have some content blocking abilities under their parental controls and settings.

By Ben Halpert