Objective Bark review: Is this parental control app worth it?

  • Author symbolAbeerah Hashim
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When it comes to keeping our family safe, there is almost nothing we wouldn’t do. In the physical world, we depend on alarm systems, burglaries, and dogs to keep us safe; the same is true in the digital world.

As you know, kids are active online; from catching up on the latest gist, gossips, and school research work to watching games, cartoons, and videos. Unfortunately, while all of these are fun, they are also dangerous. Fortunately, you can be at peace with parental apps such as Bark, knowing your kids are safe and secure everywhere.

Although there are tons of Bark reviews, they don’t tell that this parental control app isn’t like the others. For one, the software reveals when it’s in use as it occupies a complete view of your phone. Also, it doesn’t allow for unscheduled views. Instead, it alerts you when there is unusual behavior from your kids.

So, what is the bark app? Is it worth it? We place the parental control app on the hot seat in this unbiased review of bark to find out. Read on. 

What is the Bark app?

Bark is a filtering, monitoring, and blocking parental control app. The computer software is designed to filter, monitor, and block YouTube contents, messages, emails, and tons of other social media networks.

It enables parents to track and manage what their kids do online and who they communicate with, thereby keeping them safe and secure while also building their independence and confidence.

The app boasts several remarkable statistics, such as detecting 363,000 self-harm incidents and 2.4 million bullying issues. Also, they claim to have prevented 16 school shootings, according to the information published on their official website (www.bark.us).

Looks interesting? Let’s explore it in detail through this honest review of the Bark app.

Features of Bark parental control

Bark deploys a unique approach to monitoring your children‘s online activities. Instead of letting you view their activities whenever you wish, it keeps tabs on your kid’s activities in the background. It then notifies you when it notices a mischievous activity such as cyberbullying.

Upon testing the app, we noticed the lack of screen time administrative devices. The Bark app is strictly a monitoring tool that alerts you when suspicious tests, emails, and other social media content are sent or received.

Fortunately, this management tool has now been included in the latest version of the parental control app. Also, it comes with a web filter too.

Bark’s device, social media networks, and email monitoring

Bark’s biggest strength is its ability to recognize and capture suspicious content across a wide range of devices, email accounts, and social media networks. In addition, it records and takes screenshots of every suspicious activity, including:

  • Violence
  • Sexual content
  • Profanity
  • Guns and other weapons
  • Risky website or app usage
  • Depression
  • Alcohol and drug-related content
  • Cyberbullying
  • Inappropriate content
  • Alteration in account activity

The app covers vital social media networks such as Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Facebook. But, that’s not all; it also effectively monitors messaging apps, including text messages, Instagram DM, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.

Here is a proper breakdown of Bark’s monitoring capabilities:

Devices

It’s able to connect with various devices using key platforms such as:

iOSAndroid
Chrome browserChromebook 
Amazon Fire & Kindle

Emails

Bark can read emails from services like:

AOLOutlook
iCloudYahoo
GmailComcast

Social media metworks

It can link with over twenty-five social media networks, including:

WhatsApp FacebookDropboxHouseparty (won’t function on iOS)
PinterestGoogle DriveOneDriveGroupMe
KidzwoldSpotifyKikLipsi (won’t function on iOS)
GroupMeOneNoteFlickrSkype (won’t function on iOS)
Holla (this doesn’t work on iOS, though)Messenger Kids (won’t function on iOS)VSCO (won’t function on iOS)TikTok (won’t function on iOS)
Discord (won’t function on iOS)SteamTumblrGoogle Hangouts
YouTube (you won’t have access to searches and views on iOS)RedditPinterestLiveMe
Snapchat (won’t function on iOS)Instagram (denied access to searches and DMs on iOS)SlackTwitter

To begin with Bark for this review, we logged into each kid’s social media account. This meant we had to sit with each kid and have them input their usernames and passwords. While this was time-consuming, it was a one-time activity after which we didn’t have to do it again. However, Facebook enquires reconnection once a month. Doing this allowed us to form bonds with the kids and educate them on the dangers of the internet.

Bark parental app management features

Although the new version of Bark (version 3.0) has no daily time limit, it does provide an option for weekends and weekdays to set bedtime alerts.

Bark parental app management features screenshot 1

A new feature added with the latest version is the “Pause” feature. It prevents the internet from functioning on connected devices.

On the downside, games and apps not requiring an internet connection may still work. So, if you hope to monitor the games your kids play or the apps they use, you won’t be able to do so.

Bark parental app management features screenshot 2

Customizable web filter

Bark parental control can filter seventeen categories, including religion, drugs, alcohol, weapons, streaming websites, and more.

Bark customizable web filter screenshot 1
Bark customizable web filter screenshot 2

When we tested the web filters, we got varying results. For instance, when one of the kids searched for “how to play the guitar“, she immediately got answers, including video tutorials. However, this was different when she searched for “how to play poker games digitally“; most pages she tried accessing were blocked.

Bark customizable web filter screenshot 3
Bark customizable web filter screenshot 4

Children get check-in request

Bark makes up for its lack of GPS with an effective check-in feature. It features options that allow children to check in on their own. You can also send check-in requests to them.

We tried the latter for this Bark review — when one of the kids checked in, her mom received an alert on her device letting her know where her kid was at the moment. This was made possible through the GPS of the kid’s phone.

This feature is available both on Android and iOS devices and is easy to set up.

Simply head on to your device dashboard and tap the check option available on the menu. From there, you will be able to view your child’s device. After that, you can request a check-in; this enables your kids to check in from anywhere quickly. The best part is that the location will be available on Google Maps. Hence it can come in handy, as it gives directions when it’s pickup time.

Customizable sensitivity setting

One of the Bark perks worth mentioning in this review is that you need not read every message sent or received by your kid, listen to every song played, or watch every video. It monitors, filters, flags, and sends inappropriate content that your kid accessed. The alert displays the reasons the content was flagged.

Three sensitivity levels trigger an alert. When none of the levels is specified, it automatically alerts you for nearly everything, including “false positives.” For instance, a kid sent a mail containing an image of wine; this automatically triggered an alcohol alert because the app assumed it was alcohol.

Bark customizable sensitivity setting screenshot 1
Bark customizable sensitivity setting screenshot 2

But since you can select which level of sensitivity you want the app to monitor, the number of alerts will only be limited to what you have chosen, thereby limiting the number of alerts you get.

The three-sensitivity alert includes: strict, moderate, and relaxed. While the relaxed setting alerts you for grave concerns, the strict level will alert you for even the tiniest details, including the false positives, as mentioned earlier. For instance, an email between a daughter and her mother about the use of scissors could be flagged as a self-harm risk.

Some alerts, such as risky app usage or inappropriate behavior, can be set on or off. Overall, the app allows you to customize most of the alert settings.

It helps you seek advice from co-parents

Bark monitoring software has a robust parent forum featuring parents from across the globe. This comes in handy when you have questions to ask. For example, you may wish to seek advice on discussing pornography with your children or how to point them to the latest site for slang.

The forum is well organized and categorized based on your kid’s age, enabling parents to ask questions relevant to their children.

Method of installation

There are two phases to the installation process. In the first phase, parents will need to create a Bark account. After that, they will also need to create a child account for their kids.

The app will require parents to input the age and name of each kid. After this, it only takes two steps to set up an account. This includes:

  • Select the apps your children use
Bark installation screenshot 1
Bark installation screenshot 2
  • Enable Bark access to each app

Some apps require you to download them on your kid’s device first. An example is WhatsApp. But this isn’t such a straightforward thing to do.

Bark for Kids is no longer available on Google Play owing to the restrictions placed on monitoring apps by Google. You are only left with the regular Bark (parent’s version), which you can download like other standard apps.

Once Bark download is complete, sign in using the details you used when creating the account. Your dashboard will become automatically accessible after that.

Bark for Kids: how to install it on Android devices?

As mentioned earlier, Bark for Kids isn’t available on Google Play Store. However, there is another way.

From the Chrome browser on your kid’s phone, head on to bark.us/android. Once there, go on and carry out Bark parental control app free download.

If it refuses to download and shows a “allow download from an unknown device” prompt, proceed to allow it.

Finally, press the install button and leave the app to download and install on your kid’s phone.

Bark for kids: how to install it on iOS?

One of the downsides of most parental control apps is the tricky installation process, especially if the parent isn’t tech-savvy. This is where Bark differs—it’s done a fantastic job of simplifying the installation process by having a step-by-step guide of its installation process.

Although it works great on PCs and Chromebooks, taking only about twenty to thirty minutes to connect a kid’s email and social media account to Bark app, its iOS installation isn’t so smooth.

In Bark’s defense, this complexity is not their fault, as Apple is known not to work well with apps and platforms that aren’t theirs.

Yes, Bark for Kids is now available on the App Store, but you will also need to download Bark for Desktop on your computer or Mac. This is because the software will need to backup all the alerts, screenshots, and data when both apps are linked to the same wireless network.

When we tested it, the Bark download was a bit slow, taking about thirty to forty-five minutes to finish installing.

Bark ease of use

For this extensive review of Bark parental control app, we also observed the app’s ease of use.

After downloading and installing the app, the next step is to connect your child’s social media account to the Bark app.

Generally, you will be able to connect most of your children’s accounts using the desktop app. However, there are some apps you will have to install on the child’s device before it can function.

Upon completing the setup, Bark will automatically start working in the background, and you will be able to monitor your child’s digital activities stress-free.

Bark home

It is a tiny device that users can easily plug into their home router. It enables parents to have absolute control over all the internet traffic while also ensuring kids can’t bypass a local app.

With Bark Home, parents can filter, pause or block a child’s internet access through the router. It only requires a one-time purchase and works well with Bark for Kids or Bark premium. Better still, it does not affect the cost of the monthly subscription.

Features of Bark home:

  • It blocks specific sites and apps.
  • Allows customization of family’s limits.
  • With Bark home, users can turn off wireless connections on all home devices such as mobile phones, Smart TVs, tablets, and so on.
  • Enables scheduling of various everyday rules for weekends and weekdays.
  • It can restrict specific categories of sites and apps, including streaming sites, gaming consoles, social media apps, sexual content, and many others.

Bark support

Yes, Bark does feature a Live Chat option. However, note that its customer service representatives aren’t always online but are only available during working hours. Despite that, it does take a bit of time before someone responds to your query.

One of our colleagues not residing in America tested Bark’s Live Chat feature for this review. She inputted her phone number to receive SMS alerts directly and not rely on emails but didn’t get any alerts. She sent in her complaints before the official business hour but received answers some hours later. But once a rep was available, she asked several questions.

To test it wasn’t just a bot, she asked current questions and got answers immediately.

Bark support screenshot 1
Bark support screenshot 2

Besides, Bark features an email option if you prefer that to wait around for a live chat. Also, there’s an FAQ section that addresses some common questions users may have.

Price

This Bark review also considers the app’s pricing options that include:

  • Bark Jr: This is the latest version of the Bark parental control app. Although it’s not very different from the main app, its features aren’t as robust as the original app. The feature available includes web filter, check-in and screen time management. Bark Jr. is suitable for young children who are addicted to YouTube Kids. When they grow a little older, you can switch them back to Bark.
  • Bark: It includes every feature known with Bark and does not have any limitation with either the number of devices or plan, thereby enabling users to monitor as many devices as possible.

Also, Bark features a 7-day free trial. However, users will have to input their credit card data when setting up an account before accessing it. Charges will only apply after the seven-day trial is exhausted.

Users also have two subscription plans to choose from — a monthly plan and an annual plan — for every pricing option. If you wish to save more money, we suggest you opt for the yearly plan.

Outline of Bark pricing plans:

PlanMonthlyAnnually
Price$14 per month (for Bark Premium)
$5 per month (for Bark Jr)
$99 per year (for Bark Premium)
$49 per year (for Bark Jr)
No. of childrenUnlimitedUnlimited
No. of devicesUnlimitedUnlimited
Trial duration7 days7 days

About parental control and privacy

There are many parental control apps you can install on your kid’s device without them being aware. While this may seem convenient, Bark does not encourage such action. Instead, Bark encourages you (via a pop-up message) to have an honest discussion with your children on why you are installing the app on their device and what they should expect.

Many experts and professionals believe that the right way to ensure your kids remain safe online is to have open communication with them. Since Bark limits strict control but expands its monitoring system, parents can have those crucial conversations with their kids.

Besides, although the Bark monitoring app does send parents comments and contents from their child’s conversation with other people, in reality, these notifications are only a tiny piece of the entire discussion. With this, Bark strikes a fair balance between ensuring your kids are safe and respecting their privacy.

How we tested Bark

For this Bark parental control app review, we linked several devices belonging to teenagers and children to the Bark account.

We monitored alerts during our one-week experiment and tested the sensitivity filters for the age groups highlighted. Also, we performed this test across several platforms such as Facebook, Google Docs, YouTube, emails, and text messages.

Besides, we took insight from cybersecurity professionals on keeping children safe and reviews from several Bark users.

Pros:

  • It is compatible with most devices including iPhone and Android
  • Provides screen time limit
  • Sends alerts for inappropriate emails and texts
  • Monitors up to twenty-five major social media apps
  • Send tips and encourages parents to have frank conversations with their children
  • Filter websites

Cons:

  • Features lots of alerts
  • It’s challenging to set up and operate on iOS devices
  • Has no direct limitations on parental control or filtering, unlike other apps
  • It has a high price point

Final thought

After all the tests done for this Bark review, we can confidently say that Bark is every parent’s best friend in securing their children’s internet safety.

Appreciably, Bark encourages parents to talk about internet safety with their kids. Because while monitoring and blocking may work in the short term, it isn’t a long-term solution.

Bark is suitable for monitoring teens and pre-teens as they go into the social media world because while it puts them in check, it doesn’t infringe on their privacy.

We love its ease of installation, unlimited access to devices, ideal for the whole family, and great customer service rating.

If you are yet to decide if Bark is the right app for your family, you can take advantage of its 7-days free trial. It will give you enough time to access its functionality and decide if that’s what you want.

On the downside, Bark is pricy, but it’s worth the price if you ask us. Also, we would like to see more flexibility with its time restriction feature—but given that it’s a new feature, we hope this will improve with time.

That said, Bark is an excellent monitoring app, allowing you to sleep with both eyes knowing your kids are always safe when you can’t be with them.

Frequently Asked Questions

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