Bark Review: Can This Parental Control App Keep Kids Safe?

Girl working on a computer with the Bark app logo

According to a 2020 Pew Research study, more than half of parents with kids 11 years old or younger are concerned that their child could be targeted by bullies and online predators or that they could see sexually explicit, violent, or graphic content on the internet. In response, companies like Bark designed mobile parental control software to monitor, filter, and track children’s online activity.

Bark and Bark mobile is just one of many parental control apps that can help keep kids safe online. Let’s see how it fares under rigorous testing.


Bark – Short Review

PROSCONS
Easy sign-upTime-consuming setup
Has advanced content filteringCan slow down apps and devices
One subscription covers unlimited devicesNot all devices, apps, and browsers are monitored
Monitors more than 30 popular social media appsNo geofencing features
Allows text monitoring on Apple devicesOnly available in English, Spanish, and Afrikaans
Alerts are sent in less than 15 minutes
Free 7-day trial

For the price of $99/year, Bark and Bark Mobile offer advanced content monitoring and website filtering for an unlimited number of devices. It also allows parents to customize screen time schedules for their kids, and it works well on iPhone, Android, and Amazon devices.

Where Bark shines is in its advanced content filtering features. For more than 30+ social media and apps, Bark monitors content sent or received (depending on the app) and flags potentially harmful content. Parents can determine what types of content are filtered such as depressive texts or sexually explicit messages.

However, Bark doesn’t have advanced location tracking services, like geofencing, which lets parents know when their child has entered or exited a specific location. Bark is only available in three languages, which is less than some other parental control software competitors. To learn more about Bark’s features, click on the button below.

Visit Bark

Bark Specifications

Bark subscriptions come in two tiers:

  • Bark Jr., which is priced at $49/month (billed annually) and is recommended for parents with younger kids who aren’t using many apps yet
  • Bark Premium, which is priced at $99/month (billed annually) and which monitors more apps and websites, making it ideal for kids or teens who use multiple devices, sites, or social media apps
SPECIFICATIONBARK JR.BARK PREMIUM
Download linkGet Bark Jr.Get Bark Premium
Pricing$49/mo billed annually or $5/mo billed monthly$99 annually or $14/month
Number of devicesUnlimitedUnlimited
Screen time management
Website filtering
Location check-ins
Text message monitoring
Social media app monitoring
Alerts for cyberbullying, online predators, and more

Features and Effectiveness: How Well Does Bark Mobile Perform?

Score scale 8/10

Bark’s filtering features are very sensitive and caught everything we threw at it, including mature web searches or concerning keywords on social media sites. Alerts also come through fairly quickly, but its location services could be improved. All in all, we gave Bark an effectiveness rating of 8.

Many online Bark user reviews (mostly kids and teens) claim that the software slows down apps. However, we didn’t notice any app or device speed changes during our test period. This, of course, depends on the device’s age and the number of apps being used and monitored.

Content filters

Right now, Bark monitors 32 apps, games, email accounts, and internet browsers like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. When any of your child’s activity or content is flagged, you get an alert.

Bark parental control software is highly sensitive — even a beer mug emoji in a text message can set off alerts. For example, if your child texts their friends and says, “I’m really depressed,” you’ll know about it. Bark can do this with algorithms and machine learning technology that use contextual clues and natural language processes.

There are more than a dozen sensitivity categories including:

  • Violence
  • Depression
  • Hate speech
  • Drugs/alcohol
  • Sexually explicit content

You can choose to flag “all” or “none” of the content within those categories in your account settings.

Bark also monitors web browser activity, including private mode on browsers including Chrome, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge. There are limitations depending on which device you use, however. For example, Bark only monitors Chrome on iOS devices.

Bark can also block web browsing, search terms, and access to email. We found email monitoring in particular to be reliable. Bark reviews incoming and outgoing emails in addition to email attachments. You can see flagged content quickly from your parent dashboard.

Screenshot of the Bark app, device alerts dashboard

Social media monitoring

However, when it comes to social media apps, monitoring capabilities are limited. For example, Bark can only monitor posts on your child’s Facebook timeline. It can’t see what they’re searching for or what they are posting on other people’s timelines.

As for Instagram, Bark monitors your child’s posts, but monitoring direct messages depends on your device. Bark can’t monitor DMs on iOS devices but can on Android. This is because those social media companies have not yet agreed to work with Bark to allow more comprehensive monitoring.

The point is: a lot can slip by under Bark’s radar on some of the world’s most popular apps. However, for the apps it can monitor, it catches a lot of potential red flags.

Alert speeds

If you’re looking for real-time alerts, you won’t find that on every app with Bark monitoring. In our test, Twitter messages sent at 5:00 pm that were flagged for sexual content didn’t show up in alerts until 8:38 am the following morning.

Other notifications, on Spotify for example, came through within 15 minutes. On average, most alerts came through on Apple and Android devices within 15 minutes.

Limited location services

When you download the Bark mobile app on your child’s device, it lets you know when your kid has arrived at a location. You’ll receive a message that they’ve made it and can even get directions straight to your child’s location. However, there are no advanced location services or geofencing options that other parental control apps have like, Qustodio.

Screenshot of the Bark app, Request check-in window


Ease of Use: How User-Friendly is Bark?

Score scale 8/10

Even though installation is time-consuming, you really only have to go through the process once for most apps. Because Bark’s interfaces are very user-friendly and consistent and because there are so many high-quality resources readily available on the website, we rank Bark an 8 for ease of use

Bark’s website

Bark’s website is very user-friendly and easy to navigate. Once you log in for the first time, you’re prompted with a setup checklist on the Dashboard. Scroll down to see alerts that need your review. The website is clean and uncluttered and easily directs you to the next step in your process. The only other tab at the top is “Alerts.” Here, you can scroll through a list of alerts, which device they occurred on, and for which child.

Under your profile tab, there are basic sections like Settings and the Help Center. However, one of our favorite parts about Bark is the high-quality parent resources, video tutorials, and conversation starters available for parents. You can learn great tips on how to talk to your kids or watch simple how-to videos. It’s a simple and very informative website.

Screenshot of Bark App website interface

Installation with Bark and Bark mobile

Setting up Bark monitoring on your family’s devices will require a time investment. Depending on how many kids you have + number of devices + type and number of apps, browsers, or email, you might be looking at a few hours all-in-all to connect all mobile phones, tablets, and computers.

To connect each app, Bark estimates it will take you one minute. Based on our experience, it’s more like 3-5 minutes per task, especially if you don’t have passwords saved or need to log into apps on multiple devices. Just to get the Bark desktop app, it took 45 minutes to download, install, and then connect to an Apple smartphone. As such, you may want to grab a cup of coffee and block out some time in your calendar.

When we connected Bark mobile to the iOS device, it took around 2 minutes to note apps (like Gmail, Spotify, and YouTube) that are installed but weren’t yet being monitored by Bark. This made it really easy to see what apps we still needed to connect.

Screenshot of the Bark app, Risky app detected notification

Restrictions and conflicts with other software

One of our testers already had Google’s free parental control software, Family Link, installed on their devices. Because Bark requires you to connect to mobile phones via their website and not the app store, Family Link blocked it. Eventually, we got around it, but it wasn’t easy.

Some apps, like Instagram, require parents to reauthorize their account on Bark every 60 days. This can get tedious depending on how many kids or apps you are trying to monitor. If you are regularly updating apps and resetting passwords for privacy, you will have to log back into them on Bark. It’s not a “set it and forget it” monitoring app.

Additionally, when we tried to connect to Instagram via an Apple phone, we got a “URL not found” notification. We reached out to customer service representatives via the contact form (they don’t have a number to call) and received a response from one of their customer service representatives within an hour. They suggested connecting the app using a web browser. When we set Instagram up through a browser instead of the app, we were successful.

Additionally, certain email browsers have different security policies. That means that connection to your child’s Yahoo or AOL will have a different set of directions. In general, you just have to take the process app by app and anticipate a few road bumps along the way.

On the plus side, Bark offers a lot of visual guides and even has options for you to schedule a one-on-one phone call to get your devices set up. So while it may not be the fastest process, the steps are clear, and there is plenty of help available.

Using the app

The app interface is nearly identical to the website, just optimized for a mobile screen. This means you don’t have to learn two interfaces, which is always good news.

Click on “More” at the bottom of your dashboard to see your settings and profile information. Again, it’s identical to the site. Clean, effective, and anything you can do on the desktop, you can do on the app, including changing settings and alert features.

Screenshot of Bark App mobile interface

Customer service

We tried to schedule a call for help with an iOS device set up, but there was a two-week wait — yikes! Instead, we submitted a help ticket and had someone reach out to us via email within an hour. With that, our problem was solved in minutes.

If you prefer talking on the phone, you’ll have to schedule a time because there’s no number on their website. Overall, our email help tech was responsive and helpful, and all our questions were answered.


Data Privacy: How Does Bark Use Your Data?

Score scale 9/10

We have to say, Bark really cares about your privacy. Not only do you own all your family’s data, but all of your information is also encrypted and then removed after 30 days. You can request for your data to be removed from their servers sooner than 30 days.

What does all that mean? It means Bark goes beyond what is legally required of them to protect your data and they have incorporated multiple layers of security to keep hackers out. All these features make Bark a privacy-focused app and earns it a score of 9 out of 10.

Data privacy

Here’s how Bark keeps your data safe according to its privacy policy:

  • No data is given to third parties without consent.
  • Bark is COPPA, FERPA, CIPA, AB 1584, and SOC 2 Type II compliant.
  • All databases, servers, and web browser sessions are encrypted so online criminals can’t get a hold of your data.
  • Bark requires employees to meet security standards, including multi-factor authentication, hard-disk encryption, and frequent software updates.
  • Bark uses TLS Encryption and second-layer security from Amazon Web Services, multi-factor authentication, and user-specific access keys.
  • The company hosts internal security audits and training regularly.

Additionally, Bark’s alerts only include pieces of conversations — the things “you need to know” according to Bark. The goal is to keep a level of privacy for other people your child is communicating with. For us, this is a clear indication that Bark respects an individual’s right to privacy.

Screenshot of the Bark app, text alert notification

Device privacy

In addition to keeping your data secure, Bark also ensures that your device’s warranty and terms of service is uncompromised. Bark does not require parent or child devices to be rooted (Android) or jailbroken (iOS).

There’s also no need to buy new devices and match operating systems. Even if you’re using an Android phone, you can still monitor your child’s iPhone or iPad and vice versa.


What Does Bark Mobile Monitor?

Overall, Bark is an effective monitoring tool and has an extensive list of apps and services that it connects to. The catch is that it varies across devices; what you can monitor on Android is different than Apple or Amazon Fire, for example. Some social media sites like Snapchat don’t let Bark mobile (or other companies, for that matter) monitor their user content.

Read our comprehensive charts to see what emails, browsers, and apps Bark can connect with on your devices. If you want to know the specifics of what Bark monitors on each app (like images, messages, videos, comments, etc.), you can read more on Bark by clicking on your device and then the app you want to learn more about.

General Functions Chart

Here you’ll find which general functions Bark can monitor.

FunctioniOS DevicesAndroid DevicesAmazon FireComputers
Texts
Photos and Videos
Notes
Voice Memos

Email Chart

Here you’ll find which email services Bark can monitor.

EmailiOS DevicesAndroid DevicesAmazon FireComputers
AOL
Comcast
GMail
Outlook
Yahoo
iCloud

Apps Chart

Here you’ll find which apps Bark can monitor.

AppiOS DevicesAndroid DevicesAmazon FireComputers
Bigo
Discord
DropBox
Facebook
Flickr
Google Drive
GroupMe
HOLLA
Houseparty
Instagram
Kik
Lipsi
LiveMe
Messenger Kids
OneDrive
OneNote
Pinterest
Reddit
Skype
Slack
Snapchat
Spotify
Steam
TikTok
Tumblr
Twitter
VSCO
WhatsApp
YouTube

Browser Chart

Here you’ll find which browsers Bark can monitor.

BrowseriOS DevicesAndroid DevicesAmazon FireComputers
Chrome
Default browser
Firefox
Silk
Microsoft Edge

Keeping Kids Safe Online with Bark and Bark Mobile

Bark is not a replacement for in-app privacy settings because Bark can’t monitor everything across your child’s apps or devices. However, most social media apps don’t have Bark’s high level of sensitivity when it comes to content monitoring, so it’s not a bad idea to pair the two together.

Bark is definitely an investment of your time upfront, but once apps and devices are connected, you’ll get alerts quickly and features like web filtering, text monitoring, and social media monitoring. For the price, parents get a user-friendly and advanced parental control software so we give it an overall ranking of 8 out of 10.

If you’re interested in hands-on experience with Bark mobile, click the button below.

Visit Bark

For more information on how to make sure kids stay safe online, check out the following resources:

Bark Parental Control Software Review: Frequently Asked Questions

Want to learn more about Bark monitoring services? Read some of the most commonly asked questions in our FAQ section.

Yes, Bark works very well for the apps and devices it connects to, including Apple, Android, and Amazon devices. However, because some social media apps like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram have strict security policies, not every feature can be monitored by Bark. So while Bark, Bark Mobile, and Bark for Kids does work, it has limitations like any other app.

Bark is a parental control safety software that monitors content on devices and apps, sets custom screen time limits, filters websites, and has location check-in features. Parents set sensitivity filters using settings in their parent dashboard. Parents can request alerts for depression, alcohol, and drug use, profanity, or sexually explicit content, amongst many other filters.

Using machine learning technology and algorithms, Bark flags content or activity that could be potentially harmful. Parents receive alerts via email to text and can review them in full detail on their parent dashboard.

No, due to Snapchat security policies, Bark can’t monitor Snapchat pictures on any device. It can monitor direct chat messages on Android devices. Bark is able to monitor some or all content across more than 30 other social media apps, web services, and devices.

Bark has several limitations that are worth noting. Some of the most popular social media apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok have no or very little monitoring capabilities through Bark because of their security policies. Most of what users do on those apps can’t be monitored by Bark.

If log-in information is shared between parents and kids, kids could easily change app passwords and lock parents out of accounts. Parents will get a notification that the password was changed, but they can’t stop it from happening unless they are the only one with the password.

There are also more advanced ways to get around parental control software like proxy sites (which hide IP addresses) that some kids may be aware of.

At this time, Bark does not monitor any streaming services like Netflix. However, it does monitor more than 30 other social media apps and web services on Android, Apple, and Amazon devices.

Yes, Bark does not have a way to keep kids from removing the app from their device. However, Bark says that most kids are usually receptive to keeping the app on their device when parents explain why their safety is important and that they still have privacy. Bark only alerts parents to flagged content that might put kids in danger.

Online Safety Journalist
Allison has an impressive research background and a drive to stay on top of the latest trends in cybersecurity to help others combat cybercrime and stay safe online. She has covered a variety of topics but is passionate about informing the VPNOverview readers on online safety and privacy, especially for children and teens.