I don’t often cover tools for parents and families, but I ran across a service that wowed me so much that I immediately called my sister to perhaps help my two young nephews. So I figure that even if you don’t have school-age kids, you probably know someone who does. PLUS… I’m doing this post to help out the manager here at Nerd HQ — that’s right… MOLLY IS HAVING A BABY! That’s her cat Beatrice giving some love to Molly’s baby belly (almost 7 months!).
Bark: The Tool that Wowed Me
I’ve heard from many parents that they’re flummoxed when it comes to keeping up with their kids’ social media, texting and other online interactions.
- How do we monitor the conversations to protect our kids from bullies, predators and other creeps?
- How can we better see the signs when our kids express troublesome thoughts?
- How the heck do we read their text shortcuts???
One answer, in my humble opinion, is Bark. Bark uses artificial intelligence to monitor 24+ social media sites to watch for bullying, release of personal information, predators, suicidal ideation and more. A year’s subscription is $99 and covers all the kids. Right now the system focuses on mobile devices — not regular browsers. The alerts also cover the installation of new apps — especially suspicious ones. Plus it covers text messages and even analyzes images to look for nudity and other imagery that kids shouldn’t be sharing.
What I really like about Bark is that YOU don’t have to do the monitoring. Your kids are free to talk to their friends and communicate like kids do without fearing that you’re sneaking peeks at their phone (or outright monitoring everything). You simply let the kids be kids and feel confident that Bark will watch out for warning signs.
The success of Bark with your family will probably depend on your existing relationship with your kids. Yes, you can install the apps without your kids’ permission, but it’s best to talk to them directly about why you worry and what you worry about.
Check out what Bark can do:
Our Pact: The Tool that Wows You Guys
For a couple-three years now, parents have been telling me how much they love OurPact for controlling kids’ screen time. This tool can prevent after-bedtime, zombie-eyed surfing and texting. Parents control the phones through their apps, and they can lock kids out of the devices on regular schedules or “Until I say so.” I can hear my mom’s voice with that option.
Life360: Another Parent Favorite
If you’re old enough, you may remember those Public Service Announcements from the 1970s and ’80s: “It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” With Life360, you never have to guess. The service helps parents figure out where their kids are, when they get home and even how fast they’re traveling in a car. Like OurPact, this is a tool that parents have raved about. Life360 has a great free version.