App allows parents to monitor kids' digital lives while also allowing privacy

Smartphones are an integral part of our lives these days. But they can also be dangerous, connecting kids to all kinds of violence, pornography, and behavior that parents don't approve of.

There are ways to monitor the digital lives of children, but some at the cost of privacy. One particular app, known as Bark, is one solution that might achieve a middle ground.

"Our goal is to help raise responsible digital natives by giving them a level of privacy they crave and deserve," said Titania Jordan, chief parent officer at Bark. "But also, we want to give parents peace of mind and help them parent in an age unlike anything any parent has had to parent in."

Bark looks for signs of bullying, sexting, pornography, suicide, drug use, violence, and online predators. It can scan over 25 different social media platforms as well as text messaging and email.

"When our algorithm finds one of those troublesome issues, we'll then send an alert via text or email to a parent so they can take action," said Jordan.

In order to work, a child's digital world has to be handed over to Bark. That brings up privacy issues for parents, many of whom want their kids to have some level of privacy.

If parents choose, they can have their kids sign up on their own. Parents would then only be notified when something gets flagged. They wouldn't have unfettered access to their child's social media, email accounts, or text messages.

According to Bark, the service has prevented 16 potential school shootings and saved 36 kids who may have been considering suicide. The company's data also claims over 70 percent of teens have dealt with cyberbullying in some way, whether that be as a witness, bully, or victim.

"Just like you wouldn't let your child drive a car without purchasing car insurance and telling them to wear a seat belt, we don't advise giving a child a smartphone that's connected to the world, and vice versa, without having some sort of parental monitoring that can alert you to the dangers that are very prevalent in today's age," said Jordan.

While the private version of Bark costs money, the company offers a free version to schools to monitor school-issued devices like laptops.

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