This month, Ministry to Parents‘ focus is on Build a Parent Ministry Plan through Organization. We asked, Tony Bianco, speaker, and creator of the Family Technology Plan, to give parents a review on How to Monitor Technology by writing a review on how to use Bark.
How To Monitor Technology: A Review on How to Use Bark
When it comes to monitoring your child’s device, parents have numerous options today, some of which already occur on the device. Other software offers a more in-depth look into the device and the activity. “Bark” is right in the middle of these two extremes.
For many parents, Bark is going to do more than they need, and for others, it’s going to be just right. Depending on the age and needs of your student, you can determine if Bark is an option. Let’s take a look at Bark, what it can do, and how easy it may be for the average parent.
The first thing Bark is going to do is monitor the devices. Once you create an account ($99/year), you’ll be able to add your children and their devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and computers. You’ll also be able to select “accounts” your student may have — for example, messaging, social media (including SnapChat), and other popular apps.
For Bark to monitor your student’s accounts, you’ll need a few different things. For starters, you’ll need the Username and Password for each of these. However, some of these accounts require additional downloads or a “follow” on an account for Bark to successfully monitor activity.
Because of this need, Bark encourages you, as do I, that you partner with your student in setting this up. For many parents, when they try to secretly “hack” or “monitor” their student’s online activity, they often get found out and the relationship with their student struggles from then on. It is much better to have a conversation with your student about these things and explain the need to protect and monitor activity. Honest communication will make conversations and moments around technology better in the long run.
I do want to mention that you should look into what you want to monitor and what type of devices you have. Each of these components will determine what and how in-depth Bark can monitor.
To see a full list of what Bark monitors, such as apps and device platforms, click HERE.
Detect and Alert
For many parents, they do not wish to comb through every “lol” and “hey” text message their student sends. Several monitoring apps will give you this kind of detail if that’s what you are looking for.
However, Bark will only message you the bad stuff. Computer algorithms scan the accounts based on the login information you have provided and will give you a report on various things.
The types of activities Bark checks are inappropriate content such as pornography, bullying, bad language, and many more. One great feature is you can tweak the sensitivity of the various categories via a sliding scale. So depending on what your student may struggle with, you can customize the protection. This feature is great as many similar apps are cookie-cutter and not this customizable. It is also a great option to have for those times that you may have felt that you had to turn something off or decline a feature because it was too sensitive. This feature is also customizable based on the age of your student.
Once it detects activities parents need to address, parents receive a text or email with “issues to be addressed.” Parents can get the context of a conversation or visit a specific website the student visited. I would encourage parents that view these alerts either in Bark or other monitoring apps to check the source and have an honest conversation about it with your student.
Often parents may see an alert or notification and assume many things. If you spend time checking out the details and then have a conversation with your student, the better it will be. The more discussions and fewer lectures you can have with your student about screens and technology, the better you’ll be in the long run.
In summary, Bark is a great app that offers many features for most families. It’s a bit more than your average time-based app or built-in parental controls. However, that means it will be a bit more to manage and set-up.
Bark will have its limitations depending on the apps you want to monitor and the system software you run on the device, but overall it’s a good “next-steps” in monitoring and managing your student’s device.
This service does offer a seven-day trial, so feel free to try it out, and if you don’t like it, can’t use it, or it doesn’t meet your needs, that’s okay! There are several options out there, and you need to find something you understand and can use!
If you’d like to see some of this app before fully committing, check out our Video Tutorial on Bark (located at the top of the blog post)!
Tony Bianco has been in Student Ministry for over ten years with his wife Diamend with whom they have two amazing kids. He is a former Radio DJ, Technology Reviewer, GameStop Manager, Apple Store Expert, and the author of The Family Technology Plan. You can contact Tony at www.familytechnologyplan.com.
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