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Aura vs. Bark: How To Choose the Best Parental Control App

Aura vs. Bark is a hot debate — which is the best parental controls app to keep your kids safe online? It’s time to find out.

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      Aura vs. Bark Head-to-Head: What Parents Need To Know

      On paper, both Aura and Bark appear to offer similar features for parental controls, including website blockers, app management, and screen time limits. But when you’re considering options to monitor your children's online activities, there are unique differences that you should be aware of.

      At a high level, the main differences between Aura and Bark are that:

      • Aura is a digital safety solution that protects your entire family from online risks including inappropriate content, cyberbullying, online scammers, identity thieves, hackers, and more. 
      • Bark focuses more on monitoring social media, messages, and emails — to varying degrees of success — and can warn you about risky conversations across many of your kid's accounts.

      Here’s how key features offered by Aura and Bark compare for families:

      Content filtering
      Provides comprehensive content filters — including different filter levels across apps, websites, and streaming services for each family member.
      Parents can filter specific websites or choose from 19 content categories — including adult content, social media, gaming, and streaming.
      Screen time limits
      Block or customize daily limits for apps and website categories for each child’s profile.
      • Pause the internet® feature allows parents to shut off all internet connectivity across their child’s devices
      Set screen time limits with custom schedules for how and when your kids can use their devices.
      Internet usage
      Detailed insights into how and how much your child is using the internet.
      Get key insights into your child’s online world including the types of apps and websites they visit.
      Safe gaming (and cyberbullying protection)
      Get alerts for cyberbullying, online predators, and other concerning interactions — with 24/7 in-game voice and SMS text monitoring for over 200 of the most popular PC games (powered by Kidas).
      Scans your child's online activities in 30+ apps and social media platforms — including Snapchat and Tiktok — and sends alerts about any issues.
      Digital security (antivirus, VPN, etc.)
      Comprehensive digital security for all of your family’s data and devices, including:
      • Secure password manager
      • Military-grade virtual private network (VPN)
      • Powerful antivirus software
      • AI-powered spam and scam call and text protection
      • Safe Browsing tools to warn you about fake websites
      Bark uses a VPN to route all internet activity on your child's device through an encrypted server. This security allows connections to some websites and apps, while blocking others.
      Dark Web monitoring and data breach alerts
      Aura monitors the Dark Web for your information — email address, Social Security number (SSN), etc. — and alerts you if it has been compromised in a recent data breach.
      Family identity theft protection
      Award-winning family identity theft protection with comprehensive monitoring and near real-time alerts.
      Customer support
      24/7 U.S.-based customer support via phone and live chat.
      Email support only.
      Device compatibility
      Available on all popular browsers, operating systems, and devices — including iPhone, iPad, Android, MacOS, and Windows.
      Works across most browsers and devices — including iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.
      Free trial
      14-day free trial, and 60-day money-back guarantee.
      7-day free version.
      Starts at $20/month using this exclusive discount link.
      $14 – $49/month.
      The bottom line: While Bark focuses entirely on parental controls, Aura provides more comprehensive digital security features as well as parental controls for your entire family — at a similar or lower monthly cost.

      How To Choose the Parental Control App That’s Right for Your Family

      Whether you choose Aura, Bark, or another parental control app depends on your specific needs and budget. However, to ensure you’re getting the protection you need, make sure you consider these six factors when evaluating parental control apps:

      • Content monitoring and filtering: Parental control apps should be stumbling blocks so that your children won’t encounter inappropriate content online. You want to be confident that your nine-year-old child doesn’t see scenes of explicit violence or sexual content.
      • Screen time limits and control: Excessive time on gaming consoles or social media can adversely affect your kid's physical and mental health. You want to promote a healthy balance between device use and offline life.
      • Digital security to protect against hacking: Approximately one in 50 kids has their identity stolen [*]. With digital security tools, you can rest easy knowing that your children's sensitive data is safe.
      • Cyberbullying alerts: A proactive approach helps you spot early warning signs of cyberbullying — helping you to ensure the well-being of your kids and educate them on appropriate online behavior.
      • Customer support and updates: Access to responsive support for any app. Also, look for options that keep the app's features and security up to date so that you and your family can stay ahead of emerging cyber threats.
      • Real-time notifications: Seek apps that provide near-instant alerts about potential risks or inappropriate content. A quick response can make all the difference when tackling hackers or scammers.

      Remember that no parental control software can fully replace an open and honest relationship with your child about the risks of online content and threats. Talk to your kids regularly about online safety.

      Aura Overview: What’s Included and Pros & Cons

      Founded in 2014, Aura is an all-in-one digital security solution that can safeguard the identity, finances, and sensitive data of everyone in your family. A recent merger with Circle means Aura now includes the industry’s leading parental controls for your children’s mobile devices.

      In 2022, Aura received the Mom's Choice Award Gold for Family-Friendly Apps.

      More recently, Aura was recognized as the Best Identity Theft Protection Service by, Forbes, Tech Radar, US, and more. 

      Aura's top family safety features:

      • Monitor content and block sites. You can customize what your kids view online by adding restrictions to specific apps, games, and websites.
      • Limit screen time. Set time limits for apps and websites to ensure that your children’s health, homework, and relationships don’t suffer as a result of excessive internet use.
      • Pause the Internet® in the Aura app. No need to repeatedly ask your kids to set down their iPads and come to the dinner table. With Aura’s “Pause the Internet” feature, you can instantly switch off access whenever you want.
      • Ensure safe gaming. Around 37% of children are victims of cyberbullying [*]. Aura’s cyberbullying alerts — plus 24/7 in-game voice and text monitoring for over 200 popular PC games — make it easier to keep your kids safe.
      • Monitor your child’s sensitive information. Get alerts if your children’s SSNs, online passwords, or other sensitive information has been leaked in a data breach. 
      • Secure your child’s devices from hackers. Aura includes some of the most advanced digital security tools available including antivirus software, Safe Browsing tools, and an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered spam call and text blocker.
      Aura Pros
      Aura Cons
      Balances online protection and building trust with your child. Aura isn’t a “spying” app for parents. Instead, it helps protect your kids while fostering a sense of trust as they become more independent online and in real life.
      List price is more expensive than basic apps for parental controls. But you can save 60% on your Aura membership, making it one of the most affordable options.
      Quickly set up custom content filters to limit what your kids can access online.
      Some features aren’t yet available on all devices and browsers.
      Set screen time limits to prevent app or gaming addiction, and ensure your children maintain healthy routines and sleeping patterns.
      Currently not available outside of the United States.
      Protection for your entire family, including award-winning digital security tools, identity theft protection, and up to $5 million in insurance for eligible losses due to identity theft.
      😌 Do you want peace of mind about your kids’ digital lives? Start a free 14-day Aura trial and keep your family safe from online threats.

      Who should choose Aura?

      Aura is ideal for concerned parents looking for an easy-to-use solution to help see and control what their kids are doing online.

      You can filter inappropriate content, manage screen time, and track interactions that your kids have with others when they’re playing games or using their smartphones.

      Choose Aura if:

      • You want award-winning parental controls, including content filtering, screen time management, and browsing history tracking.
      • You want to protect your entire family from online threats like hacking, cryptocurrency scams, and phishing emails.
      • You're worried about child identity theft and need reliable online security measures to protect your children's SSNs and other sensitive information.
      • You want an all-in-one intelligent digital security solution that eases your mind about your entire family's online activities.

      How much does Aura cost?

      Many services offer low introductory rates, but then hike up the price in the second year. With Aura, you get simple, transparent pricing.

      Note: Aura’s parental controls are only available with its Family Plan.

      Here are Aura’s plans and pricing as of May 2024:

      • Individual Plan: $12 per month (or $6 per month using the special offer link below)
      • Couple Plan (two members): $22 per month (or $11.49 per month using the link below)‍
      • Family Plan (five adults and unlimited children): $37 per month (or $20 per month using the link below). Aura’s Family Plan offers advanced features, including parental controls, child identity protection, and Safe Gaming with cyberbullying alerts.
      💡 Special offer: Use this link to save 60% on all Aura annual plans (includes a 60-day money-back guarantee).

      Is Aura better than Bark?

      Bark is one of the best parental control apps for monitoring SMS text messages, social media content, and app usage. But because Aura is a comprehensive digital security tool, you can use Aura to protect your kids, spouse, and elderly relatives.

      • Aura’s Family Plans cover children and parents even if they’re in different households, such as kids away at college or grandparents who don’t live with you.  
      • Aura’s suite provides security features across all devices and browsers. Wherever they are, whenever they’re online, your family will always have a strong defense against hackers, predators, and identity thieves.
      • Partnerships with Circle and Kidas make Aura’s Safe Gaming features and best-in-class parental controls the perfect choice to protect children of all ages. 
      • And if the worst should happen, you’ll know you have the support you need, including 24/7 customer support and up to $5 million in identity theft insurance. 

      💡 Related: Internet Safety Tips For Kids and Teens (Parent Must-Knows)

      Bark Overview: What’s Included and Pros & Cons

      Bark offers a standalone app for iPhone or Android (Bark Premium) as well as a home router and — even a dedicated Bark Phone with built-in protections. 

      Here are some of Bark’s key features:

      • Content monitoring. Bark monitors and alerts parents to worrisome interactions, like if your kid encounters bullying, sexual content, scammers, or predators.
      • Manage screen time. Create custom daily schedules for each device in your household. You can monitor each child’s phone, and set age-appropriate limits for teens and young children.
      • Track locations. Bark has everything you need to keep a close eye on your kids’ whereabouts when they visit friends or travel to school. 
      • Advanced social media monitoring. With a view of over 30 platforms, Bark helps parents stay vigilant about some of the riskiest areas for kids on the internet. 
      • The Bark Phone for Kids. Starting at $49 per month, the Bark phone and home Wi-Fi router make it easier to set limits and monitor your kid's online activity. With Bark Premium, you can use this system to monitor texts, photos, and videos on Apple devices.
      Bark Pros
      Bark Cons
      Monitors interactions and messages across 30+ social media apps.
      Not all devices, apps, and browsers are monitored equally.
      Alerts are sent in real-time.
      No uninstall protection, giving kids an easy workaround to avoid parental controls.
      Offers location check-ins and alerts.
      Doesn’t offer advanced check-in features.
      Weekly reports on screen time and app use.
      No geofencing or location history tracking.

      Who should choose Bark?

      While Bark doesn't offer Aura's robust digital security tools, it is a great app to keep tabs on what your children are doing online.

      Choose Bark if:

      • You want a dedicated phone for your kids. The Bark Phone comes with the parental controls app built in, making monitoring easy.
      • You only want website filtering. If you need an entry-level option to block apps and websites, Bark Jr is a user-friendly way to get started. You can also set up the Bark extension on Google Chromebooks to monitor search results, along with saved photos and videos in Google Chrome. 
      • You want to track your child’s location. Bark is equipped with a real-time map, location alerts, and check-in features to ease parents’ worries about their children’s movements. 

      💡 Related: Canopy or Bark? Which One Is Right For Your Family?

      How much does Bark cost?

      Here are Bark’s plans and pricing as of May 2024:

      • Bark Phone: Starts at $39/month
      • Bark Premium: Starts at $14/month
      • Bark Home (router): Starts at $6/month
      • Bark Jr (limited parental controls): Starts at $5/month

      Is Bark worth it?

      While it excels in social media monitoring and provides valuable parental controls, Bark may not be worth it for families seeking comprehensive digital security.

      You should consider these shortcomings of Bark: 

      • Limited protection against hacking and scams. Bark doesn’t include an antivirus, VPN, password manager, or Safe Browsing tools. Without these protections, your kids remain vulnerable to online threats. 
      • Doesn’t protect the rest of your family. Without award-winning identity theft protection and three-credit bureau monitoring, Bark lacks the functionality to safeguard your family’s most sensitive data.
      • More expensive than other services. Considering that it’s essentially a social media monitoring app with basic parental controls, Bark is not the cheapest option.
      • Bark only shows you text messages or other content when a potential issue is detected. A big drawback is that you can’t view all of your child's communications in real-time. Also, you receive warnings when problems arise — but not solutions.
      🛡 Get award-winning family protection — for free. Aura provides more features and stronger protection to keep your entire family safe. Ready to secure your whole family against online threats? Try Aura free for 14 days.

      What Other Parental Control Apps Should You Consider? 

      There are other contenders beyond the Aura vs. Bark debate. Here are more parental control app providers that you’ll find on most comparison sites:

      • Net Nanny is a web filter service for social media monitoring and screen time management. While it's a user-friendly app, Net Nanny is limited in critical areas, including scheduling and location tracking.
      • Qustodio has a powerful dashboard to track your child’s online activity across multiple platforms and apps. But the lack of advanced digital security tools — like a VPN and antivirus — makes it a poor choice for family protection. See how Qustodio compares to Bark and Aura.
      • mSpy is a phone surveillance app that tracks calls, messages, and messaging apps and allows parents to take real-time screenshots of their child’s device. But this monitoring tool lacks essential parental control features such as screen time limits, device usage control, and website blocking.
      • MMGuardian is a feature-rich monitoring service for Android phones and iOS devices. With many unique features, such as alerts about inappropriate pictures on your child's device, MMGuardian is a solid parental control app. However, high pricing and poor usability deter many parents. 
      • Norton Family is a parental control app with a dedicated “School Time” feature to help parents whose children are learning remotely. Norton Family doesn’t support Mac devices. 
      • Kaspersky kids is a freemium product from the U.K.-based cybersecurity provider that can help you track your kids’ online activities, including dedicated YouTube search and watch history reports. 
      • Google Family Link provides content blockers and time limits, as well as a unique feature that allows you to control how your child’s data is used and shared with online services.
      Keep your entire family safe from online threats. Try Aura free for 14 days

      Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you to increase awareness about digital safety. Aura’s services may not provide the exact features we write about, nor may cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat discussed in our articles. Please review our Terms during enrollment or setup for more information. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime.

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