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Canopy vs Bark: How To Choose Which One Is Best For You

Parental control apps like Canopy and Bark can block adult content, giving parents a sense of safety — but do these apps do enough to keep kids safe online?

Parental control apps like Canopy and Bark can block adult content, giving parents a sense of safety — but do these apps do enough to keep kids safe online?

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      What’s the Best Parental Control App For Your Family?

      The internet has become a more dangerous place for families. From inappropriate and adult content to cyberbullying and predators, online threats against kids and teens are only growing.  Unsurprisingly, 51% of moms say they’re very worried about the risks of the internet [*]. 

      Apps like Canopy and Bark may offer peace of mind — but many families have complained about their poor functionality, lack of support, and the ease with which kids can turn them off [* *].

      Along with basic usability issues, both Canopy and Bark also leave your family vulnerable to online threats, such as scammers, hackers, and other predators. So, which one is best for your family? 

      In this guide, we’ll compare Canopy and Bark to see which one offers the best level of protection, as well as how they compare to Aura’s all-in-one family safety app. 

      {{show-toc}} 

      How To Choose the Best Parental Control App 

      Parental control apps like Canopy, Bark, and Aura give you insights into how your kids are using their Android or iOS devices, control over the types of apps and sites they can access (and when), as well as warnings about potential predators and unsafe activities. 

      When researching a parental control app, it’s important to look for critical features that will help protect your family from online threats — such as cyberbullying, pornography, and gambling websites. 

      Here are a few of the main parental control features you should look for, and why they’re important: 

      • Content monitoring and filtering. Out of the box, parental control software should include internet filters and app blocking tools that prevent kids from accessing inappropriate or dangerous content. Many apps include age-related web filtering, as well as customization options to block specific apps or websites.
      • App and screen time limits. Gen Z averages about nine hours of daily screen time [*]. Too much time online can interfere with kids' academic performance, sleep habits, and social relationships. Apps should give you power to set time limits on your children’s phones to ensure that they don't spend all day in front of a screen. 
      • Online activity monitoring. These apps can allow parents to see their child’s online activity and browsing history (or even what they’re searching for via Google). 
      • Cyberbullying and predator protection. A proactive approach helps you spot the early warning signs of cyberbullying, which is prevalent across social media websites and gaming platforms. Look for an app that sends you alerts about chat messages and connection requests that could signal potential harassment. 
      • Digital safety against online scams and viruses. Apps with built-in Safe Browsing tools and antivirus protection ensure that your child won't accidentally expose personally identifiable information (PII) or account login details to a scammer.
      • Ease of use. The best parental controls are user-friendly apps that parents can set up quickly and adjust according to the needs of their children. You'll want to set different rules for a five-year-old and a 16-year-old; so it is essential to have an intuitive app that makes life easy for everyone in your family.
      • Difficult to circumvent. Many tech-savvy kids can find ways around restrictions through a virtual private network (VPN) or by simply deleting the app from their mobile devices. Parents should ensure they use an app that only they can control or remove.
      • Customer support and updates. Access to responsive support is vital in order to handle any issues. 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.

      Note: No app or tool can replace an honest conversation about online safety and proper behavior with your children. Consider having the Digital Talk to help your kids stay safe online.

      🥇 Don’t settle for second-best family safety. Aura’s all-in-one family safety app provides more transparent parental controls, stronger protection against online scams, and better value than the apps offered by competitors like Bark and Canopy. Try Aura free for 14 days and see why it’s been rated #1 by Mom’s Choice Awards, Forbes, and more.

      Canopy vs. Bark: The Parental Guide for 2024

      Bark and Canopy offer similar feature sets and levels of parental control beyond those of free parental control apps. Like other options, such as Qustodio, Net Nanny, and Norton Family, they both have the fundamental features of screen time limits, website blocking, and location tracking.

      The main difference between Canopy and Bark comes down to how they approach digital parenting:

      • Canopy provides a comprehensive approach to screen time management and parental control, emphasizing healthy device usage and family connectivity. 
      • Bark uses deep monitoring to explore children's texts, emails, and social media apps to detect issues and alert parents to potential concerns such as cyberbullying, explicit content, and signs of depression or self-harm.

      However, neither of these apps can protect your child from identity theft or keep the rest of your family safe from online scams and hacking.

      Here's how Canopy and Bark stack up head-to-head:

      Canopy
      Bark
      Cost
      From $7 to $15 per month.
      From $6 to $49 per month.
      Ratings
      Google Play Store: 3.6 stars from 264 reviews.

      Apple App Store: 2.2 stars from 10 reviews.

      (as of March 20, 2024)
      Google Play Store: 4.1 stars from 6.73K reviews.

      Apple App Store: 4.1 stars from 22.3K reviews.

      (as of March 20, 2024)
      Content filters
      Canopy's patented AI for Good technology claims to be the only app that filters out explicit content in real time.

      Beyond blocking adult sites, Canopy’s artificial intelligence detects potentially harmful or inappropriate content on popular sites like Instagram and TikTok.
      Parents can filter specific websites or choose from 19 content categories — including adult content, social media, gaming, and streaming.
      Screen time limits
      Parents can set daily or weekly rules and create a "downtime schedule" to manage screen time for their kids.
      Set screen time limits with custom schedules for how and when your kids can use their devices.
      Message/email monitoring
      Monitors emails and messages for inappropriate content and potential phishing or malware risks.
      Analyzes messages, emails, and social media for signs of cyberbullying, self-harm, and other concerning content.
      Digital security
      Provides tools to protect sensitive data and privacy, including an anti-sexting feature and location tracking.
      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.
      Customer support
      Email support only.
      Email support only.

      On paper, both Bark and Canopy offer powerful ways to protect kids from common online risks. But how do they work in practice? 

      💡Related: How Do Parental Controls Work? Setting Up Devices at Home

      Canopy Review: Features, Pros & Cons, and Pricing

      A screenshot of the Canopy homepage showing a parent and a child looking at a screen offering app blocking

      Canopy is a parental controls app that helps parents protect their children from online threats — specifically online predators. It claims to be the only parental control app with real-time “smart filtering” and focuses much of its efforts on reducing the risks of kids being exposed to adult content or sexting.

      In 2023, the company commissioned a study highlighting how its AI-driven approach to parental monitoring could positively impact mental health challenges associated with social media and internet use [*]. 

      Here are the pros and cons of Canopy:

      Canopy pros
      Canopy cons
      Real-time activity monitoring keeps tabs on what your kids are doing online.
      Limited to 10 devices — the lowest tier only protects three devices.
      Sexting protection features, including nudity detection, help keep kids safe from potential predators or harassment.
      Can quickly drain the battery of a device.
      Anti-tampering feature helps stop kids from turning off the controls.
      Requires constant adjusting, due to some functionality issues.
      Some customers have complained about unhelpful or unresponsive customer support [*].

      Now, let’s take a closer look at some key features of Canopy:

      • Block inappropriate and adult content. You can deny access to explicit websites in order to reduce the chances of your children being exposed to inappropriate content. 
      • Schedule internet downtime on your child’s device. This feature lets you temporarily limit internet access — for example, during mealtimes or homework. 
      • Location alerts. The app sends notifications when a family member's device accesses the internet from a specific location. With this view, you can keep tabs on your child's location and promptly respond to any unexpected online activity.
      • Remote approval. This convenient feature lets parents review and approve access requests to specific websites. For example, if your teenager wants to watch a movie on the weekend or access specific sites on the family's Windows or Mac desktop, you can be flexible with rules but always have the final say.
      • Anti-tampering features. Canopy lists “Removal Prevention” as one of its key features, but offers little to no information about how this works. 

      What are Canopy’s pricing and plan options?

      Canopy offers three pricing plan tiers, based on the number of devices on which you want to install the product. 

      Here’s a breakdown of Canopy’s pricing as of April 2024:

      • Individual: Starts at $7.99/month (up to three devices)
      • Duo: Starts at $8.99/month (up to five devices)
      • Family: Starts at $9.99/month (up to 10 devices)

      What are real customers saying about using Canopy?

      While Canopy offers some innovative features, the consensus on third-party review sites is far from perfect. Here are a few things to consider based on what customers are saying on Trustpilot [*] : 

      • Customer service is not responsive. "I had a bad experience with them not replying to emails after five days and the phone not being answered after problems on my PC."
      • Issues with blocking apps and adult content. "I've come across serious flaws, including the inability to scan WebP images, which are becoming more common nowadays, and a total failure to filter the Firefox browser after it was re-installed." 
      • Glitchy functionality. “This is an incredibly difficult app to use. It is quirky, interrupts my normal web access, it often interrupts my phone calls or mimics an incoming phone call.”

      💡 Related: The 10 Best Parental Control Apps for iPhones

      Bark Review: Features, Pros & Cons, and Pricing

      A screenshot of Bark’s homepage showing a UX mockup of their product with alerts and content filters

      Bark is a parental control software with extensive monitoring features, screen time limits, location tracking, and safety alerts about dangerous or inappropriate searches or messages. 

      While Bark’s app is available for iPhones and Android smartphones, the company also offers a dedicated Bark Phone with built-in parental controls, as well as a home router to control internet access on your Wi-Fi network. 

      While it's a popular app, Bark has courted controversy, as many people worry about the invasive nature of its monitoring features. If parents check their kids' emails, texts, and social media messages, they could lose their children's trust. 

      Here are the pros and cons of Bark:

      Bark pros
      Bark cons
      Monitors interactions and reads text messages across 30+ social media platforms, including Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok, and Snapchat.
      Not all devices, apps (and web browsers) are monitored equally, which could lead to oversights.
      Sends real-time alerts and location check-ins.
      No uninstall protection, which means tech-savvy kids can disable or evade parental controls.
      Provides weekly reports on screen time and app use.
      Some users find the monitoring approach intrusive, which may cause tensions between kids and parents.
      Offers photo and video scanning, including screenshots and downloaded content.
      No geofencing or location history tracking.

      Now, let's take a closer look at some of Bark's key features:

      • Monitor texts, emails, social media messages, notes, and web searches. Bark uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to scan different forms of communication for any worrisome content or threats, including photos, videos, and even emojis. You’ll receive alerts if your kid encounters bullying, sexual content, scammers, or predators.
      • Set schedules for screen time. You can create custom daily schedules for each child or each device in your household. This flexibility lets you set different age-appropriate limits for teens and young children.
      • Location tracking. Bark sends automatic alerts whenever your child arrives or leaves frequently-visited spots — such as school, home, or a friend's house. If you have any concerns about your child’s whereabouts outside of school time, the check-in feature lets you request their exact location at the present moment.
      • Social media monitoring. With a view of over 30 platforms, Bark helps parents stay ahead of con artists and threat actors that prey on vulnerable young people on the internet.
      • The Bark Phone for Kids. Bark’s own branded Android phone makes it harder to evade parental controls, and ensures that kids only have access to appropriate apps and websites.

      What are Bark’s pricing and plan options?

      Bark offers four tiers, including the entry-level plan for kids. All plans include similar features, but the Premium app and phone allow for much greater control.

      Here’s a breakdown of Bark’s pricing as of April 2024:

      • Bark Home (router): Starts at $6/month
      • Bark Premium: Starts at $14/month
      • Bark Phone: Starts at $29/month
      • Bark JR: Starts at $5/month

      What are real customers saying about using Bark?

      Bark’s social media monitoring is among the best in the market, and the Bark Phone is a unique offering that is a great choice for young kids. On the other hand, there are some concerning reviews from customers on Trustpilot [*]: 

      • Hard to set up and rarely works properly. "I purchased and installed Bark parental controls for my pre-teen and have had nothing but issues with it. Half the time, the app fails to monitor and report, with zero tampering by my child."
      • Frustrating AI service. “Purchased Bark Home because I was told they would help me troubleshoot it if I had any issues installing with my router. It turned out that customer service meant AI emails and no real person to ever help. It was exasperating.”
      • Monitoring issues. “Their iOS monitoring is a joke as it requires the computer monitoring the device to be connected to the same wireless network for any of the features to work. Children can too easily circumvent monitoring by making minor changes to phone settings outside of Bark.”

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

      Why You Should Consider Aura as Your Family Safety App

      While Canopy and Bark are worth considering if you want basic parental controls, their shortcomings are hard to ignore. For parents who don’t want to compromise their children’s safety online, Aura offers a much more comprehensive level of protection.

      In addition to its award-winning parental controls, Aura is an all-in-one digital safety platform that protects your entire family, from kids to grandparents — even if they don’t live in the same household.

      While Aura is a relatively new player in the market, its modern take on family protection has won accolades from Mom’s Choice Awards, TechRadar, USNews.com, and more.

      Here are a few reasons to choose Aura:

      • Family-friendly monitoring and content filtering. Aura believes that parental controls shouldn’t be used to spy on children. Instead of tracking their every conversation, Aura lets you set guardrails to maintain your kids’ online safety.
      • Pause the Internet® whenever you need. You can eliminate the hassle of trying to get your kids to bed or put their devices away at the dinner table. With Aura’s Pause the Internet® feature, you can instantly switch off access across all devices, including your child’s iPad.
      • Safe Gaming features with cyberbullying warnings. Aura has 24/7 in-game voice and text monitoring for over 200 popular PC games, and sends alerts if it detects bullying or harassment.
      • Easier to use and harder to circumvent. The Aura app is user-friendly, with an intuitive interface that you can set up and adjust quickly. Also, Aura’s robust security features are difficult to bypass.
      • Digital security that shields against scams and fraud (for your whole family). Aura’s suite of safety features boasts advanced digital security tools, including antivirus software, a military-grade virtual private network (VPN), and an optional AI-powered spam call and text blocker.
      • Full-family identity theft and fraud protection. Unlike Bark or Canopy, Aura has a comprehensive family plan that protects everyone across 50 devices, even if they live in different households. You can get peace of mind knowing grandparents aren't vulnerable to phishing scams, and kids of all ages are safe from online predators.
      • Better support (that’s available when you need it). Aura makes it easy to get assistance with 24/7 U.S.-based customer support via phone, email, and live chat options.
      • Up to $5 million in insurance coverage. Aura’s family plans offer generous insurance coverage to protect against eligible losses due to identity theft — including stolen money, credit cards, and legal fees.
      💪 Get full family online safety — for free. Aura combines award-winning parental controls with online, identity, and fraud protection, along with access to 24/7 phone support and up to $5 million in identity theft insurance. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      The Bottom Line: Choose Aura for All-In-One Family Safety

      Bark and Canopy offer protection and insight into what your child is doing online, but at a cost — both have widely reported issues with functionality and customer service. Canopy is limited to protecting a small number of devices, while Bark remains a questionable choice that can potentially damage trust in families. 

      Aura provides the best choice to keep you and your entire family safe, offering comprehensive protection for kids — without the limitations of other apps. 

      Keep your whole family safe — for one low price. 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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