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Is Bark Worth It? What Parents Should Know Before Buying

Bark has been a leader in parental controls software for years — but many users complain about its functionality and how easy it is to circumvent.

Illustration of an iPad with the Bark logo on its screen

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      Is There a Better Parental Controls App Than Bark? 

      Many parents face a dilemma between keeping their families safe and being overly invasive in their kids’ digital lives. But with growing concerns that internet providers are not doing enough to protect children, more parents are turning to parental control apps like Bark. 

      According to the latest surveys [*]:

      In the past year alone, 82% of teens say they were exposed to sexual and mature content online — while 14% encountered an online predator.  

      Bark claims to give parents control and insight over how their children use the internet, and helps protect them from predators and other online threats. But how does it actually work? And is it really worth it? 

      In this Bark review, we’ll look at how its parental control app, phone, and router work, dig into its key features, and compare it to other comprehensive family safety options. 


      Bark Parental Control Review: How It Protects Your Family

      The homepage for Bark parental controls showing a mockup version of a smartphone showing Bark features including blocking websites and tracking location

      Bark is a parental control app that provides content filters, screen time limits, location tracking, safety alerts if your child is texting or searching dangerous topics, and more. Bark offers a stand-alone parental control app for iPhones and Androids, as well as its own Bark Phone and a router to control internet access on all devices in your home. 

      Yet, despite its noble intentions, Bark has found itself embroiled in controversy. 

      Many people have raised concerns about the overly invasive nature of Bark giving parents access to their children’s emails, texts, notes, and social media messages. Others have complained about poor customer service [*]. Most worryingly, the app's security measures appear easy to circumvent [*].

      Here are six of Bark’s main features:

      • Content monitoring and blocking. Bark allows you to choose what websites and apps are accessible on your child’s device. You can block specific apps (or adult and other inappropriate content) by using pre-built and customizable filters. 
      • Screen time limits. You can customize the settings of each device to restrict internet access to specific times. For example, you could block the internet during family dinners or shut it off at bedtime.
      • Location tracking. Bark offers two location features — check-ins and location alerts  — that let you know your child’s whereabouts, such as whether they’re visiting friends or coming home from school.
      • Social media and text message monitoring. When it comes to social media apps, Bark’s monitoring capabilities are more limited, as you can monitor direct messages but not the comments sections of public pages.
      • Risk and threat alerts. If the app detects potential issues like bullying, self-harm, or sexual predators in your child’s communications, Bark sends an alert to your device.
      • The Bark Jr Phone for kids. The Bark phone and home Wi-Fi router come pre-loaded with parental controls — making it easier to set limits and monitor your child’s activity. 

      It’s important to note that unlike Aura’s all-in-one family safety platform, Bark doesn’t include additional features or protection for the rest of your family, such as identity theft protection, credit monitoring, antivirus software, or a virtual private network (VPN).

      Instead, Bark is solely a parental controls provider that offers several options based on your specific needs and home tech setup. 

      Here’s an overview of Bark’s plans and pricing:

      Key features
      Bark Premium App
      Starts at $14/month
      The Bark app works on Apple and Android devices and includes:
      • Website & app blocking (including apps like WhatsApp)
      • Custom screen time schedules
      • Location check-ins & alerts
      • Text, app & social media monitoring
      • Alerts for potential dangers
      Bark Home
      Starts at $6/month
      Bark Home is an internet router that provides:
      • Website & app blocking on all devices connected to your home network
      • Custom screen time schedules
      Bark Phone
      Starts at $29/month
      Bark also offers a phone for kids that comes preloaded with parental control features, including:
      • Website & app blocking
      • Custom screen time schedules
      • Location check-ins & alerts
      • Text, app, and social media monitoring
      • Alerts for potential dangers
      • Texts can’t be deleted without permission
      • Remote alarms
      • App & contact approvals
      🥇 Don’t settle for second-best family safety. Aura’s all-in-one family safety app provides more transparent parental controls, stronger scam protection, and better value than Bark. Try Aura free for 14 days and see why it’s rated #1 by Mom’s Choice Awards, Forbes, and more.

      Who Can Benefit the Most From Using the Bark App?

      Using parental controls is a personal choice. While you may be anxious to protect your kids, child "spying" apps like Bark can sometimes do more harm than good by creating tension between you and your child. 

      However, an app like Bark may be right for your family in the following scenarios:

      • You want to be able to read all of your child’s texts and messages. Bark’s biggest selling point is also its most controversial feature. By giving parents access to their children’s private messages, Bark helps you highlight and deal with issues your kids might not want you to know about. But this invasion of privacy could be devastating for your relationship with your child. You should carefully consider the risk and decide whether the payoff is worth it.
      • You’re worried your child could be dealing with depression or bullying. Cyberbullying can be a frightening and complex issue for children and parents to navigate. Getting ahead of the issue is crucial to your child’s well-being. Bark can help you detect threatening or hurtful messages sent to your child, as well as language that suggests links to depression or suicide.
      • You already pay for a digital security app that protects the rest of your family. If you have an app that offers some cover — but not enough for your kids — Bark can plug the gaps. As a stand-alone parental controls app, Bark complements your other apps to give your family more robust protection.

      The bottom line: Bark makes strong claims about how it can protect your children against online threats and warn you about potentially harmful thoughts, ideation, and behavior. However, there are limitations that you should know about before signing up. 

      Next, we’ll dig into Bark’s main features, how they protect you and your family, and where (if at all) they fall short.

      Bark Features and Pros & Cons

      As a parental control app that specializes in social media, text, and search monitoring, Bark is available for iOS and Android devices. 

      Like any digital security tool, Bark has both pros and cons to consider:

      Bark pros
      Bark cons
      Monitors interactions and messages across 30+ social media apps, including WhatsApp, Netflix, TikTok, and Snapchat.
      Not all devices, apps (and web browsers) are monitored equally.
      Alerts are sent in real-time.
      No uninstall protection, which means tech-savvy kids have 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.

      Now, let’s take a closer look at each of Bark’s major features:

      Text message and social media monitoring

      Bark’s text message monitoring alerting a parent to cyberbullying messages being sent to their child
      Bark sends parents alerts about potentially harmful communications on their children’s devices. Source: Bark

      Bark gives parents full access to their children's phone messages and conversations as they interact with others online. While this feature aims to keep you informed and your child protected, many parents and children find it overly invasive.

      How Bark monitors your child’s messages:

      • Device-specific monitoring. Bark monitors texts, photos, videos, web browsing, and notes on both iOS and Android devices. Voice memo monitoring is available on iOS only. 
      • Email monitoring. Bark monitors your child’s email accounts for sent and received emails and image attachments through a web browser like Chrome (or native app).
      • App monitoring. Bark also scans your child's online activities in 30+ apps and social media platforms — including Snapchat and TikTok, through the app store.

      What real customers are saying: While Bark shares success stories of parents who were able to successfully monitor their children and help intercept issues, third-party review site Trustpilot tells a different story. Many customers complain that Bark’s monitoring and controls are difficult to set up and easily circumvented by children [*].

      AI-powered safety alerts

      It may seem impossible to always see what your kids are doing online as they set up profiles and use various apps on smartphones, tablets, and computers. Bark uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to scan videos, texts, photos, DMs, and even emojis for threats like cyberbullying and pornography. 

      How Bark provides AI-powered safety alerts:

      • In-depth coverage of 30+ apps and platforms. Bark uses machine learning algorithms to scan conversations on the most common services — from social media accounts to gaming apps. It can analyze communication patterns and identify potential risks, including sex, profanity, drugs, and self-harm. 
      • Real-time alerts for peace of mind. When potential risks are identified, Bark alerts you through email, text, and push notifications.
      • Emergency support. If your child contacts emergency services on their Bark Phone (or any Android device with the Bark for Kids app), you receive an instant notification.

      What real customers are saying: The level of coverage from Bark is fantastic for parents who want to protect their children. However, many users — including teens — have complained about the invasion of their privacy. Several reviews assert that Bark is ruining the trust in their family [*]. 

      💡 Related: The Effects of Cyberbullying (and How To Protect Your Child)

      Screen time limits and schedule

      Bark’s child phone schedule feature showing that internet access is cut off on their child’s phone during school hours
      Bark allows parents to set screen time schedules for their children. Source: Bark

      Addiction to smartphones and online gaming poses risks to your child's physical and mental health. Without boundaries, young kids' online habits could negatively impact their relationships, schoolwork, and sleeping patterns. 

      Unsurprisingly, 72% of parents with children aged 5 to 11 use parental controls to restrict how much their child uses screens [*]. 

      Screen time management works by applying different web and app filtering rules to different times of the day. This lets you determine which apps and websites your child should be allowed access to during school hours, bedtime, and free time. 

      How Bark offers screen time management:

      • Set screen time rules. Bark's screen time feature allows you to set specific rules that align with your child's routine and preferences. 
      • Customized usage for each child. Bark allows you to create screen time rules for each of your children, so you can balance their internet use depending on their ages and maturity levels.
      • Set app limits. With Bark, you’re in control of the app limits on your child’s device, allowing you to specify limits to specific apps, games, and sites.

      What real customers are saying: Glitches in the software mean the time limit system on Bark may be unreliable. One user reported that her son’s time limit for the day ran out in the morning because he was up texting all night — even though she had set parental controls to stop overnight usage [*]. 

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

      Content filtering

      Parents can use content filters to restrict their children's access to inappropriate or explicit content, applications, and websites. 

      With Bark’s customizable settings, you can adjust the content filters for each smartphone or tablet according to your child’s age. Ultimately, this feature gives you the power to create a secure digital environment tailored to your child’s needs. 

      How Bark helps you filter content:

      • Web and app filtering. Bark lets you filter websites and apps, blocking access to specific sites (or entire categories). For example, you could block gambling platforms and gaming apps that aren't appropriate for younger children.
      • Protects against adult content. The average age at which most kids see pornography is 12 years old [*]. You can protect young minds from seeing anything inappropriate by using content filters — and receive alerts if your children attempt to visit blocked sites.
      • Restrict chat access. Threats like cyberbullying, scammers, and online predators prey on vulnerable kids in the chatrooms of social media and gaming platforms. Bark lets you block access to sites like Discord, ensuring that your kids don’t end up in conversation with nefarious individuals. 

      What real customers are saying: Parents on Apple Reviews remark that Bark is good for ensuring that your children can browse safely. With these filters, you’ll get peace of mind knowing your kids are less likely to view harmful or upsetting content [*]. 

      💡 Related: How Do Parental Controls Work?

      Location tracking

      In March 2023, an 11-year-old girl was abducted by a man at a gas station in Youngwood, Pennsylvania. Thankfully, police were able to track the girl’s geolocation on her iPad and rescue her from the predator [*].

      For parents, a missing child is their worst nightmare. Bark helps you keep tabs on your kids’ whereabouts — whether it’s a teen visiting friends on the weekend or a middle schooler on the commute home. 

      How Bark uses location tracking:

      • Real-time location monitoring. Bark’s location feature offers real-time tracking on a map, allowing you to stay informed about your child’s movements.
      • Location alerts and check-ins. You can receive notifications about your child's routine with automatic alerts whenever your child arrives or leaves frequently-visited spots — like school, home, or a friend's house. You can also use the check-in feature to request that your kids share their exact locations to your phone.
      • Adjustable radius for optimal alerts. This feature allows you to set a customizable radius, notifying you if your child leaves a certain area (such as a school campus or town boundary lines).

      What real customers are saying: There have been some reports of issues with the geo-tracking feature, with one unhappy customer claiming that Bark representatives even told him that the feature isn’t important [*]. 

      What Are the Downsides of Using Bark?

      Despite its reputation as a leader in dedicated parental control apps, Bark has some significant shortcomings. Before you decide, consider these downsides:

      • Overly invasive. The monitoring measures of a tool like Bark can be seen as excessively intrusive. While younger kids may not feel intruded upon, teenagers likely will — which could cause conflicts or a breakdown of their trust in you.
      • A difficult setup process. Although Bark’s website is user-friendly and simple to navigate, some parents find the actual app’s setup tricky to complete [*]. 
      • Easier to circumvent than other options. If your kids are tech-savvy, Bark may not be the best option. Curious or rebellious children can easily find ways around Bark's restrictions to visit forbidden sites and apps. One user reported that kids can simply delete the app [*].
      • No protection against online scams, hacking, and fraud. Nearly one million children had their identities stolen in 2023, with total losses of over $688 million [*]. Unlike Aura, Bark doesn’t include a Social Security number (SSN) monitoring service or digital security tools — such as antivirus software, a virtual private network (VPN), or password manager. 
      • Poor support. Many parents become frustrated when they want to solve issues or get the most value from the app. Some have pointed out a lack of phone support [*]. 

      With these issues in mind, you have to ask: Is Bark worth it?

      Why You Should Consider Aura as a Bark Alternative

      Although Bark is a solid tool, it doesn't provide the comprehensive protection your family needs. When you consider the cost of Bark, the pros may not outweigh the cons. 

      While Aura is a relatively new family safety platform, it has already earned accolades from Mom’s Choice Awards, TechRadar, and 

      Aura’s all-in-one solution includes powerful parental controls, Safe Gaming tools powered by Kidas, as well as full-family safety features — including family identity theft protection, AI-powered scam detection, digital security, U.S.-based 24/7 customer support, and up to $5 million in identity theft insurance. 

      Let’s compare the key features of Aura and Bark:

      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 — including the Pause the Internet® feature, which allows you to shut off all internet connectivity across your 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.
      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
      Comprehensive digital security for all of your family's data and up to 50 devices — including a secure password manager, military-grade VPN, antivirus software, AI-powered spam and scam call and text protection, and 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 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 — phone number, email address, 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.
      Free trial
      14-day free trial and a 60-day money-back guarantee.
      7-day free version.
      Starts at $20/month using this exclusive discount link.
      $14 – $49/month.

      To understand why Aura is a better choice than Bark, let’s take a closer look at Aura’s key features:

      • 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, you can set guardrails to maintain your kids’ safety online.
      • Pause the internet whenever you want. Forget repeatedly asking 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 device access for dinner, family events, or bedtime.
      • Safe Gaming features. Aura’s cyberbullying alerts — plus 24/7 in-game voice and text monitoring for over 200 popular PC games — make it easier to track threatening conversations and proactively combat bullies.
      • Harder to circumvent. Aura has tighter security protocols than Bark to prevent kids from evading the controls. Parents can also prevent kids from deleting the parental controls app.
      • Digital security and protection against scams and fraud. Aura includes antivirus software, Safe Browsing tools, and an AI-powered spam call and text blocker.
      • Full-family identity theft and fraud protection. The comprehensive family plan goes far beyond parental controls by offering child identity theft monitoring, credit monitoring, identity theft insurance, and more. 
      • Better support (that’s available when you need it). Aura is well known for its exceptional customer service, with 24/7 phone support, email, and live chat options.
      • Up to $5 million in insurance coverage. More comprehensive family protection with more insurance coverage — including stolen fund reimbursement and coverage of relevant legal fees and expenses.

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

      The Bottom Line: There Are Better Options Than Bark

      Using parental controls is a personal choice. Unfortunately, apps like Bark can sometimes do more harm than good by damaging your relationship with your child.

      If you choose Bark, you'll have to deal with the tricky setup and poor customer support. And you'll still have no protection against online scams, hacking, and fraud. 

      With Aura, robust parental controls and Safe Gaming features are only the start. Every plan also includes award-winning family identity theft and credit protection, SSN monitoring, and AI-powered digital security tools to keep your entire family safe online. 

      And if the worst should happen, Aura provides up to $5 million in insurance coverage for eligible losses due to identity theft and fraud, along with outstanding 24/7 support.

      Keep your entire family safe — for one low price. Try Aura free for 14 days.
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