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Qustodio vs. Bark: How To Choose Which One Is Right For You

As two of the top parental controls options, Qustodio and Bark share many of the same features — but there are specific differences you should be aware of.

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

      Digital devices have become essential in our lives, but they come with dangers and risks — especially for our kids. According to a Pew Research Center survey, about 70% of all parents worry about their kids' exposure to explicit material as well as wasting time online [*].

      Along with inappropriate content and increased screen time, parents also need to worry about their kids coming in contact with online viruses, predators, and cyberbullies. 

      That's why many families use parental control apps to monitor their kids' device usage and online activities. Two of the most popular options in 2024 are Qustodio and Bark — but do they actually work? And are they right for your family?

      In this guide, we'll compare Qustodio and Bark, looking at each product’s features, costs, pros, cons, and how they measure up to other leaders in the field, like Aura. By the end, you'll be able to choose the best parental control app for your family. 


      How To Decide What Parental Controls App Is Right for You

      Parental control apps give parents control over how their children use their devices and access the internet. This includes blocking inappropriate content, setting device and app time limits, and monitoring communication. 

      Some services also include digital security tools to protect your family against hackers, scammers, predators, and other online threats. 

      When comparing your parental control options, look for the following critical features:

      • Content monitoring and filtering. Out of the box, parental control apps should block  adult and inappropriate content on your child’s devices. Many apps include pre-made age-related filters, as well as customization options.
      • Screen time limits and scheduling. Setting daily limits or only allowing internet access during specific times of the day encourages a healthier balance between screen time and family time, and helps your kids develop a routine along with time management skills. 
      • Online activity monitoring and reports. Keeping a close eye on your kids' online activity helps you understand their habits and spot issues as soon as they take place. However, beware of apps with invasive monitoring tools, which could damage your relationship with your children. 
      • Cyberbullying and predator protection. The internet can be dangerous and unhealthy for kids. Look for an app that monitors your child’s social media accounts or in-game chats to alert you to signs of cyberbullying or predatory behavior. 
      • Digital protection against online scams and viruses. Hackers and scammers can target children, tricking them into sharing information and clicking on malicious links. Get an app that defends against these risks with Safe Browsing tools, antivirus software, and family identity theft protection
      • Ease of use (for parents) and difficult to circumvent (for children). Parental controls don't need to be complex to be effective. Get an intuitive app that shields against the usual workarounds that kids might try, such as using a VPN or proxy to bypass controls. 
      • Device compatibility. The best parental control apps work with a variety of devices, operating systems, and browsers. Ensure that your app choice works with the devices you have around the house.
      • Location tracking. While not a necessary feature, parental control software can sometimes let you know your kids are safe even when they're not at home. Location tracking shows you where they are and sends you alerts when they leave safe areas. 

      Note: While parental controls can help keep your kids safe, many — including Bark and Qustodio — include monitoring features that go too far. Children crave independence, and tools that give parents access to their children’s emails and text messages can erode the trust you’ve worked so hard to build. 

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

      Aura’s Digital Talk website promoting a guide to navigating online safety with your kids
      Learn how to keep your kids safe online and navigate family online safety issues with The Digital Talk.

      Bark vs. Qustodio: What Parents Need To Know

      Qustodio and Bark offer many of the same parental control features, including web filtering, screen time management, social media monitoring, and tracking your child's location. Though they may seem minor, the differences between these services could help inform your decision.  

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

      • Qustodio offers call blocking, along with call and text monitoring — allowing parents to prevent incoming and outgoing calls on their child's phone.  
      • Bark provides artificial intelligence (AI)-powered monitoring and alerts, which notify parents of dangerous content or situations involving their children. 

      Here's how Qustodio and Bark compare head-to-head:

      Content filters
      Block apps and websites on your kids' devices. Receive alerts if they try to access blocked content.
      Bark's content, website, and app blocking features allow parents to control what their children have access to online, and when.
      Screen time limits
      Set time limits on your kids' devices and app usage. Create a custom schedule that includes downtime, and pause the internet whenever you wish.
      Input customized schedules to manage your children's device usage and the amount of time they're online. Reward your kids with free time blocks on the schedule.
      Message/email monitoring
      Know who your child calls and messages on various social media platforms. Plus, monitor their SMS text messages.
      On iOS devices and Android devices, you can monitor your kids' emails and text messages, knowing what they send and to whom they send it.
      Activity monitoring
      View your child's online activity at any point, and receive in-depth daily, weekly, or monthly activity reports.
      AI-powered monitoring tracks activity on over 30 popular apps and sites and alerts you to potential issues — including social media app monitoring and YouTube monitoring.
      Location tracking
      Track your children's locations on the map and see their location history. Set up geofencing to receive check-ins and alerts when they arrive at or leave a safe area.
      Check your children's real-time locations on the map. Receive alerts when they arrive at their destinations or when they manually check in.
      Digital security
      All online traffic goes through Qustodio's encrypted VPN, which allows you to monitor and control the activity.
      Bark sends all traffic through an encrypted VPN to allow parents the ability to manage their children's activity.

      The bottom line: Both Bark and Qustodio trade independence and trust for a heavy-handed approach to parental controls that gives you access to your child’s private messages and notes. While this may help you feel safer, it could push kids to find other, more dangerous ways to avoid being monitored.

      🥇 Don’t settle for second-best family safety. Aura provides more transparent parental controls, stronger protection, and better value than competitors like Bark and Qustodio. Try Aura free for 14 days and see why it’s been rated #1 by Mom’s Choice Awards, Forbes, and more.

      Qustodio Review: Features, Pros & Cons, and Pricing

      Qustodio’s homepage showing a mom looking over the shoulder of her child using a phone with product UX elements around her.

      Founded in 2012, Qustodio began as a Windows computer monitoring service. Since then, the company has grown their clientele to over six million users in 180 countries, and expanded service to include Macs, iPhones, Android phones, Chromebooks, and Amazon Kindles. 

      Qustodio pros
      Qustodio cons
      Works on a large number of devices.
      Expensive for a parental control app.
      Filters websites using 29 different categories and sends alerts if someone tries to bypass them.
      Only tracks social media usage on apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat, and TikTok — not content.
      Panic button feature allows kids to send immediate alert messages home.
      Relatively easy for kids to bypass when using a VPN or a proxy.
      Free account option lets parents test out the product before committing long term.
      Not all functionality and features are available on all devices and operating systems.

      Here are some of the key features included with Qustodio:

      • Safe search feature monitors online searches, and flags and filters inappropriate content 
      • Filter and block apps, games, and websites by using categories
      • Real-time monitoring of your child’s YouTube and web browsing history (Complete package only)
      • Alerts and reports about your child's web activity (some alerts only available with Complete package) 
      • Set custom internet schedules and time limits, and pause the internet when needed
      • Daily, weekly, and 30-day activity reports
      • Location monitoring and panic button
      • Call and text monitoring (Complete package only)

      What are Qustodio’s pricing and plan options?

      Qustodio offers a free version for a single device or a premium plan for multiple devices. In the premium version, users can choose between core protection and full customization. 

      Here’s a breakdown of Qustodio’s offerings and prices as of February 2024:

      • Free: No monthly fee for coverage on a single device
      • Basic: Starts at $54.95/year for coverage on five devices
      • Complete: Starts at $99.95/year for coverage on unlimited devices

      What are real customers saying about using Qustodio?

      While Qustodio makes bold claims about being an easy-to-use service, many customers on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and third-party review site Trustpilot have complained about its service and support. 

      Here’s what real customers are saying about using Qustodio:

      • Too easy to circumvent. “If your kid has any brains, they will figure out how to defeat this app. And if you have a customer service issue, there are zero links on their website.” [*]
      • Unresponsive support team. "I have had a subscription for over 3 years and have not been thrilled with the tech support as it's only available via email and takes quite a bit of time to get the issue resolved." [*]
      • Unreliable web filters. "It rarely works and I have deleted it and reinstalled several times. Lets her access sites she shouldn’t and never cuts off when she reaches her time limit." [*]
      • Difficulty canceling. "We tried to cancel our subscription and annual renewal before it came out of our account. However, this company has it intentionally set up so that you can't cancel the service. To make matters worse, they even charged our account a day early." [*]

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

      Bark Review: Features, Pros & Cons, and Pricing

      Bark’s homepage showing a smartphone with superimposed UX elements floating around it.

      Bark first launched in 2015 and has quickly become an industry leader in the parental control field. Bark offers a parental control app that's compatible with Android, Apple (iOS and MacOS), Chrome, and Amazon devices, plus a Bark Phone and a Bark Home router filter. 

      As of 2024, Bark claims to protect nearly seven million children, and boasts detecting nearly four million cyberbullying and two million self-harm incidents [*].

      Bark pros
      Bark cons
      Schedule free time online to reward your kids.
      Only real-time location tracking — no history.
      AI-powered scanning of over 30 apps and social media platforms to protect children.
      Bark only sends limited reports about online activity.
      Real-time alerts regarding cyberbullying, sexual content, and online predators.
      Not all devices have the same support and functionality.
      Uninstall protection available on iOS and Android.
      Only the Bark Phone allows for contact screening.

      Here are some of the key features included with Bark plans:

      • Monitor texts, emails, social media messages, notes, and web searches (Bark Premium only)
      • Receive cyberbullying and self-harm alerts (Bark Premium only)
      • Set schedules for screen time and different online/device rules, depending on the time of day
      • Choose what your kids have access to online by blocking specific apps
      • Monitor your children's locations, get regular updates, and receive check-ins

      What are Bark’s pricing and plan options?

      Bark offers a limited and premium version of its app — both options support unlimited devices. Bark also offers the Bark Phone with built-in parental controls, along with Bark Home which allows parents to manage content on every device connected to their Wi-Fi router.

      Here’s a breakdown of Bark’s offerings and prices as of February 2024:

      • Bark Jr: Starts at $5/month 
      • Bark Premium: Starts at $14/month
      • Bark Phone: Start at $29/month
      • Bark Home: Starts at $6/month

      What are real customers saying about using Bark?

      Bark has a more intuitive app, and fewer complaints are cited about customer service. However, many customers have said the product is hard to set up, doesn’t always work, and has questionable cancellation policies.

      Here’s a sampling of what some customers have said about using Bark:

      • Device 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.” [*]
      • Hard to cancel. "After a few months I decided I no longer needed the service and attempted to cancel my account. When I did so through Bark's online portal, I was told there would be no early termination fee since I was within my trial period. However, Bark continued to charge my debit card each month." [*]
      • Questionable repair fees. "I was billed $59 for repairs to a phone I returned in good condition. The phone had no broken or cracked screen and had the case on the entire time." [*]
      • Difficult to set up. "Got it yesterday and after spending 5 hours attempting to set it up and get her apps working I give up. Something like this should not be so complex for an adult with full access to the app." [*]

      💡 Related: Is Bark Worth It? What Parents Need To Know

      Why You Should Consider Aura as Your Family Safety App

      While Qustodio and Bark provide powerful parental controls, they can be overly intrusive. Plus, neither service addresses the real threats of viruses, scammers, and other online threats against your family.

      With Aura, you get equally effective parental controls as part of an all-in-one digital safety package that covers your kids, grandparents, and anyone else in your family.

      While a relative newcomer to the field, Aura has already received awards from Mom’s Choice Awards, Forbes, TechRadar, and more.

      Here’s why we think you should choose Aura over Bark or Qustodio:

      • 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 content filters and other guardrails to maintain your kids’ safety online.
      • Pause the internet® whenever you need. When you want your kids off the internet quickly, Aura's "Pause the internet" feature lets you shut down access immediately with the click of a button. You can also reward kids with bonus time for completing chores or finishing their homework early. 
      • Safe Gaming features. Aura offers instant alerts for any incidents regarding cyberbullying or online predators, plus in-game voice and chat monitoring on over 200 PC titles along with a weekly gaming report. 
      • Easier to use and harder to circumvent. Aura's user-friendly controls and dashboard make it easy to operate for parents. Bypassing Aura's controls is not so easy for kids, however, thanks to the ability to disallow VPNs and proxies, common methods for circumventing parental controls.  
      • Digital security and protection against scams and fraud (for your whole family). Unlike most parental control providers, Aura also offers advanced digital security features — including Safe Browsing tools, antivirus software, and AI-powered call and text blockers. 
      • Full-family identity theft and fraud protection. When you add children to your Aura plan, they enjoy the same identity theft protection that you do, including SSN monitoring and instant alerts if their information or passwords are leaked online.   
      • Better support (that’s available when you need it). If you need help, Aura’s U.S.-based customer support team is available via phone or chat. If you have identity theft issues, you can contact Aura's White Glove Fraud Resolution Specialists 24/7 for expert guidance during the recovery process.
      • Up to $5 million in insurance coverage. Every adult member on your Aura plan receives $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage — up to $5 million total coverage for families.
      💪 Try Aura for free – today.Sign up for Aura’s family safety app and get a 14-day free trial to see if it’s right for you.

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

      While most parents understand that the internet comes with risks, it may actually be worse than you think. According to a 2023 Microsoft survey, 74% of teens aged 13-17 reported an online risk in the past year [*].

      To protect the most vulnerable members of your family, you need more than just parental controls. 

      While Bark and Qustodio allow you to manage and monitor your children's online activities, these apps lack the digital security and identity monitoring tools that can keep your family safe. 

      This is where Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution shines. On top of its intuitive parental controls, Aura provides advanced but easy-to-use tools to keep your entire family safe — including Safe Browsing and gaming features, award-winning family identity theft protection, AI-powered spam blocking, and 24/7/365 support.

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