Almost exactly three years ago I told you about Bark parental controls, a service that helps parents keep their children safer online (Online Kids Need a Guard Dog With a Big Bark, GeekDad, December 22, 2019) and I have been a user and fan of the system ever since. Now, Bark has stepped into the device arena with the Bark Phone – with all the existing features of Bark plus new and more powerful tools that make the phone my choice for the best device for kids to have in an effort to keep them safe online.
I have been lucky enough to test the new device, which is expected to be in customers’ hands in time for the holidays (of course, all opinions are my own). I am not the only one to be excited about the Bark Phone — even Drew Barrymore is excited to try it with her own kids…
Bark has added many features since our earlier post and with the creation of the Bark Phone, providing an even more robust set of tools for parents to help with this facet of raising children in today’s very digital age. As I said before “As parents and caregivers, this makes it our job to guide children and give them best practices—whether they like it or not.”
Bark is Pretty Special with any Phone
First, remember that all the safety that Bark has been providing for kids with Android devices of their own is ready to be used with the Bark Phone as soon as it comes from the box… including:
- Monitoring texts, apps, social media, and web searches – parents get alerts for digital dangers in your child’s online activities thanks to Bark’s natural-language algorithm.
- Blocking websites and apps – parents get to choose what sites and apps are allowed to be accessed by their children.
- Setting app time limits – set healthy schedules for when (or if) your child can use specific sites and apps.
- Remotely locking the phone – parents can block access to apps and messaging from the parent app whenever a break is needed
- Receiving alerts for dangers – text and/or push notifications for issues like bullying, online predators, sexual content, and suicidal ideation.
- Compatibility with whatever device the parent has – regardless of whether a parent has an iPhone or an Android, they will be able to manage the Bark Phone with no issues.
Why Is the Bark Phone Even More Special Than Bark Alone?
The Bark Phone comes with exclusive features that just are not possible with the existing Bark program. The Bark Kid’s Phone allows parents to have a level of involvement with their children’s online experience that has never been seen before.
- The native controls on the Bark Phone are tamper-proof – parents will have the peace of mind that the rules they set stay in place. Bark can’t be deleted, even if the device is factory reset.
- Parents can discuss which apps their children can use, and then approve installation of only the apps they wish.
- Kids are protected by using the Bark Phone’s tools to block spam and strangers from communicating through the device.
- This is a huge one: kids cannot delete texts. There is simply no option for kids to erase messages they send or receive.
Kids will love the Bark Phone because it is a regular Samsung A13 and has all the features that come with that device, which was only released earlier this year — no outdated phones for our kids. No one can tell because there is no Bark branding, logos or obvious banners – all the parent controls are inside.
As a parent, each one of my kids begged for a phone when all their friends had one. For one it was at age 10, another age 12. The Bark Phone takes away the worry if they are too young or too old as it can grow with your child as they mature. You can keep the phone locked down with as little functionality as a flip phone for younger children and add in additional freedoms, functionality, and apps as they get older… and scale back anytime boundaries are needed.
So, What’s This Going to Run Me?
I especially like that there are no contracts with the Bark Phone but still lots of flexibility with three data plans to work with your family’s needs:
- $49/month for unlimited talk, text, and Wi-Fi only (no cellular data)
- $59/month for unlimited talk, text, and 4GB data
- $69/month for unlimited talk, text, and 8GB data
Want more? You get more… a family’s phone plan comes with a Bark Premium subscription and will cover all the other kids in the family, including unlimited devices, and unlimited accounts. If you are already a Bark family don’t worry, the company is working with existing customers who want to add a Bark Phone.
Bringing It All Together (Again)
In closing, I would like to update a bit from the conclusion of the post from three years ago:
The idea of involving the adults in the process, rather than simply blocking content or “just take away the phone”, is worth commenting on. Creating a dialog with children about their online habits and behaviors has become a necessity. I believe that having this conversation with kids as a part of a new phone, especially if they are just dipping their toes into the online world, is vital. There has never before been a time when content of every possible topic was readily available, and we as caregivers must make our very best efforts to guide children on how to deal with what they see and who they interact with. Just as you cannot prevent your children from ever being on the highway with bad drivers, you can give them the skills and tools they can use to be the best traveler they can be.
Furthermore, because Bark only notifies adults when there is a potential issue of concern, parents and caregivers can respect the child’s privacy while saving time that would be spent manually monitoring online activities. Bark also helps parents and caregivers understand how and why they can protect their children with insights related to every alert.
Monitoring kids’ activities doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive, but it’s an important part of raising today’s children and Bark can provide a tool to do just that. The Bark Phone can provide parents (including myself) a sense of peace and security knowing their kids are protected better than we can do alone and the resources to help speak with the kids (both to prepare them for the online world and when that world gets scary), all while giving the kids the smartphone they want and the ability to grow into the safe, responsible people we want them to be.