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Bark helps parents monitor kids' online activity but preserve some privacy

Protecting kids in the digital age
Bark execs on protecting your kids in the digital age 04:33

A service called Bark is trying to help parents navigate the digital world, analyzing their children’s social media activity and text messages for signs of cyberbullying, sexting, depression and suicide.

But the company works to maintain the children’s trust and privacy by walking a “balanced line.”

  Bark CEO Brian Bason and Chief Parent Officer Titania Jordan  CBS News

“Our goal is actually to give the child more privacy, and the way we do that is by not giving parents full, unfettered access to all of their children’s messages,” Bark CEO Brian Bason said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.”

Bark, named after man’s best friend, alerts parents if anything suspicious is found.

“We show them everything that’s potentially problematic,” Basin said. “And our view there is that we want to correlate responsible usage and when everything is going well with increased privacy for the child.”

The program recognizes a growing list of text slang.

“One of the most concerning ones is KMS or KYS. It stands for kill myself, kill yourself,” Bark Chief Parent Officer Titania Jordan said. “If your child is sending or receiving a message like that, you need to know and step in.” Jordan said this year alone, they’ve been able to help more than 15 families address issues and potentially save a life.

According to a recent study by CSCW, Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, 28 percent of teens tell their parents when an online situation bothers them. But some kids who want parents to be involved worry that adults will overreact to any problems.

“Our best advice for parents is be as nonjudgmental and non-lecture-y as possible,” Jordan said, adding, “Please, please do not freak out. Because again, keeping an open and honest line of communication with them because it is an ongoing issue, will help to thwart it.”

Bason said Bark uses a machine learning-based algorithm to detect the issues. “The advantage of that is it uses context, so even if text slang changes or things change, we’re able to understand that based on the context of the conversation,” he explained.

Jordan recommends parents sign up for Bark “the second your child can access the internet.” The service costs $9 per month, or $99 per year, and supports both Apple and Android products. 

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