Bark- Keeping Children Safer Online (while not infringing on their privacy)

Bullying is no longer confined to the school yard, it now follows kids onto the bus, into their homes, up to their rooms, and is occurring 24/7.  There isn’t a safe place for those who are cyberbullied, and it isn’t about being picked last in kickball.  “Go kill yourself”, “everyone hates you”, “you’re fat and ugly”…those are just a few examples of what is being sent via text, snap, private message or tweet.  It is real.  In fact, according to the CDC, the second leading cause of death among 10-34 year olds is suicide.

So what do we do? Stopbullying.gov says parents must be hyper aware of their children’s internet activity.  They suggest checking in on frequented website, texts, knowing passwords, “friending” your kid, and encouraging your child to tell you when there is bullying.  Easier said than done? Agreed.

We have good news. Bark, a Village startup, is tackling these online issues. Their technology alerts parents of potential problems instead of having to search for them such as cyberbullying, sexting, drug-related content, and signs of depression.  It allows for children to maintain autonomy while putting parents to ease.  In fact, according to Bark, most kids are receptive to the app because it means mom and dad aren’t constantly asking to look through their phone.  With 84% of children experiencing online issues, Bark is an easy way to tackle this horrific epidemic.

We chatted with Bark CPO, Titania Jordan, to learn more.

First off, why do you call the Village Bark’s home?

The Atlanta Tech Village is A W E S O M E in every sense of the term — physical space, location, resources, events, members, and of course, team. Since our team commutes from Vinings, Brookhaven, Dunwoody, and Buckhead, it’s the perfect place to meet from a location standpoint. As the 4th largest tech entrepreneurial hub in the nation (cough *NBD* cough), we felt it was the perfect place to interact with innovators and investors alike. Plus, the coffee is off-the-chain.

Who came up with the idea of Bark and why?

CEO Brian Bason, who had just sold his startup Niche to Twitter, saw how his sons were interacting with technology and knew there had to be a better way to keep them safer online (while not infringing on their privacy or taking all of his time). One didn’t exist, so he created Bark. Children today are spending upwards of 8 HOURS a day online. The likelihood for them to come across something inappropriate or dangerous is high, and the options for parents to keep tabs on it all are limited.

Are there any personal ties or stories that help fuel this idea?

We as a team of parents at Bark have a personal mission to create technology that keeps our children, and therefore your children, safer online. Collectively our children have encountered cyberbullying, and worse, and given our backgrounds in AI, data science, social media, machine learning, engineering, law, and design, we couldn’t not band together to build the next big thing that has a social impact.

Statistically, has Bark proved to prevent bullying/sexting/suicide?

Absolutely. 54% of children on Bark experience at least one issue per month, and 80% of the time, their parents had no idea there was even a problem until Bark’s alerts brought it to their attention. Since launch, Bark has helped to prevent at least 25 suicides, and we know this because parents have written in to tell us so.

Are there a personal stories of a “success” you could share?

Our Bark Family (we call our users “family”) is so amazing, and we are happy to share some of their testimonials with you.

“Bark notified me that my young daughter had unknowingly revealed her phone number to strangers on Twitter. The fact that Bark notified me in real time was impressive and led to an informative discussion with her the same day.” -Jon B., New York, NY

“Bark actually notified us of serious suicidal thoughts and our son just completed a two week stint in the hospital where he received treatment and was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Thanks to the app we were notified. We are very appreciative.” ~Michael, location withheld

“…Your service very possibly saved the life of our son and one or more friends who were engaging in very risky behavior. Bark identified the risky behavior based upon photographs and videos they uploaded to Snapchat. We were able to intervene immediately, because we have absolute proof they could not deny. We were those parents who never would have or could have believed our star athlete student could possibly be involved in such behavior. Bark provided proof, which allowed us to admit him into a residential treatment program. Bark provides a very valuable service to parents and other parents need to know.” ~Bark Parent who wanted to remain anonymous

Bark. For $9/month, you can rest easier about what goes on behind the screen of your child’s internet activity.  If you are like us, that is a priceless thing.  

 

This post was written by Kelly Anne O’Neill, Community Development Manager at Atlanta Tech Village.