Online usage, social media, monitoring devices, finding the best parental control app for iPhone or Android devices —these are not easy topics to discuss, but they are too important to ignore. Today, I’m partnering with Bark (I’ve been using Bark for years) to share the best parental control tools to keep our kids safe.
Since technology is constantly changing, there will often be times when you feel like you have no idea what your kids are doing on their phones with no idea of how to find out.
As a mom of four kids (of various ages), a teacher, and a therapist, I’ve spent a lot of time researching children & teens’ electronic usage to find the best way to monitor our kids’ devices to keep them safe. I’ve invested in the best parental control app for iPhones, Androids, tablets, iPods, etc., to set screen time limits, add web filters, block adult websites, adjust privacy settings, and more.
Parenting in the Digital Era is Hard
We grew up playing outside, hanging out at the mall, passing notes that we had folded enough times that it quickly passed from hand to hand without anyone seeing it, rollerskating, and hanging out at the movies.
The most tech-savvy thing I did was to create mixed-tapes with my favorite songs or rent VHS movies from my local movie store (and you were lucky to find the one that you wanted on the shelf).
On the other hand, our kids have grown up with screens, devices, and instant access to almost any movies, apps, or games that their hearts desire. They can text, message, and call their friends anytime, anywhere.
It’s no wonder parents feel lost – like they have no idea what their kids are doing on their phones and devices.
It is overwhelming.
Yet however overwhelming it may be, we can’t just look the other way. Between keeping our kids safe from cyber-bullying, pornography, predators, and declines in children’s mental & physical health (including negative body image), we have plenty of reasons to be aware of what they are doing online.
SIX Ways We Monitor Screens to Keep our Kids Safe
The online world is ever-changing, and it is like a constant learning curve. New social media apps are added, others become ‘outdated,’ emojis stop meaning one thing & start meaning something entirely different, ‘text slang‘ words are invented. All the while, the ways we protect our kids online (from predators and from seeing things that we don’t want them to see for many years) become harder and harder.
We’re all just trying to find the balance between keeping our safe online and giving them the privacy they seek.
1). BE UPFRONT, HONEST, & INTENTIONAL IN SETTING BOUNDARIES.
It is crucial to set boundaries with children. They respect boundaries, and they thrive within them. With that being said, remember that the way that you go about setting the boundaries will make a big difference to your child.
Be upfront with your kids. Explain that they will have rules, you will be monitoring their devices, and you will be setting up screen restrictions.
“Discuss what you’ll be watching and why. It’s not that you care to know about every single conversation that takes place between them and their peers, and it’s not that you don’t trust them. What it is, however, is a way to keep them safe and ensure they don’t encounter situations that can harm them or their futures. Emphasize the use of monitoring as a form of protection, not as a way to restrict their freedom or try to catch them doing something “bad.” – Bark
ASK THEIR OPINION
Talk to them about which apps they want. (If they are going to ask for Social Media apps, learn about them before downloading them.)
Ask them how long they think they will be spending on their phones.
Example: What time do they think is a good time to turn it in for the night? What are the school night rules vs. weekend rules?
Talk about all of these issues with them before they get their phones (but it’s never too late to start on these things), giving your own opinion. In the end, take all of these things into consideration before deciding on your own rules.
TALK ABOUT AGE LIMITS FOR SOCIAL MEDIA
Have discussions about social media (Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, etc.). Use these discussions to set boundaries for their online usage, like deciding how old they have to have an account or how many hours per day or week they can be on those platforms.
In our family, we don’t let our kids have social media before a certain age (we set it at 15 ½). This age will be different for each family and maybe even for each family member, depending on their maturity level. Do what you think is best.
SET THE FINAL BOUNDARIES
You will, of course, get the final say, but I do believe that talking about your expectations and working on boundaries together will bring you the best outcome. Kids are more likely to respect the rules when they have a part in coming up with them, and it’s the same reason that allowing them to help you decide on consequences works so much better than yelling, etc.
CREATE A TECH CONTRACT
Create a tech contract to use with your kids. This agreement can outline expectations for online behavior, including:
- When they can use their phone
- What apps they can use
- How they should act while online
- What the consequences are for violations
2). USE THE BEST PARENTAL CONTROL APP FOR iPhone or Device.
As parents, it is our job to keep our kids safe. It’s up to us to monitor what they see, do, who they talk to, etc. By using a parental control app, I don’t have to check every text, post, or email, and I don’t have to spend hours checking their browsing history.
I can give them a little more privacy because I know that I have the best parental control app with Bark Parental Controls that helps keep our kids safe while alerting me of any issues.
HOW TO PUT PARENTAL CONTROLS ON iPHONE OR ANDROID:
I use Bark Parental Controls on every device in our house. I’ve been using the Bark App for about five years. Bark is a Parental Control App that monitors & filters content, and it’s the most efficient (and easiest) way to monitor our kids’ electronic usage.
I tried several others in the past, and I can say hands down that Bark is the best parental control app for iPhone (iPad/iPod) or Android devices. It’s inexpensive, easy to install, easy to set up, and they have excellent customer service if you run into any issues.
Bark is easy to use, and it is efficient. It connects to 30+ platforms to monitor our kids’ online usage, text message, apps, social media accounts, emails, web content, browsers, and more to watch for signs of harmful interactions and content. It gives me peace of mind to know that it is a better and more effective way to keep our children safe online – parents created it for parents.
Bark also gives me the ability to manage which sites they can or cannot visit (like adult websites), which apps they can download without my permission (if any), and when they can access the internet throughout the day.
BLOCK INAPPROPRIATE WEBSITES & CONTENT
We often talk to our kids about only safety, and how anything you send to anyone (including a friend) can be sent to everyone. Nothing is ever really “deleted.”
Our conversations around what is or isn’t appropriate online are ongoing. We talk about everything from what can come from online gossip to the dangers of drugs, pornography, and preditors.
They know that I am doing my part to keep them safe from these things. With Bark, I am able to block specific websites or entire categories like streaming services, online gaming, sexual content, and more.
Bark’s new location sharing feature allows parents to keep an eye on their on-the-go kids. You won’t need to open a map app to see where your child is — Bark’s family location sharing app will automatically alert you when they arrive at or leave a location you’ve set.
It’s a great way to give your tween or teen a little more independence. You trust that they are where they say they are and you won’t have to keep checking – you will get an alert when they arrive or depart from the designated area.
DON’T HIDE IT FROM YOUR KIDS.
Be open with your children about why you are monitoring their device. Talk about how and why you picked Bark as the best parental control app for iphone & other devices— you are using Bark because it keeps you informed if there is an issue, like Cyberbulling or if a friend is sending inappropriate pictures or messages, without the parent needing to read every text, email, or social media message.
HOW BARK WORKS & HOW TO GET STARTED:
1- I went online to Bark’s Website and signed up for an account. This takes less than five minutes.
2- I went through the steps of connecting our kids’ apps, phones, emails, etc. to my Bark Account.
3- I set up their restrictions (what I allowed them to see or not see, etc.) by following the steps on Bark.
4- It’s all set. If there is a potential issue that I need to know about, I get an alert. It includes everything from cyberbullying, sexting, online predators, depression, suicidal thoughts, threats of violence, and more.
5- When I check the alert, I can go in and see what the issue is. Here’s an example from Bark’s website:
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THEIR PHONE?
After Bark is installed, I no longer have to “dig” into their phones because Bark is always watching. Even deleted messages and pictures have been monitored, so I can have peace of mind.
If something alarming, scary, or inappropriate is on my child’s phone, Bark notifies me. This is just another reason why I consider Bark to be the best parental control app for iPhone, Android, and other devices.
3). LEARN HOW TO SET PARENTAL CONTROLS ON iPhone
Learning how to set up parental controls on an iPhone, tablet, or Android is essential to keeping your children safe. Not only am I protecting our kids from content, but I am protecting them from becoming addicted to their phones. I want our children to have full, balanced lives.
If overused, screens can feel like they are taking over the house, taking over your child’s time, and even taking away your child’s interest in other things. You can help to control this by setting SCREEN TIME.
While I use Bark because it’s the best parental control app for iphone devices, as it monitors their phones (and tablets) and alerts me of any issues, I also use Apple Screen Time. It is free, and it comes built-into iPhones, iPods, or iPads, and it is used to set restrictions.
I consider it to be an extra layer of protection. Apple’s built in ‘Screen Time’ lets me block the phone during downtime, lock or limit certain apps and features, restrict explicit content, and prevent purchases and downloads on your child’s device.
To set up Apple Screen Time
- Go to Settings
- Tap Screen Time.
- Tap “Turn on Screen Time” (and follow the steps, hitting “Continue” as you go).
- Go to the bottom of that screen. If you see the option to “Use Screen Time Passcode,” Tap It. Enter a secret 4-digit code that your child will not guess.
- DOWNTIME: With Screen Time, you can set screen time limits.
- Enable Downtime to set times when your child can not be on their phones (I set this to “block device at downtime”), so they are not tempted to get online at midnight on a school night.
- APP LIMITS: Set time limits per app. Be sure to hit “Block”
- Example: Maybe your child is on TikTok for several hours each day – you can set it to be 30 minutes on school nights and longer on weekends.
- COMMUNICATION LIMITS: I use this to block who they can talk to after “downtime” (bedtime). Our children’s devices are set to only communicate with myself or my husband.
- ALWAYS ALLOWED: Which apps are permitted after downtime (bedtime)? I set it to only be educational apps. If they want to read or practice math at bedtime – so be it. 😉
- CONTENT & PRIVACY RESTRICTIONS: Set Content Restrictions to block inappropriate content. By enabling Content Restrictions you can restrict explicit content and adult websites, restrict Siri, or disable specific apps. I also use the “iTunes & App Store Purchases” area here to “Always Require” the password to Install Apps or make an In-App Purchase.
HOW TO TURN OFF PARENTAL CONTROLS
I want to remind you that encouraging your child to come to you is important. They can come to you with concerns, questions, or anything else. Our kids know that I will always listen to reason and try to see things from their side before making a decision.
They trust that I will not react or judge too quickly.
I am not set in stone on my restrictions. As our kids become older and I’ve seen how they handle their time online, I don’t mind giving them more time and more responsibility.
Example: Our kids know that if they want more screen time or want to use their phones past the set “bedtime,” etc., they can ask. I can add an extra hour or turn off that restriction completely.
So- If they are going to a sleepover and ask for extra screen time, I can ease the parental controls for the evening. The following day, I can just set it back up the way it was before the sleepover. The flexibility of Bark is another reason that I picked it as the best parental control app for iphone, Androids, and other devices.
4). KEEP PASSWORDS PRIVATE
Another rule in our house is that only the parents know the passwords, but the kids do not.
I have the password to the App store. They cannot download an App without my permission since I have to input the password.
NOTE: If your child has an iPhone, be sure to take off the ability to download an App with their Face ID or Finger ID. Instead, make sure that the password has been entered. Otherwise, they can download an App without the password.
I also have their email passwords. I set up their email accounts for them and I keep the password. I log them in on their devices, so they don’t need the password.
Lastly, I set and keep the passwords for their social media accounts. This is just a layer of protection that holds our kids accountable. They know that I won’t have to check it unless they have given me a reason. They also know that it will be very easy for me to get into the app if I have a reason.
5). Don’t Lose the Connection with Your Child
Don’t lose the connection with your child, but instead, learn how to use this tool to bring you & your child closer than ever before. I’ll talk about how it gives us opportunities to have conversations; it lets me know more about them & what they are doing so we can have conversations around those things, etc.
“Early detection is key for keeping things from quickly getting out of hand.” This is just one of the reasons that we consider Bark to be the best parental control app for iphone, tablets, and other devices. It gives me insider knowledge – it is designed to help parents better understand and oversee their kids’ online activity through sentiment analysis, screen time management, and more.
Bark alerts parents of bullying, signs of depression, self-harm, and more. According to Bark’s 2021 annual report, 85% of teens experienced bullying either as a bully, victim, or witness.
“Teens and tweens may not come out and tell you, but there is a lot they want you to know about their lives. Yes, sometimes adolescents have surly attitudes. Kids often target their parents with their negative emotions because they know they can trust that their parents love them unconditionally and are not going anywhere.”
6). MONITOR THE SMART TVs and GAMING SYSTEMS IN YOUR HOUSE.
We recently set up Bark Home in our house. Not only do they make the best parental control app for iphones, but now they have Bark Home. This means that in addition to monitoring their handheld devices, we can now monitor what they are watching on TV, which games they are playing on the XBox, etc.
Bark Home is a small box that plugs into your home Wi-Fi router.
Consider all of the screens your kids interact with on a daily basis — Netflix on the living room TV, Fortnite on the PlayStation, Spotify on the family iPad. Bark Home will enable you to manage how and when your kids use these devices — and more.
It gives us the ability to pause the internet whenever we need to, turn off internet access for any (or all) devices, manage screen time, and filter websites on all internet-connected devices in your home.
LET THEM COME TO YOU.
We have another rule in our house: OUR CHILDREN WILL NEVER BE IN TROUBLE IF THEY COME TO US.
If someone sends something to them that is wrong or inappropriate, they will not get into trouble for it. I simply ask that they come to me so I can help them or talk to them about it.
Our children know that if they are honest (about anything—including their own mistakes), they will not get into trouble. We will talk about it and we may continue to have open conversations about it, but they will not be punished.
I want them to know that doing the right thing is always the right decision. I don’t want them to only do the right thing out of fear – I want them to do the right thing because it is the right thing.
Lastly, be sure to praise your children for being honest, responsible, and making good choices.
There is so much more than I could talk about, but I’ll save it for another post. In the meantime – check out this technology rule that we don’t let our kids break.
FAQ & Helpful Resources:
- What does the Bark App monitor?
Bark monitors text messages (including most deleted ones!), photos and videos, web browsing (including incognito browsing), and many installed apps, checking for worrisome content.
- Is Bark a good monitoring app?
Yes. Bark is great for monitoring everyone from young kids to teenagers as they embark on social media. It keeps your child safe by alerting you of any dangers without infringing much on their privacy. We consider it to be the best parental control app for iphones. It is easy to use, allows for unlimited access for your entire family (and ALL of their devices), and if you have any issues- they have a great customer service team ready to help.
- Can Bark Monitor SnapChat Messages or Instagram Vanish Mode messages?
As of right now, Bark can only monitor these things on Android devices. Snapchat and Instagram make it very difficult to monitor their platforms, and there are no monitoring services currently monitoring these platform messages on iOs devices. Bark is trying to find a solution. Because of this, I have our kid’s accounts on my phones and theirs. They know that I can log in anytime I want & see their messages, etc. I have rarely done this, but they know that it’s an option that I have available.
- How Do I Add Phone Restrictions?
Check out this detailed guide.
- How should I talk to my teen about Bark?
This conversation guide will help!
- Connection is the key to trust – how do I build that connection? Here is my favorite way to connect with our teens.