PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For parents and victims, bullying may have been easier to combat when it was restricted to school playgrounds. Now that the bad behavior thrives in the cyber world it’s harder than ever to keep up. Now, a West Chester man has created an online solution.
It’s called Bark.
The name is a play on words for this online watchdog that searches children’s text message, email and social media accounts for questionable behavior.
“This is for parents that have kids getting new devices, like an iPhone or iPad or tablet that is connected to the internet,” says Brandon Hilkert, the brain behind Bark. The father of two launched the product to combat the increased risk to children online.
“We protect both sending and receiving messages,” Hilkert says.
Studies show kids send hundreds, if not thousands of emails, texts and social media messages each day. Bark uses a special algorithm that looks for words or images that are red flags for drug use, depression, or sexual behavior — and even cyber bulling, alerting parents via text or email of potential problems.
“We’ll send them a weekly recap if things are all good,” Hilkert says. “If not, they’ll get a message obviously.”
There’s also an alert if kids make changes to their accounts or create alternate logins.
One cool feature is risky app monitoring when the website alerts parents if there is activity on fake apps that look like calculators or cameras but really are used to keep risqué photos and videos secret.
“Things are changing,” Hilkert says, “and many parents are not in the know.”
Parents can sign up at bark.us for $9 a month.
“One of the values of Bark is to allow children to have privacy when talking online,” Hilkert says, “and to allow them to socialize freely without parents knowing everything.”
But with Bark parents can feel confident they know enough to keep their kids safe.