Why (how!) I monitor my teenager’s phone.

Let’s talk for a minute about kids and devices.


Bark Screenshot : Coastal Bend Mom Collective

Back in September, my oldest son turned 14. He desperately wanted a smart phone. When he was 13, I gave him a flip-phone (best decision ever). It served its purpose – to contact me – perfectly. With his flip-phone, he was also able to make phone calls to friends and text the old-school way: using the number pad. #awesome

But, as cool as I thought it was, he wanted a smart phone. The reality is that most teenagers have smartphones. And a surprising number of even younger kids also have smart phones.

We told him that we would allow a smartphone IF he paid for it AND we would also be monitoring and restricting it.

Yes. I am that mom.

Teenage Side Eye
Teenage Side-Eye. It’s real.

Was he happy? Not really. He wanted full freedom and full access. The truth is that most teenagers are not ready for that. Let’s be real – most ADULTS aren’t ready for that!

After doing hours and hours and hours of research, I found an app/monitoring system called BARK. I downloaded a free trial and got it set up – not just on the new smartphone, but also on all devices my kids had access to: laptop, iPad, cell phone.



ANOTHER REAL LIFE POST: (which I wrote less than two weeks after installing BARK)

BARK 2 - Coastal Bend Mom CollectiveUsing the BARK app has been a game-changer for our family when it comes to what the kids are viewing and participating in online. Bark will allow you to monitor social media activity (on and off their device) as well as device activity (texts, most deleted texts, photo/video, and web browsing). If there’s something potentially worrisome on the monitored device or account, Bark sends you a snippet of the message or thing, along with the ‘category’ that they think it may be positive for: They will alert on things like bullying, depression, suicidal ideation, self-harm, violence, sexual content, and more!

Bark_Logo_charcoalBlueWe’ve been using BARK for 8 months now and I have been incredibly grateful for the notifications – which have opened to the door to some very important conversations with my son regarding what is appropriate and not appropriate in regard to sex, violence, bullying, etc.

My kiddo is a normal 14 year old boy. He tries to get away with A LOT of stuff and he is experimenting with boundaries.

I love that we have transparency in the app – he knows it’s monitored – so if/when he makes a questionable decision, we can talk about it right then.

Bark Check IN
In addition to all of the monitoring, on the kid’s app, there is a check-in feature. Anytime my kiddo arrives at a new location, he can tap the check-in button and I’m notified where he’s at.

I’ve been able to send a quick text – when he wasn’t with me – to let him know that we needed to talk about something he was attempting to view – and it stops him in his tracks.

I also love that I don’t have to spend hours a day scanning his phone to make sure he’s not  engaging in communication or content that is unhealthy. Once Bark content monitoring is in place, it works in the background to monitor, detect and alert me to potential issues. The harmless chatter that he is engaging in with friends can remain private – but I know that I have a safety measure in place. It has truly allowed us to have open and honest conversations – and I’m thankful.

The added bonus of BARK – I can set screen time limits and even restrict certain things – like social media and YouTube – while he’s in class at school and at night.

Bark Annual ReportObviously I am a HUGE fan of BARK. And I think you’ll love it too.

I reached out to BARK and, if you’d like to give it a try, use the code COASTALBEND and get a free week trial and give it a whirl. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Have questions? LET ME KNOW! I’m such a fan-girl and would love to help you navigate keeping your kiddos safe online too.