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What to Do When You Get a Bark Alert

by | May 21, 2019 | Internet Safety Tips, Parenting Hacks

Whether you’re brand new to Bark or your family’s been using our monitoring service for a while, getting a Bark alert can be scary. As a parent, you always want to do what’s best for your child. But it’s not always easy to know exactly what that looks like! And while the circumstances of every potential issue may differ, there are a few ways to make each one easier to handle.

To begin, it’s helpful to know what to expect from the app. When an alert comes through, you’ll receive a notification with the category (such as Cyberbullying, Depression, or Self-harm) along with a snippet of the actual conversation. This will give you some context for what your child is dealing with, as well as how severe and urgent it is. You’ll then be able to decide on what should happen next.

It’s worth noting that not all alerts mean that your child is in serious danger. Plenty of parents are alerted to online behavior or activities that are not necessarily dangerous but show that their kid could use some guidance in a certain area. You might also get alerts to conversations where it’s not your kid who is struggling, but their friend. This provides a wonderful opportunity to share how to be there for others when they need help.

It’s also good to remember that, even if an alert is more serious, you’re never alone! You can always reach out to our trained team of Family Online Safety Specialists who can talk you through the process and connect you with the resources you need. In the meantime, here is some guidance on what to do when you get a Bark alert.

Understand the Issue

Bark sends alerts for anything ranging from profanity and cyberbullying all the way to suicidal ideation and sexual grooming. So depending on the alert, you may be confused or even frightened, especially if it catches you completely off guard. Whenever possible, you’ll also want to do everything you can to learn about the issue that is challenging your child. If they are sexting, you might read about age-appropriate sexual curiosity. If your child is depressed, seek guidance on how to help them.

Another thing to consider is that some apps — Snapchat and Instagram in particular — remove some of their users’ information before it gets to Bark, including names. This can make it hard to know who is saying what in the conversation that generated your alert. But our specialists are always standing by to help you understand exactly what you’re looking at so that you can handle the issue effectively. You can also reach out to them for advice on how to approach anything from self-harm to pornography to fighting at school.

Growing up in the digital age can be messy and complicated. But by taking the time to understand what your child is going through, you’ll be in a much better position to help them overcome it. The Bark Blog is an excellent resource for parents looking for guidance on how to help keep their kids safe both online and in real life.

Talk to Your Child

Many parents have told us they get a lot of value out of Bark alerts because of the important conversations they spark. Often times, parents don’t know there’s an issue until Bark sends them an alert, and although these moments can be scary, they provide opportunities for potentially life-changing lessons.

It’s also a good idea to keep the conversations going. While some issues are rare, others are not likely to disappear overnight. Cyberbullying, depression, and sexual content might be recurring challenges that require regular check-ins with your child to make sure that they’re not upset, upsetting others, or using their devices inappropriately. By reinforcing good digital citizenship practices, your child will learn how to avoid many of the pitfalls of the online world on their own.

Get Help If It’s Urgent

While many issues are best managed with informed and ongoing discussions about digital safety, there’s not always time to talk things over. Some alerts are time-sensitive and serious enough that you should reach out for help immediately. If you’re alerted to something like a suicide note, an imminent threat of violence, or a conversation with a sexual predator, call the police, your child’s school, or anyone else who is appropriate given the circumstances.

Additional Resources

It’s not easy to learn that your child might be struggling, but with the right support and guidance, you’ll be able to handle any Bark alert. For more perspectives on parenting in a tech world, join our private Facebook group, where you can gain insight from the real experiences of parents all across the country and post questions that you need to have answered. Knowing is half the battle, and parents who would like to be alerted to potential issues on their child’s online accounts can sign up for Bark today!

For more information about what your particular alert means and what you should do about it, you can reach out to our team of Family Online Safety Specialists at help@bark.us. You may also find the following resources helpful:

American Foundation for Preventing Suicide

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Crisis Text Line

The Trevor Project

Talkspace for Teens

National Institute of Mental Health

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

How To Talk to Your Kids About Bark

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