Does monitoring devices erode trust?

We have a 17 year old son (18 in 3 months) and a 16 year old daughter. We’ve monitored their devices with Bark and other parental controls since they received their phones in middle school. Most recently, Bark alerted us to the fact that our daughter had met and was getting to know a boy we were not okay with her having as a friend, let alone a boy friend. He vapes, drinks, does some form of drug use, runs from cops after driving recklessly and has friends who were in jail for burglary. We talked to her about why she shouldn’t be involved with him and put her on restriction when she broke our rules. During this all she’s expressed how violated she feels by our ability to see her interactions with friends. I’ve explained to her that Bark enables us to give her a big chunk of privacy while only giving us snippets of information about concerning content. With that said, I totally understand why she feels that way. Lately I’ve been struggling with how violating her privacy might be eroding her overall trust of us and negatively impacting our relationship as a whole. Thoughts?

So glad Bark was able to alert you to these concerns so that you could address as needed! :raised_hands: Mine aren’t quite that old yet (9th grade) so I can’t speak from personal experience. I think it’s natural of teens to push boundaries and want secrecy and privacy. They don’t fully understand why we parents have concerns. That said, as a parent it’s my job to know what my children are into. I can do this by “snooping” and reading everything myself, or I can give them some privacy and room and only be alerted to concerns so we can calmly address. I often remind mine that we grew up just fine without phones and all the social medias; it’s a privilege, not a necessity. In cases where contact is necessary- there are basic phones and other options also.

Best of luck and I hope that she realizes you are involved because you care. :yellow_heart:

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I have had Bark for well over 6 months and still cannot figure out how to monitor texts. All it does is alert me about stupid YouTube videos my 13yr old watches and none of them are bad. Having said that, we recently allowed social media because we had the dilemma you do and this is my thought. We as parents absolutely have every right to check in on who our kids are talking to, what they are involved in and every other aspect. However, if we are asking them to prove they are trustworthy then we have to allow them to make choices in reap the benefits and consequences when they go outside of our boundaries. My husband and I agreed that if we want to allow our son some privileges that come with growing up and allow him to earn our trust then we will allow 1 social media app within our boundaries. It’s either that or they WILL go behind our backs and then it’s just being deceptive. I’d rather know what he’s doing and have it be within our boundaries then have my kids constantly try and go behind our backs because we hover and say “no to everything,” as they think. Lol! We don’t hover and thankfully my oldest is pretty good but I’ve spoken with multiple friends whose kids are older and they say the same thing. Sorry that’s no help but just my 2 cents :woozy_face:

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Hi @carielawson06! Bark Community team member here … :wave: Thank you for your contribution to our community! We’re sorry to hear you are having trouble! We do offer unlimited support to our Bark customers, so please reach out anytime you need us! In the meantime, depending on your computer for backups, here are some guides that may help resolve your issue:

How to Monitor an iOS Device on Windows

How to Monitor an iOS Device on Mac

Additionally, with regards to alerts, parents can always customize the sensitivity of alerts to what works best for their family:

In addition to configurable Alert Settings, we offer you the ability to ignore future alerts to/from another user:

Lastly, if you feel that a connection you are monitoring isn’t necessary to your needs, you can always disconnect that account from monitoring:

If you have additional questions, or you’d like our Support team to assist with a walkthrough or an 1:1 support call, please connect with them at or :orange_heart: We’re here for you!

Hello, Anita - let me first recognize how difficult this situation must be. I also have a 16-year-old daughter. You asked a very specific question, “does monitoring erode trust?” And my answer to that questions is, “in some cases, monitoring can erode trust.” I’ve spoken with many, many parents through my digital safety business (PYE), and have found this to be true in some cases. I’ve also had thousands of parents use Bark at my recommendation.

Each situation is so unique.

How did she respond when you put restrictions on her for interacting with this boy? You mentioned that she “broke our rules.” What rules were those and how did she respond when this was discussed with her? Is this interaction with the boy the first online difficulty she’s had or is this a pattern of behavior? How are her grades in school? Does she interact regularly with the family in a positive way? The answers would help color my responses even better.

Ultimately, you’re in the best spot because you know your daughter so much better than any of us. But I’ll offer that I have had parents decide that at age 16+, monitoring was doing more relational harm than good, so they stopped as a peace offering to their child, as long as there were alternative means of parents having comfort that everything was ok. This is a risk balance - Bark is one way to mitigate the risk of a child getting into online harm, but there are other ways. Relational ways. Check-ins. Really honest conversations about trust, choices, and consequences. Offering her a Gabb or Pinwheel phone if the smartphone isn’t used correctly.

I’m not sure if you’re a praying person, but I do come from a ministry background, so I would be happy to offer thoughts about the intersection of faith here, too, but only if you were open to that.

I hope the very best. I have prayed for your situation this morning and would be happy to offer additional thoughts if interested.



I am having the same issue with my stepdaughter who is 14. Both my daughter (who is 14) and stepdaughter have the Bark app on their phones. The stepdaughter has an iPhone which does not interact with the Bark app as well as the Android and causes some challenges since this is the child that requires more monitoring but the iPhone limits what we can see depending on the app (i.e. TikTok). That being said we’ve had many conversations with her about the Bark app and she complains she has no privacy and we can see all her messages. I let her know that no, that’s not true, we only see messages that have profanity, bullying, self-harm, sexual content, etc. so if you don’t want us as parents to see your messages don’t have conversations that include those things and you’ll have all the privacy in the world. Her come back is “that is how teenagers talk” so it’s a no win situation. Honestly, for now the Bark app is the only means we can be alerted to questionable activity so it will stay on their phone.

We struggle with this, too. I mean, when we were kids, we passed notes and talked on the landline, so we had some privacy in that sense, so it’s difficult to know when or where to cross that line with our kids now that they communicate differently. With your situation, she should know that you’re seeing key words in herimage online activity that could be dangerous. If she’s being sneaky about something, she probably knows that it’s not a good idea.

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I have run into trust issues with my 11 year old (who wants to be 15). I remind her that having a phone at all is a privilege. Bark doesn’t alert me to everything because she has an iphone, not an android; however, I do like the Text notifications. I discovered several ways to set controls on her phone through family sharing - parental controls like contacts, restricting certain websites, etc. If she does something inappropriate from an app, she knows that app can be deleted and only added back when she has built trust again. There is so much in social media and full internet access can have a very negative influence on young kids (at 11, I still consider my daughter young). She does have some privacy, but not a whole lot. If she were your daughter’s age and in the same scenario I would have reacted the same way as you.

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@enriefler - I have almost the same situation with my 11 yr old daughter and approaching the same way. She feels like I am controlling everything (which i am not) but when I give her more freedom (i.e. using YouTube on a mobile device with the promise to keep restricted mode on) she consistently turns off restricted mode and attempts to disable every bound we have in place. I don’t have a solution but offering you some company in it.

Thank you for sharing! It is always nice to know you’re not alone. It is kind of exhausting to have to monitor all of the digital device usage on a regular basis but ya can’t not, either. I wish I’d researched more about parental control options sooner. I didn’t educate myself on all that is available. Better late than never though! When I look at search history on Google or YouTube from her phone I see “how to turn off parental controls”, and similar ?’s. The scary thing is there are some sites out there with instructions on how to hide apps or other stuff kids don’t want their parents to see. My mom always says she is so glad all of this technology wasn’t around when raising my brothers and I. Good luck to you!! We all definitely need it.

Hi Chris,

Thanks so much for your willingness to share your insight.

My husband and I are very open, straight forward and honest with our kids about drugs, sex, the dangers of electronics, social media, etc. We spend time regularly as a family discussing a wide range of topics and our kids are active participants. One of those topics includes relationships and behaviors that are red flags and should not be ignored.

Here are my replies to your questions (included in bold below) so it’s easier to follow.

How did she respond when you put restrictions on her for interacting with this boy?
Initially she cried and secluded herself in her room but she willingly brought us her electronics. While on restriction she did email her friends a few times on her school Chromebook and tried to delete the trail but she didn’t know that we knew and we decided not to call her out on this. She was despondent and withdrawn for a while but came to us requesting an audience for why she thought she should be able to still see this guy.

You mentioned that she “broke our rules.” What rules were those and how did she respond when this was discussed with her?

One of our dating rules is that our kids cannot go to a private home unless we’re assured that responsible parents will be there. Her plan was to go to this guy’s house who we had not met and who’s parents we had not met. She said that she understood that we are trying to protect her but tried to minimize his risky behavior. She kept falling back on her position that he’s a good person and that he’s the first guy who’s been respectful and caring.

Is this interaction with the boy the first online difficulty she’s had or is this a pattern of behavior?

This is a first. She’s a good kid who usually picks other good kids as friends.

How are her grades in school? She’s a straight A student even while taking some Honors and AP courses.

Does she interact regularly with the family in a positive way? Yes, but not nearly as much over the past year or so. She’s often short tempered, mostly with me, and frequently moody. She prefers to spend her time with her friends or talking/texting with them (typical teenager?) However, she still frequently sits down with me to watch a show in the evening and we occasional have meals together or play games as a family.

I struggle with this more with our daughter because she has always been more private than most, even as a younger child. I believe that we are a loving and connected family and that closeness will prevail over any privacy violations that monitoring has created. I also believe that protecting her from dangers that could have a catastrophic impact is my duty as a parent. My hope is that when she comes out on the other side of adolescents, she will appreciate the effort we put out as parents.

Thank you again for reaching out and offering your perspective.