Social media app picks up signs of violence, predators and suicidal thoughts
SAN ANTONIO - On February 14th, a troubled teen opened fire at a Parkland, Florida high school killing 17 people.
A few months earlier, the shooter had posted disturbing and threatening social media posts.
Last month, there was another mass shooting involving a 17 year old who wore a shirt that said, "born to kill."
It's the same shirt he posted pictures of on his social media just days before the shooting.
It is now a chilling prelude of what was to come.
"We have helped stop 12 school shootings and bomb threats," said Chief Parent Officer of Bark, Titania Jordan. "We know that because of either a parent or a school escalating that to our attention," Jordan said.
The app arms parents with information and an inside look at questionable content.
"What we're looking for are signs of cyber bullying and sexting, lots of suicide and depression, potential drug use, online grooming from predators, acts of violence," Jordan said.
"Every night at the end of the night, I grab both daughters' phones and I start scanning and I look through their things," said mom Christina Eckert.
Eckert, who is a mother to 10 and 13 year old girls, said keeping up with her kids' online activity can be overwhelming.
"I think I do a lot, but you still especially with the way social media changes, can't stay on top of it 24/7, so anything that helps you monitor or keep track of things is always welcome and helpful," Eckert said.
The app monitors email, text messages and more than 2 dozen social media platforms, scanning for key words and analyzing content.
"There are funny colloquialisms that we'll use in pop culture like, "netflix and chill," Jordan said. "However, it's not so funny when it's your significant other because it means they're going to hook up, not just watch Netflix."
The technology also analyzes memes, gifs and video.
The algorithm constantly picks up new ways kids and teens communicate.
"The thing that I really like about this especially the slang and the emojis and the things that I as a parent may not know what it means at the time, it will catch it and let me know," Eckert said.
To date Bark has analyzed 500 million messages and in that time Jordan said they have picked up on some alarming trends.
"More often than not children will express via digital communication when they are experiencing dark thoughts, violent tendencies or any sort of uncomfortable thoughts they might be having," Jordan said.
The content monitor works on phones, kindles, laptops, also on both IOS and Android operating systems, but it does have limitations on IOS when it comes to direct messages.
Jordan said the technology can help keep your child safer, but reminds parents, it is only a support app and it does not take the place of vigilance and conversations with your kids.
It costs 9 dollars per month, per family.
For more information about the app and how it works, you can click here: Bark