Question: I have heard of a variety of programs that can be used to monitor for and block sensitive content online. One example is Bark. Are these types of programs recommended? Is one better than another? Are there any risks to using these apps as another line of defense against inappropriate content online?


Answer: Based on existing research, we recommend alternatives to parental control apps, like online safety plans that rely on parenting strategies that promote better teen self-regulation, incorporate family input in the rule-setting process and facilitate learning.

Teens should ideally be learning how to make responsible decisions on their own about the content they interact with online, and relying on restrictive rules or monitoring technologies makes it harder for them to problem-solve and develop the autonomy they need to navigate digital technology in ways that support their development.

It is understandable that parents want to limit the risks posed to their children when online. One way to do this is to create guidelines and household rules for technology use that can decrease the amount of time adolescents spend online and provide them with strategies for what to do when they come across risky content, but that does not seem to decrease children’s exposure to online risks.

Unfortunately, existing parental control apps do not support the developmental process of adolescents because they often fail to balance parental values and desires with their children’s own values, needs, and wants. Consider that 89% of features on parental online safety apps are targeted specifically toward parental control, while only 11% of features on these apps support some form of teen self-regulation.

What Parents Can Do

  • Read more about the topic.
  • Have open, transparent communication about adolescent Internet-use and family expectations.
    • Children are more likely to follow rules when they have the opportunity to provide input and discuss their concerns about online safety.
    • Close relationships between parents and their children are associated with fewer online risk-taking behaviors in adolescents.
    • Let them know that “the internet is a really big place, and sometimes you can run into gross, mean, upsetting or sexual content – if this happens, you can always come talk to me about it, and you won’t be in trouble.”
  • Create a family online safety plan.
    • The Family Media Plan tool contains a section on Safety that can be used as a guide. Consistent with AAP recommendations, we recommend household rules focused on content, communication and co-viewing.
    • Talk with your child about the importance of using strong privacy settings and walk through setting up those settings on their devices together.
    • Discuss what steps they should take if they find inappropriate content, are contacted by strangers, or feel uncomfortable or unsafe online.
  • For parents who would like to use parental monitoring technology, Common Sense Media provides the Parent's Ultimate Guide to Parental Controls that displays options for monitoring and blocking content that include specific apps (like Bark, Circle, etc.), managing devices on Wi-Fi networks and editing system preferences within social media apps.
    • If parental controls are used, we recommend using them in combination with open communication and as a part of a family online safety plan.



Age: 10-15, early adolescence, middle adolescence

Topics: Parental Controls, Parenting

Role: Parent

Last Updated



American Academy of Pediatrics