C Spire, Bark partner to make internet safer

Published 6:00 pm Monday, August 23, 2021

C Spire Wireless is partnering with Atlanta-based online safety company Bark to roll out free parental controls to protect the children and families of its nearly 1 million mobile communications consumers in Mississippi from mounting online threats.

The wireless services division of the Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services firm is working with Bark Technologies to provide their award-winning service to help families manage and protect their children’s digital lives. Customers can also take advantage of a paid premium service that monitors 30+ of the most popular apps for signs of issues like cyberbullying, suicidal ideation, online predators, threats of violence and more.

Since launching in 2015, Bark has used its innovative and industry-leading software service to protect more than 5.6 million children across the country. To date, Bark has detected 262,000 severe self-harm situations and flagged more than 2.1 million severe bullying instances by monitoring social media platforms, apps, text messages, and emails. In addition, the company’s screen time management and web filtering tools help parents set healthy limits around how and when children use their mobile devices. Bark also works with local and national law enforcement to escalate cases of online predation and alert authorities of credible school shooting threats.

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The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent switch to virtual and remote learning heightened awareness of the perils of online dangers for children. “Parents and families are clamoring for a comprehensive solution to pornography, online predators, cyberbullying,” said C Spire President and CEO Hu Meena.

“While there are many options for parental controls, C Spire chose Bark because it offers meaningful, real-time protection,” Meena said. “When it comes to protecting our children from online threats, it’s imperative that their use of social media platforms is monitored and managed, and Bark is an essential tool for parenting in the digital age.”

Bark Jr, the free tool being offered, requires enrollment and is an entry-level product for postpaid and prepaid wireless consumers designed for families and younger children. Bark Jr helps families manage screen time, filter websites and get location check-ins. Meena said C Spire also is offering the premium service to postpaid customers at a discounted $10 per month.

Last year, Bark published a case study that analyzed over 2.1 billion texts, emails, and 30+ apps and social media platforms. In it, Bark found high percentages of tweens (children ages 8-12) and teenagers exposed to violence, mental health threats, online bullying, drugs and alcohol, self-harm, suicidal ideation and sexual content.

The report found that 88.5% of pre-teens and 94.1% of teenagers expressed or experienced violent subject matter online; 45.5% of pre-teens and 66.3% of teens engaged in conversations about depression; 76.7% of pre-teens and 82% of teens experienced online bullying either as a bully, victim or witness; 78% of pre-teens and 91.1% of teens engaged in conversations about drugs and alcohol and 70.9% of pre-teens and 87.9% of teens encountered nudity and sexual content online.

“We’re excited to work with C Spire to give families tools they need to help keep their children safe while balancing that with children’s need for privacy,” said Bark CEO Brian Bason.