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Bark’s AI-driven parental control tool reaches SA

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Online safety company Bark Technologies has expanded its parental control tools and services to South Africa, allowing local parents to monitor their children’s online activity.

US-based Bark’s expansion into SA marks the first of several projected rollouts worldwide, says the company, noting this is part of providing such services in areas with limited online protection for children.

"South Africa is an exciting expansion for Bark because of the immediate and increasing need for online child safety tools in a rapidly-developing area of the world," says Skylar Walker, Bark director of business development.

"As we continue to develop and build partnerships with local service providers in South Africa, we will be able to offer our services to many communities that wouldn't otherwise have access to such safety tools."

Founded in 2015, Bark’s dashboard uses artificial intelligence to detect and alert families to concerning behaviours in a variety of categories, including cyber bullying, depression, suicidal ideation, violence and online predation, by monitoring more than 30 of the most popular apps and social media platforms, as well as text messages, images, videos, chats, e-mails and files.

In addition, its screen time management and web filtering tools help parents set healthy limits around how and when their kids use their devices, it says.

A survey conducted by the South African Film and Publication Board found that parental absence in monitoring online behaviour is leading to children being more exposed to online risks, such as cyber bullying and online violence.

An assessment report compiled by WeProtect Global Allianceshows children across the globe face a sustained threat of online sexual abuse, with evidence suggesting the scale of this abuse is increasing at an unprecedented rate.

In the US, Bark says it protects nearly six million children at home and in more than 2 900 schools and districts nation-wide.

It plans to build on its presence in SA and beyond by forging partnerships with internet service providers and other service providers that have a vested interest in youth safety.

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