New technology helps Charleston area school track students’ online activities

Updated: Jul. 19, 2019 at 8:04 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Schools across the Carolinas are turning to a new way to monitor students’ actions online.

It’s called Bark for Schools, and officials with the company say their technology has alerted school officials to thousands of incidents of cyber bullying, drugs, weapons, and sexual content.

The technology is also changing the way Charleston’s Porter-Gaud School is monitoring its students’ online activity.

“Our other monitoring tools are a lot more cumbersome and a little more manual to make sure kids are doing the right things online. This does a lot of the work for you.” said Phil Zaubi, the school’s director of technology. “We have middle school kids, high school kids that use it and sometimes they like to use it in ways that it’s not academic, and so Bark allowed us to quickly address those and talk to those kids.”

Across the Carolinas, Bark officials say their technology has uncovered more than a dozen credible school shooting threats and alerted the FBI to 99 child predators last year.

Porter Gaud officials hope to also introduce Bark to parents this fall.

“It’s a pretty crazy landscape out there with social media and what kids are doing online and what they have access to, so Bark allows parents to essentially kind of help monitor and be proactive with what their kids are doing and how they are behaving and what they are creating out there,” Zaubi said.

Over the course of the past year (May 2018-May 2019), Bark compiled the total number of alerts that were sent to NC and SC school administrators regarding children’s school-issued devices and accounts.

Here’s what they found:

  • Cyberbullying, 88,827
  • Profanity, 79,203
  • Violence, 69,312
  • Sexual Content, 47,997
  • Drug/Alcohol-Related Content, 44,258
  • Weapon, 21,648
  • Depression, 16,990
  • Self-Harm or Suicidal Content, 14,671
  • Disclosure of Personal Information, 1,764
  • Risky App/Site Usage, 1,596
  • Hate Speech, 637
  • Fake Profile, 350
  • Medically Concerning Content, 249
  • Inappropriate Behavior/Content, 136
  • Risky Contact, 67
  • Phishing, 20
  • Dangerous Organizations, 7
  • Aggressive Marketing Messages, 3
  • Sextortion, 2

The application is free, and officials with Bark say 1,200 k-12 school districts are using it’s technology across the nation.

“In addition to the above examples, we had an instance in one school where immediately after they signed up for Bark for Schools, our system detected and alerted the school to the fact that a serial child predator was communicating with a tween girl on her school Gmail and school Google chat accounts,” a Bark representative said. “After further investigation, the school discovered that the perpetrator was in contact with other girls in their school via the students’ personal devices, sending sexually explicit messages and distributing child pornography.”

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