A Richmond Hill man has invented a system to help keep kids safe online — as well as keeping parents informed without overwhelming them.
Brian Bason is the CEO for Bark, an online-security solution that alerts parents about suspicious messages their children receive and send.
Bason, a Colorado native who worked in Los Angeles and New York before moving to Richmond Hill six years ago, has been working in social-media technology for 10 years, with his most-recent work coming for Twitter when the social-media giant bought the company Niche, where he was chief technology officer.
He also has two children, the older of whom is starting to text with his friends, he said.
“I think every parent kind of struggles with how to keep their kid safe online these days,” Bason said. “My oldest is 10, so he’s getting to that age — not on social media yet but I’m sure he will be soon.”
In July, after leaving Twitter, Bason started creating a solution that could keep kids safe from cyberbullying and other unsavory online practices while not making parents read through numerous messages.
After about three months of work — and bringing in several billion data messages — he had a working prototype for Bark. He spent another three to four months tweaking and testing before launching the solution earlier this month.
Bark is designed to look for statements that could fall into the categories of sexting and cyberbulling, while also looking out for examples of depression in a child’s writings. The writings are analyzed by Bark’s watchdog engine, which alerts in real time parents via email and text message when something seems amiss.
“We look for a number of things. We use machine learning; we basically train machines to understand algorythmically what those kind of statements look like,” Bason said.
Bark then gives out recommendations for how to handle the situation.
However, Bason said individual keywords in a message can be misleading. For instance, “I hate you” could show up in a jovial message like, “You got that new video game I wanted. I hate you!”
“Context is really important, so what we do is analyze everything in terms of its conversation context,” Bason said.
Bark has established a youth-advisory board, Bason said, with members coming from across the country, in order to keep on top of new features and trends in schools.
“Having kids’ perspectives is super valuable for us,” he said.
For more information, go to www.bark.us.