AWS Public Sector Blog

Bark leverages AWS to help keep schools safe

With the increased focus on school safety, now more than ever schools are using information technology solutions to address concerns about the digital and physical security of students and teachers. Amazon Web Services (AWS) helps enable innovative EdTechs to create solutions to keep students safe from harm.

Bark, an AWS EdStart Member, is an online student safety platform, with the mission to help keep every child safe online. Bark uses artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor digital communication, scanning for troubling issues such as cyberbullying, depression, online predators, adult content, and more. With permission and authorization from parents and schools, Bark monitors text messaging, YouTube, email, and social media platforms and apps – four times more than any other child monitoring app – and sends automatic alerts to parents and schools, so they can make informed decisions about their students’ safety.

In response to the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, USA, in 2018, Bark created a new, complimentary program for schools: Bark for Schools, a community-based initiative that provides an online safety solution for more than 1,200 K12 school districts in the US. Working with parents and schools, Bark for Schools helped protect more than 3.5 million children, prevent 16 school shootings, and detect more than 10,000 severe self-harm situations. Created in collaboration with child psychologists, youth advisors, digital media experts, and law enforcement professionals, Bark delivers a research-backed, kid-friendly solution for safeguarding families.

Leveraging the cloud

Bark uses Amazon DynamoDB to host their database because of its proven record of handling internet-scale use cases while maintaining consistent, single-digit millisecond latency. According to Bark Head of Sales and Marketing, Jeff Reistad, “When you are analyzing data that can literally make the difference in students’ lives, you need a high request rate (millions of requests per second), low predictable latency, and reliability. Plus, as a fully managed service, DynamoDB has no operational overhead – so we can reallocate those costs towards further advancing our offerings. We also use Amazon S3 to scale our storage resources up and down to meet the fluctuating demands of the school schedule.”

Bark also uses AWS to host the Bark databases. “In combination with our own safeguards, the AWS infrastructure provides a powerful second layer of protection to all of our security and privacy efforts. It also allows us to easily scale and add more schools every month — which helps us protect more students,” said Jeff.

Additionally, Bark is a member of the AWS EdTech accelerator, AWS EdStart. According to Lisa Thee, Vice President of Partnerships at Bark, “Being a part of the AWS EdTech cohort of leading-edge startups all innovating to drive positive change to K12 and higher education has been incredibly helpful in ensuring we have the resources, expertise, and support of partners to achieve real results for students.”

Sign up for the AWS EdStart mailing list to get periodic updates about other AWS EdStart members, community happenings, invitations to special events, and information on new products and services.

Read about hot AWS EdStart startups in our roundups from Winter 2018 and Spring 2019.

Learn more about Bark by visiting the Bark website, reading the Bark blog, or following Bark on Twitter.