Free Internet Safety Service From Symantec

Symantec has launched a free service to help parents keep their kids safe in an online environment.

OnlineFamily.Norton is a new initiative by Symantec which is designed to protect kids online from predators and cyber bullies.

OnlineFamily.Norton is not like traditional parental control products that focus on just blocking and monitoring kids’ online activities. The service goes a step further to help parents manage the gray areas of the Internet.  While parents still need tools in place to help them protect their kids online, education and communication with their kids are now just as important.

The Norton Online Living Family Survey undertaken by Symantec revealed that parents and kids, even teens, do want to talk to each other more frequently about their day-to-day lives, but they’re not talking to each other. Nearly half of all kids surveyed (47 percent) admit to looking up or reading about “touchy” subjects online, but far fewer (35 percent) have spoken with their parents about these subjects. It’s apparent that a solution is needed that will help foster discussion between parents and kids.  Built on a philosophy of dialogue, OnlineFamily.Norton keeps parents in the loop on not only what their kids are doing online, but also what they’re interested in both on and off the Internet. 

This is how OnlineFamily.Norton encourages discussion:

  • True Transparency – When setting up the service, parents and kids are encouraged to sit down and create the House Rules for online activity together. Children are always aware that OnlineFamily.Norton is active on their computer, and they can also view the House Rules they established with their parents at any time.

  • Understand Their Intent – Parents can view search words and phrases a child searches on sites like Google, YouTube and Wikipedia, and where they lead the child online. This feature also gives parents a view into topics their child is interested in.

  • Access to Social Network Information – OnlineFamily.Norton monitors activity on social networks like Facebook and MySpace with the ability to see how kids represent themselves, when they login, and how often, allowing parents to start a conversation with their child if they see their child misrepresenting himself or herself online.

  • Real-Time Messaging – Kids can send information to their parents in real-time, via the OnlineFamily.Norton site or through email, about their intentions when attempting to visit a blocked Web site.

As a Web-based service, setting up OnlineFamily.Norton is simple, claims Symantec. Parents can create an account online in minutes. There are no complicated settings required because it automatically creates age appropriate settings for each child, which parents can also easily customise.

The service provides clear reports with activities listed in chronological order. OnlineFamily.Norton’s Web site monitoring report eliminates all the extra URLs, like ads from media-heavy Web sites, that most parental control solutions are unable to strip out.  The report also shows thumbnails of the Web sites their children visit, making viewing the report easy and convenient. Parents can view these reports through their OnlineFamily.Norton account from anywhere they have access to the Internet. They can also choose to receive email reports about select activities.

OnlineFamily.Norton gives parents access to the following technologies that help keep their kids safe online:
 

  • Instant Messaging Monitoring – Parents can monitor instant messenger chats at various levels for each IM buddy.

  • Convenient Web Site Control –Control the Web content that flows into the home by prohibiting more than 40 topic categories. For older kids, parents can allow access to all Web sites but flag objectionable ones, allowing kids to decide for themselves whether or not to visit the site.

  • Secure Personal Information – Track, report and prevent personal information children may purposely or accidentally try to send via instant message, social network, or Web site.

 

The service also grows with each child as settings can be changed as they grow older.
In addition, beginning today, parents are encouraged to sign up and pledge to have “The Talk” with children about their Internet habits as well as how to act safely and responsibly online.  “The Talk” is the first step for parents who want to foster an open, ongoing dialogue about their children’s online lives.

The service is available at http://onlinefamily.norton.com in English with comprehensive filtering for U.S. and Canadian sites.  Filtering support is also provided for English Web sites in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa, but the service is not fully optimised for these countries.

To use OnlineFamily.Norton on a PC (Windows XP Home or Professional, SP2 or later; Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, Windows Vista 32-bit or 64-bit, SP1 or later) or Mac (Mac OS X 10.5), parents simply sign up and create a family account at http://onlinefamily.norton.com.  Parents download and install Norton Safety Minder, a small application, onto each child’s computer. 

As a Web-based service, OnlineFamily.Norton is able to track the Internet activities of each child in real-time.  Parents enjoy peace of mind with instant reporting and the convenience of accessing their account anytime from any Internet-connected device.
 

The offer is available for free until Jan. 1, 2010. The service is valued at USD$60 for a one year subscription.

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