**Guest post by Marian Merritt – Symantec's Internet Safety Advocate
I have three kids who love the Internet in all its forms. The oldest is just 15 and the youngest is 7. Like a bunch of bumper cars, their online activities occasionally dent the family rules for being safe online. Sometimes they forget what we’ve discussed or they are into things I never dreamed would capture their interest. It feels like I’m always a step behind knowing what they are going to download or visit and then protecting them from the mistakes they might make.
The youngest one doesn’t understand why I’m concerned about her using search engines when she was taught how to use Google and Yahoo at school. (How do I know the “safe search” settings haven’t been tweaked?) The middle child, 13 years old, wants to game online and has no problem downloading cheat codes or visiting sites with gaming tips. He rolls his eyes when I lecture about visiting these “who knows who runs them” sites and downloading files. And of course, my oldest is into all the normal teen stuff: social networks, chatting, Skyping with her friends,and YouTube. So I admit it, I need some help here.
Norton has just launched a great and easy to use service that should make my life a lot easier. It’s called OnlineFamily.Norton and is a simple way to give me the insight I need into my children’s online activities but without the usual associated headaches of traditional web filtering or parental control software. And, during the introductory period (through next January 1st) the service (a $60 value) is entirely free!!
OnlineFamily.Norton (PC/Mac) reports in real time to a web account. This means if you work or travel, you will always have access to information from your family computers. You can get alerts emailed to you and take action to adjust settings from any web browser. You can see what search terms your children are using, which websites they are visiting, even what social networks they are on. You begin to see your child’s intentions when they are online, rather than just the evidence of where they’ve been. This is so great because it gets Mom and Dad out of the adversary role when it comes to online safety and could prevent parents from overreacting to common mistakes kids make. But the aspect I like the most is that it’s always visible to the child. There is a dog paw icon that appears in the tool tray to show the product is working and when the computer is turned on the child gets a reminder that they will be protected and guided by the OnlineFamily.Norton’s rules. There is simply no stealth mode, because the team at Norton doesn’t believe in spying on your children.
The first step for getting started is to visit the website at http://onlinefamily.norton.com/ . There is a video there to give you more information about how the service works. Then set up your family account and download the Norton Safety Minder to each computer you’ll monitor. (Tip: Some customers are using the service on their elderly parents’ computers to help keep them safe too.) Agree, as a family, to the rules you will use which can be customized for each child. The service will suggest categories of sites to block as determined by the ages of your children. These suggested settings and other aspects of the service were designed with input from leading internet and child development experts on the Advisory Council formed just to create this product.
This Mother’s Day, set up the new OnlineFamily.Norton service in your home. Long after you’ve eaten the pancakes and enjoyed the flowers, you’ll be helping your children navigate the online world without hovering like a helicopter and driving them crazy. There’s nothing quite as wonderful as something that can actually bring families closer together. Especially when that something is FREE!