Norton Online Family – Review of Parental Control Software

In this post about virtual visitation, someone asked the question “how (do you) protect your own computer’s privacy if the parties are not friendly?” And the answer is ‘sensibly’.

ANY computer should be behind a firewall and be protected by virus scan. Additionally, any computer that a child has access to should also be protected by software meant to keep them away from people and content that are not deemed ‘safe’ by the child’s parents (parental control software).

I’ve used a few pieces of parental control software in the past with mixed results. Recently, I landed upon Norton Online Families. It’s parental control software that has a lightweight client that you install on your computer(s) but otherwise, you access it’s controls online from wherever you happen to be. It’s free. It’s robust. It’s feature rich. It’s great, I think! 🙂

Here are the things I like about it :

  • It’s free. Completely, 100% free. No cost.
  • I manage it online. That means that if I’m at work and remember to tweak a setting, I can do it right then instead of waiting. If my son is with a sitter and the sitter calls me to say they are locked out, I can change it from my smart phone. If I want to see what he’s been up to when I’m not AT HIS COMPUTER, I can log on and see it from anywhere.
  • Also a benefit of it being an online-based software, when you install the client to multiple computers that the child might use, the settings apply to ALL of those computers and you don’t have to set it up again each time.
  • It lets me set time limits. Most parental control software will let you set limits on what can be viewed… this software lets me set the times he’s allowed to use the computer (between x time and y time on these days) and for how long (how many hours per day is he allowed to use it?). And because these settings apply to all computers, his timer doesnt start over just because he goes to another computer. Hah. No outsmarting THAT one, kiddo! (he tried it within the first week)
  • It has chat monitoring so if he adds a friend that I don’t know about, I get notified… so I know who he’s talking to.
  • It’s SUPER simple to set up. The client is easy to install. If your computer has user accounts (Windows XP etc), the software ‘figures out’ which profiles should have parental controls based upon your input… so YOUR profiles don’t have to have any monitoring on them.
  • Kid friendly prompts – if he crosses a line by attempting to view something he’s not supposed to or log on at a time he’s not allowed to, he gets a message from the software that he understands along with clear instructions.

Here are the things I don’t like about it :

  1. The time range limitation feature is limited to ‘weekday’ and ‘weekend’. My son does online visitation with his dad on Thursdays so I would like to be able to add an extra hour of allowed time to that one weekday rather than all weekdays.
  2. It has a feature that is supposed to monitor all outgoing form submissions, emails, IMs etc for his personal information like phone number, address, school name etc. I was able to successfully send that information out from his account without getting stopped or getting a notification to my email address that it had been done.

I highly recommend this software for anyone looking for parental control software for their computer.

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