So what's a concerned parent to do?
Monitoring computer use is the obvious answer, but previous products and filters have often inhibited access to sites that adult members of the household need and use. As a homeschool family, we often have the children research topics on the web as part of their curriculum. With multiple computers in the house, it means that my mommy eyes can't be on all monitors at all times. So it was with great interest that I embarked on reviewing a new software product from Norton that offers some innovative features for overseeing internet use for each of the kids. I had my little wish list of things I hoped the program would offer and I also checked in with a friend of mine to see what kind of things she would like to find in an internet safety program for her family. She has used multiple programs through the years and had a great laundry list of items:
What did you use?
It has been several years and I don't remember all the names of products, but we did a 'nanny' type program that let us restrict web sites, but the problem I remember is the websites can change or they find others that may not have been tagged. We used the settings that you can customize on our browser, but found those to be less than helpful as well.
What features would you have liked to have seen in a parental internet control product
-Time controls, where I could set the amount and the times of day when use could occur.
-History controls, where it is impossible to erase for a child to erase any part of their web site history.
-Content controls, being able to set up individual accounts per child so they are restricted individually.
After the download was complete, I was able to access a parental dashboard, if you will, that allowed me to see all the individual accounts on each of our home computers. I was able to set 'house rules' for the kids' accounts, allowing and blocking a variety of topics for each account. I was also able to set time allowances for accounts. One of the things that I really was pleased to see on the program was the ability to set up multiple computers, with access to the activity on those computers from my parental dashboard. I could simply log on to the Norton Online Family site, put in my email and password and then click on whichever kid's account I wanted to look at. There I could follow the time the child spent, the various sites they visited and tweek the allowances and site restrictions. My 12 year old and 10 year thought it was very cool that they each had their own 'profiles' where I could see at what they had been looking.
I was curious to see if our older computers could handle the program download. My husband's older laptop did just fine, but the oldest computer in the house, a Dell running on a Windows 2000 platform, had a tough time of it; however, that particular computer does seem to be on its last leg. For the purposes of this review, we stuck with test driving the program either on my newer Dell laptop or my husband's. When the kids were logged onto their accounts, the loading time for them seemed a bit longer, but overall, the computers seemed relatively unaffected in terms of speed. The restrictions we put in place for the kids, aka the 'House Rules', were well honored by the program. The kids also had an option to visit a site that was not totally blocked but raised a flag. The kids were able to input their resason for visiting this site. As the parental oversight unit, I found the Norton Online Family program relatively easy to use and appreciated the ability to oversee, individually, what the kids have been up to.
The program also allows parents to see the amount of time and activity kids use on social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace. The two kids in the family I used as my program guinea pigs do not yet use social networks, but I was glad to see that the program offered the ability to set parameters for those services as well.
It's important to note that while I can oversee the computers upon which I have installed the program, it is not designed to monitor all the internet access-enabled devices in the house. My older kids' iPod touches do have access to the web through our home router as do their phones; the Norton Online Family software does not monitor these devices. It will be interesting to see if ultimately Norton offers a program that shows all the activity accessed through a household modem and/or router.
The Norton Online Family program seems to live up to the specific needs of today's internet savy families, allowing adults to maintain access to work and research sites they need, while giving a higher level of confidence in allowing kids to surf without impeding all the computer settings with prohibitive filters. The product is due for release soon and should be well worth serious consideration by parents desiring an ability to oversee and monitor the children's internet usage.
And now some fun news....
As a part of the BlogHer Review program, there are 10 of us who are reviewing the Norton Online Family software with 10 iPod Touches to be given away to our readers. So let's go over the rules, shall we?
To enter, please leave me a comment below, telling me how you stay in the loop with your kids and whether this new software will help you. You may leave a link to your post or twitter message about this contest in the comments for an additional entry. The contest will begin at 12:00 a.m. (PST) on Monday, February 9th and will end Sunday, February 22th at 11:59 p.m. (PST). Make sure your email address is valid!
- No duplicate comments
- This giveaway is open to U.S. residents
- Winners will be selected by random draw and will be notified by email.
- You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
- See the official rules for details: http://www.blogher.com/
official-rules-check-out- norton-online-family-software- and-enter-win-ipod-touch
So get those comments going and keep those fingers crossed! Be sure and check back to see if you've won! And come say howdy over on my main blog page, where we always try to be good for a laugh, a good photo and a little something to make you think....
Watching the Kids Surf Safely...the Web, that is...