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I am a mother of three children under the age of 12. Back when I was a kid, my parents only had to warn me about not taking candy from strangers, but parents these days have to be ever-vigilant (even when the kids are supposedly safe at home). These days children who spend any time online are vulnerable to not only impressionable material, but sick and twisted individuals.

There are tons of software packages out there that allow you to monitor 2 Addons to Add Internet Parental Control to Firefox 2 Addons to Add Internet Parental Control to Firefox Read More and control Restrict Windows and Web Access for Kids with KidsMenu Restrict Windows and Web Access for Kids with KidsMenu Read More your kids’ internet usage, but I have found none as complete and easy to use as OnlineFamily by Norton. It allows you to not only monitor what web sites your kids are visiting, but also limit their total computer time, restrict where they can go, supervise their social web site activities, and even protect their personal information. And the best part is that the interface is dead easy to use (even if you are technically challenged). If you sign-up now, you can get the service for free until January of 2010.

To get started, click here to sign up and download the software. After registering, you will be asked for the names and ages of each child you want to monitor.

Once you have setup the kids, you can download the software and install it on each of the machines you wish to monitor (don’t forget laptops). They provide both a Windows and a Mac version.


Installing it on the kids’ PC is quick and easy. If you have not already setup a separate user account for each kid and they all use the same machine, do this before you install the software. Unless they separate accounts, you will not be able to determine who did what.

When you install the software, it will ask you to specify how each family member logs in. If your kids all use the same PC, then you can use an Administrator account to install the software and select not to monitor that account. Each kid would then have a standard account and each of those will be monitored separately.

Once it is all setup, you can login to the service and start monitoring and managing your childrens’ activities. Keep in mind that there is a 5 to 10 minute delay between the time a web site is browsed on the kids PC and the activity shows up in your browser window. This one got me when I was testing to make sure it worked.

If you want, you can just use the default house rules, which seemed pretty good to me. Alternatively, you can use the Settings menu to define all sorts of rules specific to your situation. For example, you can specify who allowed to instant message your children. You can also monitor whether your child exposes sensitive information on social networking sites. And most importantly, you can choose the activities in which you want to be notified (by phone or email).

Norton provides a pretty thorough and useful help file which you can access online. This includes a nice video that you might want to check out, it may be found on the sign-up page.

Let us know if you tried Norton’s OnlineFamily and tell us what you think. Or let us know if you think any other online software tools are better.

  1. Titanium Pen
    May 25, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Oh no, I'm gonna recommend this to my parents. Restricted computer usage? Oh no.

  2. Sandra
    May 25, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Personally I think tools like these are invasive and creepy. Any child who gives away information that is TRULY dangerous, (Address, phone number, full name, etc.) Is either too young to be on a computer unsupervised or an idiot who should not be given a computer in the first place.

    I have very trustworthy friends who's parents subject them to programs like these and INVADE THEIR PRIVACY for absolutely no reason, and frankly, it disgusts me. Because that's what it is to young adults, an invasion of privacy.

    • jim_from_nyc
      May 26, 2009 at 10:31 am

      I'm sure you'll reconsider when you become a parent of a teenager. Being a teen, I'm sure your don't tell your parents everything. Sometimes you don't want to tell your parents everything. My parents trusted me, and I trusted them. They never invaded my privacy. But I never told them about being bullied and made fun of from elementary school, all the way to junior year in high school. That, along with peer pressure can make you do unreasonable things. Parents who don't check on their teens are the true idiots.

      • Sandra
        May 26, 2009 at 1:13 pm

        Well that's true, nobody tells their parents everything, but I've never really been affected by peer pressure, I've never tried drugs or done anything stupid that typical teenagers do. Children who constantly run to their parents with their tail between their legs are developing into people who will not be able to handle any problems on their own.

        I was a strange child, weird as can be, when other people teased me, I just laughed. Honestly, why do people care about what others think so much...? Its ridiculous...

        Parents should establish trusting, healthy relationships with their children and teens, but I still stand by what I said before, proxies and such are totally ridiculous. If a child has a history of doing stupid things in the real world, then don't let them on a computer in the first place.

  3. riaz
    May 24, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    very helpful post
    loke it

  4. FeedReader
    May 24, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    I use OpenDNS. its good, and with all the different options they allow, you can fine-grain the level of security you provide your kids

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