Symantec Corp. (
has announced the public beta of a new web-based
service, currently named Norton Online Family
during the beta period, that’s designed to help
parents protect children online and connect with
their online lives.

Symantec also announced today the formation of
the Norton Online Family Advisory Council, a
committee of experts in education, parenting,
media and child health, and child online safety
that will test the beta, provide feedback and
offer insight on issues relevant to its continued
“Norton Online Family takes a different approach
from today’s parental control solutions by
providing tools that help parents understand
their kids’ online world and fostering
communication,” says Marian Merritt, Symantec’s
Internet Safety Advocate and Norton Online Family
Advisory Council lead. “These tools include the
ability to show what kids are actually searching
for on ten different search sites, including
Google, YouTube and Wikipedia. Parents can also
confirm kids’ IM friends and monitor
conversations with unconfirmed friends, as well
as see the number and type of social networking
accounts their kids have and their published age
on these sites.”

To use Norton Online Family on a Mac or PC,
parents sign up and create a family account.
Parents download and install Norton Safety
Minder, a small application, onto each child’s
computer. As a web-based service, Norton Online
Family is able to track the Internet activities
of each child in real-time. According to Merritt,
the public beta of Norton Online Family offers
the following key benefits:

° The ability to create one account online for the whole family in minutes.

° The ability to check a child’s activity or
modify a child’s profile, preferences, or time
allotment anytime and anywhere using any
Internet-connected device.

° All activities are reported in chronological
order and only show the web sites a child
intended to visit — eliminating all the extra
URLs, like ads, from media-heavy web sites.

° The ability to view search words and phrases a
child uses and where those searches lead online.

° Parents can customize e-mail alerts to address
urgent events so they know immediately when a
child has reached a time limit or visited a
blocked site, etc.

° Built-in messaging lets kids send information
to their parents in real-time about their
intentions when attempting to visit a blocked Web

° The ability to monitor activity on social
networks like Facebook and MySpace with the
ability to see how kids represent themselves,
when they login and how often.

° Children are able to view the “house rules”
they established with parents at any time and are
notified when Norton Online Family is active, so
there is no “stealth” mode.

° The ability to control the Web content that
flows into the home by prohibiting more than 40
topic categories.

° A time management feature that can give each
child a “curfew” that will limit computer usage.

° The ability to track, report and prevent
personal information that a child may purposely
or accidentally try to send via e-mail, instant
message or social networking site.