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Norton OnlineFamily.Norton review

Barry de la Rosa
16 Oct 2009
Our Rating 
Free (beta)

Despite being in beta testing, Norton's product is slick and shows a lot of promise. Worth looking at if you're on a particularly tight budget.

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Specifications

Norton's online service is free to use until March next year while it undergoes beta testing.

You start off at the Norton website, where you're encouraged to let your children participate in setting up the house rules. You then download software for each PC to be protected, but you can control access for your entire home through a single web interface that you can access from anywhere. In each user's profile is a section for entering personal information, which the software can monitor to make sure it isn't sent over the internet.

The web filters come in 47 categories, with 17 chosen by default. Interestingly, the default action is to warn the user but not block the site, although you can set OnlineFamily.Norton to block or just monitor as well. There are also blacklists and whitelists, and an option to enforce safe searching on common search engines. Instant messaging and social networking can also be monitored, and you can even vet new IM contacts.

You can set quotas and ranges of access times for weekdays and weekends. Emails can be sent to notify you when a site has been blocked, or when personal information is disclosed. It will even monitor if your child claims to be older than she is, based on the date of birth you provide in the child's profile. However, in our tests the software didn't block sensitive data sent in an IM conversation, and didn't pick up our Facebook profile.

When a web page is blocked, your child will see a message giving a reason for the block, and allow them to submit a reason why they should be allowed to see it anyway. Norton's filters are great as well: the only sites that got through were those we expected to cause problems, such as a site giving advice on safer injecting and a naturist site.

OnlineFamily.Norton isn't a finished product and it won't block programs or games, but it's worth using for the web filtering and remote management alone. Best of all, it's free until it comes out of beta in March next year. If you need to block programs and games, we recommend Net Nanny.

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