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Symantec recently updated their free Norton Online Family suite with more features to monitor and track a minor's usage of computers and Android phones.
Even though the products are targeted mostly to parents and other consumer-grade users, it could also be applicable to computer labs where minors use PCs - like those in schools, public libraries, and nonprofit community technology centers.
The software allows parents or administrators to see which websites are being visited, and whether they are appropriate to the minor based on their profile.
It can also help enforce "safe search" functionality built into search engines to ensure objectionable results don't appear. In addition, you can block different categories of websites from search results for a specific user profile, like in the image below.
Time limits for usage can be set based on the profile and device. For example, you can block certain times of day or days of the week for a specific profile, like if you run a public computing lab and you know that there won't be an instructor on-site during certain hours, you can prevent specific users from being able to use the computers during those times.
The suite has an online dashboard and management component where settings are made, and agents installed on each device set to users' profiles, Norton Online Family helps parents and administrators have a comprehensive view of what online activities are happening. Registration and installation is a simple process. The tool is available for both Macs and PCs, and in multiple languages.
Additional features in the upgraded premier version (available only in the United States) include video site monitoring, and an upgraded Android app to monitor text messages sent from the mobile device.
With issues like cyber-bullying and online safety being a major concern for young people and those who work with them, these tools certainly help parents (and potentially nonprofits and libraries that serve youth) understand and interact with children and young people better in the digital age.
Kevin Lo | Senior Program Manager, NetSquared.org | a part of TechSoup Global