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Symantec Launches New Child-Safety Web Site

4/27/2009 11:30:00 AM Eastern

New York — Symantec today officially launched a new Web-based service designed to help parents monitor their children’s Internet usage.

The service is called OnlineFamily.norton.com, and the launch is tied into the start of Internet Safety Week, which also kicks off today. The service is available free of charge until Jan. 1, 2010, when a $60 fee will be instituted.

As opposed to earlier parental control software that simply blocked children from accessing undesirable Web sites, OnlineFamily uses a holistic approach to make browsing safer, said Jody Gibney, Symantec’s group product manager.

“Under the old approach content was either good or bad, and this created an adversarial environment that drove the kid’s behavior underground,” Gibney said, forcing them to figure out methods of avoiding the blocked sites.

Now kids and their parents sit down and discuss how the Internet is being accessed and then jointly come up with a set of rules. OnlineFamily can then monitor the child’s computer to ensure that the rules are being followed, Gibney said. Symantec is basing this premise on a study done in conjunction with the national Parent Teacher Organization.

The study found children want the opportunity to discuss what they are doing with, both online and in their everyday lives, with their parents.

The Web site tracks everything the child does online and organizes the data so the parents can understand what is taking place. This includes instant-messaging conversations, social networking, and which sites are being visited and when.

Keeping tabs on a child’s social-networking activity is considered crucial since most youngsters are more vulnerable to cyber-based threats through these portals. Gibney said children place a great deal of personal information, including photos and their location, on Facebook and MySpace, which, without proper supervision, can make them a target.

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