Teen surfers

March 22, 2010

Two very nice ladies came to see me this morning to tell me all about Norton’s clever new OnlineFamily system. It’s basically designed to be a high tech virtual playpen, keeping your children out of all that bad stuff on the web.


It’s designed for more technology friendly families than ours, I think. We only have one steam-powered, ancient old PC in a corner of the sitting room, and it’s simply too annoying to spend hours on, as it grinds up to each task with the rickety concentration of a pensioner trying to reach out a withered hand to a far-off custard cream biscuit. I must admit this is semi-deliberate. Penury plays its part, of course, but also I don’t want the girls to disappear off to their rooms for hours on end to play strange computer games and chat on-line to friends they saw a couple of hours ago at school. Yes, they do press for laptops in their rooms, but they also press for Super Dry T shirts, Converse trainers and a million and one other things, knowing they have virtually no hope of getting any of them. My heart bleeds for them! Well, I never even had a Barbie as a child and that tale of true deprivation always silences them.

The Norton ladies came armed with some very scary statistics, which would give us all pause for thought even if there hadn’t been a recent murder of a poor teenage girl who met her killer on Facebook.  ‘Sex’ and ‘porn’ were near the top of the list of searches for the 13-18 age group. The names of celebrities, like Cheryl Cole and Michael Jackson, came very high up too, which wouldn’t have worried me if the Norton ladies hadn’t revealed that cybercriminals use celebrity names to set up fake sites, to lure unsuspecting surfers in, and then infect their computers with malware. Blimey, it’s a horrible world!

Never fear, though, because this new Norton application can survey what’s going on and make sure you’re aware of any blips – a sudden splurge of visits to pro-anorexia sites, for example, or even more hours than usual instant messaging with one particular person. There are various settings, from straight blocking of websites to alerts, allowing the child to continue in the knowlege that their parents are being informed of the site they are on. There is also a timer function limiting the hours spent on MSN or Facebook. Norton stresses that the idea is not to spy on your children, but to be aware of what they are doing.  You may not think spying is such a bad thing, though! 

I’m not sure how it’s going to go down chez moi. When I signed in, somehow the programme got the idea I was a child, too, and I promptly got locked out of all my stuff. I had a big, footstamping tantrum with the computer – always so effective with a lump of plastic. It soon saw reason and let me back in, I’m glad to say. I’m not entirely sure the girls are going to be equally thrilled, though. Well, we’ll give it a go and see how we get on. I haven’t been paid for this, by the way, so I’m not putting ‘sponsored’ at the top – and the very good news is that the programme is absolutely free for everyone to download, through the goodness of Norton’s heart. Have a look if you feel like it. If it saves one teenager from meeting her killer on Facebook, it will be so well worth it.

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  • Nataliya @Parentshub March 22, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Very good Norton application, I’d say. Although it’s a bit sad that someone needs to come up with a system like that to look after our kids’ online safety, rather that people and brands being more responsible. Well, it’s quite too late to moan about it, I know. As far as I am aware, even kids’ online games and sites not always use high-level protection in terms of bad language, abuse and even online bullying. There’s been this brand new safety system (won’t say its name for promotional reasons), which rather than tracking “bad words”, has a “white words list”. As of April we at are launching this unique safety system for our virtual platform. Only these “good words” from the list will be permitted to be used on site, so there will be absolutely no way a child can use bad language, offend their friends or get abused/ offended, etc. And most importantly (speaking as a parent) I believe communicating with kids and educating them how to avoid being abused online, is key.

  • English Mum March 22, 2010 at 9:56 am

    What a brilliant idea. Like yours, my two are constantly pressing me for laptops. NOT going to happen. I’m much happier keeping an eye on them on my dinosaur desktop! x

  • Rosie Scribble March 22, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I’m going to have a look even though my daughter has not reached the teen years yet (although in attitude she has). I’m wary of what lurks out there on the internet. I’ve been told that you should only allow your child on Facebook if they add you as a friend, but then they’ll probably end up setting up separate accounts because who wants to add their mum? It’s an idea though.

  • muummmmeeeeee...... March 22, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    My daughter (nearly 13) has a laptop but she’s not allowed a facebook account or to go online upstairs – if she wants to chat to friends on MSN she has to do it in the same room as us.

    At the moment she’s very honest and a good girl and I do trust her but I know that’s going to change very soon – will be looking into this Norton facility so thanks for that.

  • Chic Mama March 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Interesting, I haven’t a clue where to start with all that…and I should. My children spend a lot of time on computers. Thanks-I will look into this further.

  • Metropolitan Mum March 25, 2010 at 6:32 am

    My daughter is way too young to be spied on. Ahem. Carefully watched over, I mean.
    I am not sure about this software. I guess I would want to allow my child a bit of privacy. After all, she could meet someone offline without telling me about it. I would hope for her to be sharing with me whom she meets, be it online or offline. Doesn’t it become much more interesting if it’s blocked off? I.e. wouldn’t they use chatrooms or the likes at friends’ houses? Internet cafes?
    Plus, I don’t think that if Facebook didn’t exist, that cases like that wouldn’t occur. Sadly, sick people have always been around and always will be. Years ago I was told not to speak to strangers and never ever to go with a stranger. I think it’s the same old story…

  • healthy kitchen March 26, 2010 at 9:22 am

    a good system from norton for the whole family to use in their desktop computers and laptops. will get more info about this so i can use it in our home pc. i sometimes what my kids are doing on the Internet.