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Symantec Releases Norton Family Monitoring Software

Symantec has announced the release of Norton Online Family, a free service for monitoring children's online habits and blocking inappropriate, objectionable, or malicious Web sites.

The service, combining a small agent -- Norton Safety Minder -- running on a PC with Norton's cloud-based scanning service, allows parents to set rules, review a log of the Web sites their children visit, view a list of the search terms they employ, as well as monitor their social networking habits.

According to Marian Merritt, the Internet safety advocate for Norton and chair of its Online Family Advisory Council, the service will help protect kids against "all types of cybercrime -- from viruses and hackers to cyberbullies and inappropriate content," as well as provide parents with a tool for discussing online habits.

"We believe that cybersafety and cybersecurity go hand-in-hand and children should learn about protecting themselves online the moment they first get connected," she said.

The service, previously available only in English, is now available in 25 languages, including Chinese, French, German, Japanese Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish. The new version also adds curfew capabilities for curtailing daily computer usage.

Globally, kids spend an average of 1.6 hours per day online and nearly two-thirds of them report that they've had a negative experience online. For example, 41% said that strangers tried to add them as a social networking friend, 33% said they accidentally downloaded a virus, and 25% admitted to seeing violent or nude images online.

Those findings come from a new report released by Symantec, based on surveys of more than 7,000 adults and 2,800 children -- aged eight to 17 -- in 14 countries. From a control standpoint, 61% of adult respondents in Canada and the United States, versus 44% globally, indicated that they wanted full control over their children's online activities.

More than 90% of parents also said that they already have "house rules" governing Internet usage. Interestingly, the study also found that while 23% children access the Internet outside the house, only 16% of parents realize this.