Norton Family Premier Review: Are Your Kids Safe Online?

Do you trust your kids to responsibly use a phone, tablet, or computer 24/7, totally unsupervised? Do you trust them to responsibly use the Internet with zero restrictions? If you’re like most parents I talk to, you answered “No” to one or both of these questions. Maybe you shouted it! That means you’re interested in parental controls and Internet filtering.

Norton Family Premier is parental control software from the recognized name NortonLifeLock, formerly Norton, of Norton Antivirus fame. In this review, I’ll tell you how Norton Family Premier can help you protect your kids online

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In a hurry? In summary, Norton Family Premier provides strong parental controls and Internet filtering. It works on Windows, Android, and iOS (with some limitations). It doesn’t work on Mac or Linux. Read on for more details.

Norton Family: Award Winning Parental Control Software
Free

Norton Family helps you supervise your kids' online activities and protect them against unsuitable content. It helps block inappropriate websites while your kids are surfing the Internet.

We may earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

The Threats

When kids have their own devices, especially those with Internet access, there’s a good chance they’ll try to use them in ways that are against your wishes, or are outright dangerous. Here are just a few of the challenges you face:

  1. Your kids may visit websites that contain malware that could harm their device and even other connected devices.
  2. Your kids may access illegal content, such as pirated music and movies, and illegal forms of porn.
  3. Your kids may communicate with people who mean them harm, such as cyber bullies and Internet predators.
  4. Your kids may use apps you don’t approve of.
  5. Your kids may view websites, images, videos, and other content you don’t approve of, such as porn.
  6. Your kids may send and receive messages you don’t approve of, such as sexual or hateful messages.
  7. Your kids may spend more time using their devices than you want them to.
  8. Your kids may use their devices without your supervision, whether at home or outside it.
  9. The parental controls built into devices and apps may not limit your kids as much as you’d like.

For these reasons, you should consider parental control software such as Norton Family Premier.

How to Protect Your Kids

One interesting thing about Norton Family Premier is that it doesn’t try to hide its presence from your kids. On the contrary, it makes itself quite visible, and makes your “house rules” just a click or tap away. It encourages parents and children to communicate about the rules and expectations.

Video Tour of Norton Family Premier Parental Portal

1. What devices does Norton Family Premier work with?

It’s most functional on Windows and Android (versions 4-9). It also works on iOS, minus the Mobile App Supervision feature, which lets you see and control which apps your kids can use. Norton Family Premier doesn’t work on Mac or Linux.

You can access the web-based parental console from a browser on any device, including Mac and Linux.

If your kids use a Mac, you’ll need to use different parental control software, or rely on the parental controls built into the Mac.

2. What apps can Norton Family Premier monitor or control?

On Android, you can see which apps your kid has installed. You can also block any installed apps.

Pay special attention to social media, messaging, and dating apps.

It’s important to note that when your kid installs an app, it will be allowed until you block it. So I recommend that you use the parental controls built into Android and iOS to prevent your child from installing apps. If you choose to allow your kid to install apps, you’ll want to keep an eye on new app installations so you can block any that you don’t approve of.

You can use the Instant Lock feature to disable a device at any time, for as long as you want. Your kids will still be able to make and receive calls.

The Mobile App Supervision feature doesn’t work on iOS. You’ll need to use iOS’s Screen Time functionality instead.

Norton Family Mobile App Supervision
Mobile App Supervision
Norton Family App Blocked Android
App Blocked (Android)

3. Will Norton Family Premier work outside my home network?

Yes. On Android and iOS, the software routes Internet traffic through Norton servers via a VPN. This ensures that Norton Family Premier remains in effect whether your kids are on your home Wi-Fi, someone else’s Wi-Fi, or cellular data.

On Windows, the software runs in the background, enforcing the House Rules, regardless of the network that’s used. However, the weakness in browser enforcement (see question 9) applies regardless of the network.

4. How granularly can Norton Family Premier filter content?

It filters based on the web address (URL); it doesn’t actively scan the content of a webpage.

Norton’s documentation says that if an allowed webpage loads content from a disallowed website (a disallowed domain), then that portion of the page will be blocked, but in my testing, this didn’t work consistently

For example, if the Social Media category was blocked, I was blocked from viewing Twitter.com, but I could view tweets embedded on a website about web design. But when I opened an article on MSN.com, I got a notification that part of the website had been blocked because it was coming from platform.twitter.com.

The Search Supervision feature forces Safe Search on Google, Bing, YouTube, Ask, and Yahoo. Safe Search is a feature of search engines that filters out adult content (though it certainly doesn’t catch 100%).

Norton Family part of this website has been blocked
“Part of this website has been blocked” (Windows)

5. What website categories can Norton Family Premier filter?

Norton Family Premier can filter 48 categories of websites. You can block categories manually, or choose a preset group of categories based on your child’s age. You can then customize your selection.

If you want to allow a website that is inside a blocked category, you can add it to the Allowed Websites list.

You can also do the opposite. If you want to block a website that is inside an allowed category, you can add it to the Restricted Websites list.

One of the categories is labeled Uncategorized, and it contains websites that Norton hasn’t yet organized.

Thousands of websites are being newly created each day. These websites are analyzed and grouped into different categories. The uncategorized websites are the ones that are not analyzed and categorized yet.

Norton Family Premier

You choose whether uncategorized websites are blocked or allowed. I recommend checking the box to Block Uncategorized Websites to prevent your kids from visiting obscure websites that haven’t yet been categorized. If there are uncategorized websites they legitimately need to visit, you can always manually add them to the Allowed Websites list.

The Web Supervision feature lets you set the level of supervision:

  • High (block the website completely)
  • Moderate (give a warning, but allow access)
  • Low (monitor, but don’t block anything)

When a site is blocked, Norton Family Premier shows a page that explains why. If your kid wants to, and they’re using Windows or iOS, they can send you a message to request access.

Norton Family Web Categories
Norton Family Web Premier Categories
Norton Family website blocked Android
Website blocked (Android)
Norton Family website block page Windows
Website block page (Windows)

6. How will I monitor my kids’ activity with Norton Family Premier?

There are 3 ways to check your kids’ activity:

  • Web portal (from any device, even Mac or Linux)
  • Parental app (Android or iOS
  • Email alerts

The following items are included in the activity reports:

  • Amount of time child used device
  • Summary of house rules you defined
  • Web searches
  • YouTube videos watched (and Hulu, if watched from Windows)
  • Website visits, with the category of each site
  • Apps installed and uninstalled

Norton Family Premier stores 30 days of activity.

Norton Family Activity Summary
Norton Family Premier Activity Summary
Norton Family Web Activity Summary
Web Activity Summary
Norton Family Website Blocked email
“Website Blocked” email

7. Does Norton Family Premier use a whitelist or a blacklist?

First, a couple of definitions (which you can also find in the Glossary):

  • Whitelist: A list of approved items. A system that uses a whitelist blocks all items that are not on the whitelist.
  • Blacklist: A list of disapproved items. A system that uses a blacklist allows all items that are not on the blacklist.

Norton Family Premier uses a blacklist approach for websites and apps.

If you haven’t blocked a website (individually or by blocking the category that contains it), the site is allowed.

When your kid installs an app, it will be allowed until you block it. So I recommend that you use the parental controls built into Android and iOS to prevent your child from installing apps. If you choose to allow your kid to install apps, you’ll want to keep an eye on new app installations so you can block any that you don’t approve of.

8. Does Norton Family Premier control screen time? How granularly?

Yes, the Time Supervision feature lets you schedule the times of day or week that each device can be used. You can also set how much time each day each device can be used.

Norton Family Time Supervision
Time Supervision
Norton Family Time supervision house rule
Time supervision house rule

9. What browsers does Norton Family Premier work with?

This is a weak area for Norton Family Premier. On Android and iOS, Norton recommends that you have your kids use the Norton Browser that comes with the app, which can be properly filtered.

You don’t want your kids to be tempted to use a different browser, so you should use Norton Family Premier or the parental controls built into the device to restrict access to other browsers, and to prevent their installation.

Use the parental controls built into Android and iOS to prevent your child from installing apps.

On Windows, you should enable the Norton Family browser extension. Unfortunately, it’s only available for Internet Explorer (not Edge), Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome. If you don’t enable the extension, or your kids use a browser that doesn’t have the extension enabled, you won’t have the following features:

  • Social networking supervision
  • Search supervision for HTTPS sites
  • Video supervision
  • Web supervision for HTTPS sites

Fortunately, Norton Family Premier adds a second layer of protection and will show a block page even if your child disables the browser extension, uses a browser without the extension, or uses incognito or private browsing mode. However, this isn’t true for HTTPS traffic (more on that in a minute).

You’ll be notified if your child disables the browser extension, but until you’re able to act on that notice, your child can browse without Norton Family Premier tracking them.

I recommend that you uninstall any browsers other than Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. To prevent your child from installing other browsers, have them use a non-Administrator user account on Windows.

10. Can Norton Family Premier filter HTTPS traffic?

Yes, if they use the Norton Browser (on Android or iOS) or a browser with the Norton Family browser extension (on Windows). Otherwise, it will not filter HTTPS traffic.

HTTPS creates a secure, encrypted connection between a web browser and a website, to protect transmitted data from eavesdroppers. You’ve seen browsers show web addresses (URLs) starting with https://, and maybe also show a padlock symbol.

Many sites encrypt their traffic with HTTPS, so you must be able to monitor and filter your child’s HTTPS traffic.

11. Can Norton Family Premier track my kid’s location?

Yes, it can track the location of Android and iOS devices.

It uses the following methods to determine the device’s location:

  • GPS
  • Wi-Fi
  • Mobile (cellular) network

The parental software shows a map with location pins and a timeline. When you click a pin, you see the address and an estimate of how accurate that location is.

The location refreshes every 15 minutes.

Regarding location data, Norton says, “We will only disclose such geolocation information to the subscriber so that the subscriber can locate the device” and “After termination of the Service, the subscriber’s account information relating to this Service will be deleted.”

12. How can I manage the settings of Norton Family Premier?

There are 2 ways to manage Norton Family Premier:

  • Web portal (from any device, even Mac or Linux)
  • Parental app (Android and iOS)

Your settings are turned into what Norton Family Premier calls House Rules. These are visible to your kids whether they’re on a mobile device or Windows PC. A few example rules:

  • “Web sites that I visit can be monitored”
  • “I may not visit some website categories”
  • “My parents can monitor the apps I install”
  • “I may use this device for 2 hours today”
Norton Family House Rules on Android
House Rules (Android)
Norton Family House Rules Windows
House Rules (Windows)

13. How frequently is Norton Family Premier updated?

Looking at the Product Update Announcements, I can see that Norton Family Premier is being actively developed.

I don’t know how often the database used by Web Supervision is updated. That’s another reason to block the Uncategorized category, to prevent your kids from visiting obscure websites that haven’t yet been categorized.

14. How easily can my kid get around Norton Family Premier?

Norton Family Premier is designed to prevent kids from disabling it or getting around it, and overall it does a good job. To disable the software or change the House Rules requires entering the parental login info.

As I pointed out earlier, the major weakness is in browsing on Windows, since a kid just has to use a browser without the Norton Family extension enabled.

You’ll be notified if your child disables the browser extension, but until you’re able to act on that notice, your child can browse without Norton Family Premier tracking them.

On Windows, I recommend that you uninstall any browsers other than Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. To prevent your child from installing other browsers, have them use a non-Administrator user account on Windows.

When your kid installs a mobile app, it will be allowed until you block it. So I recommend that you use the parental controls built into Android and iOS to prevent your child from installing apps. Otherwise, they could install a different browser. If you choose to allow your kid to install apps, you’ll want to keep an eye on new app installations so you can block any that you don’t approve of.

15. How many devices or accounts does Norton Family Premier cover?

One nice thing about Norton Family Premier is that there’s no limit to the number of PCs, phones, or tablets you add to your account. There’s also no limit to the number of children you add.

This makes the software especially appealing to families with several devices and/or children.

16. What else do I need to know about Norton Family Premier?

There are a few other miscellaneous things I’d like you to know about Norton Family Premier.

On Windows, the software can prevent your child from entering personal information into insecure (HTTP) webpages. You can record your child’s Social Security Number, phone number, and/or email address, plus one free-form field for other personal data, and the software will prevent this info from being entered and notify you. But, since this doesn’t work for secure (HTTPS) pages or mobile devices, it’s not very helpful.

On Windows, if your child uses a browser with the Norton Family extension enabled, the software will monitor your child’s Facebook activity. If your child creates an account using a false age, or posts personal data, you’ll be notified.

Norton Family was tested by the independent test lab AV-TEST in November 2018 and was one of two parental control options to receive the “APPROVED Parental Control” certifications for Android, iOS, and Windows. The other was Kaspersky Safe Kids.

Norton offers customer support via live chat and phone.

Some users report that the software slows down their device. This is more likely on older or less-expensive devices.

17. What does Norton Family Premier cost?

The price of Norton Family Premier is $49.99/year, and you’ll be happy to know that that rate doesn’t jump up when you renew.

If you’re looking for comprehensive Internet security, including anti-malware (antivirus), consider Norton 360. Some plans include Norton Family Premier.

Norton Family Premier Review – Final Thoughts

In summary, Norton Family Premier is a great tool to keep your kids safe online. Since it can track any supported devices your kids are using and offer a great web interface that any parents can easily use to monitor these devices.

Who Is Norton Family Premier Best For?

Norton Family Premier is a good choice if your kids use Windows PCs and Android phones and tablets.

If you also have one or more iOS devices, it can still be a good choice, even though it can’t control iOS apps. If you have all iOS devices (rather than Android), I suggest choosing software that can control iOS apps.

If your kids use Macs, you should choose different parental control software, or rely on the parental controls built into the Mac.

What You Should Do

  1. Define what you want parental control and Internet filtering software to do. Start with what you’ve learned in this review.
  2. Decide if Norton Family Premier will work for you and your kids.
  3. If you choose Norton Family Premier, install and configure it. As you do, consider my advice throughout this review.
  4. Talk to your kids about the house rules you set. Talk when you first set up Norton Family Premier, as well as regularly after that. Technology is no substitute for parenting.
  5. Regularly evaluate how well the software is working for your family. Adjust the software, and your house rules, as necessary.

Norton Family: Award Winning Parental Control Software
Free

Norton Family helps you supervise your kids' online activities and protect them against unsuitable content. It helps block inappropriate websites while your kids are surfing the Internet.

We may earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

1 thought on “Norton Family Premier Review: Are Your Kids Safe Online?”

  1. I have been testing Norton Family while my kids have been home schooling. The main issue I found is that you can only allow or block the main site; not parts of it. For example, I wanted bbc.co.uk blocked as they don’t need access to news, sports, TV etc but they did need access to bbc.co.uk/bitesize as this is educational. Unfortunately when I put this url into the allow list, Norton removed the /bitesize when saving, leaving the whole of bbc.co.uk allowed. Not allowing full url paths to be allowed makes this less useable and I’m now having to look for an alternative.

    Reply

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