Norton Family Premier (Android): The Best Choice for Parents

Families with several children — and even more mobile devices — will welcome Norton Family Premier, an excellent parental-control tool for phones. Norton makes it easy for parents to set up Web-content filters, locate their children and stay informed with weekly reports and email notifications of attempted misbehaviors. 

The Android version of Norton Family Premier is much more fully featured than its iOS counterpart, in part because of restrictions Apple puts on managing its mobile devices.

The Good

As on iOS devices, the Android version of Norton Family Premier does a good job of letting parents block content that falls into broad categories. Parents can use Norton's age-based recommendations to start the process, then make modifications as necessary. In my tests, Norton appeared to block sites equally well, whether using the Norton browser that comes with the app or Chrome. But unlike with the iPhone, I couldn't find a way on Android devices to grant access to a blocked site by entering a passcode.

Norton's parent portal lets you see all the downloaded apps on your child's Android device, and lets you block the ones you'd prefer they not use. (That feature is not available in Norton's iPhone version). There are some issues — you can't block app downloads altogether, and there's no indication on the list of apps in Norton's online portal as to what each app does — but it's still a helpful tool to have at your disposal.

MORE: Best Parental Control Software for Cell Phones

The parent portal also makes it easy to set times for when a child's Android device cannot be used. List the age range of your child and Norton will pre-populate a curfew, though these times are easily customizable.

You can also place a limit on how much time the child can use the device. It's not a perfect feature, as you can't limit times for specific apps, nor can you restrict access at certain locations (blocking a game when your child's at school, for example). But time limits are a useful feature parents will appreciate.

Norton Family Premier's best feature is its excellent location tracking. Via the Web portal, parents can find out where their phone-toting kids are in less than a minute. In some of my tests, locations were off by a few hundred feet, meaning you won't be able to tell if your kid is visiting a specific house, but it's still a great feature to have. 

Norton rivals Qustodio in its usefulness for multi-device households. You can install Family Premier on a PC, iPhone or Android device (but not a Mac), with your $50 annual fee covering up to 10 devices. The rules for each child are populated across all of their devices.

The Bad 

While Norton Family Premier did just about everything I wanted on my Android device, it's missing a few capabilities. It does not let you block your child from making or receiving calls, nor does it let you block specific callers. This seems surprising, as Norton lets you add contacts of whom the child may call when the device is locked.

I found the tools for monitoring text messages to be problematic. Norton lets you read your child's text messages, which is too invasive for my tastes. (The app does alert both your child and the recipient of your child's texts of this.) I would prefer a list of contacts that my child is texting, along with when and where those messages come from, but this wasn't available. 

Also, you can't block the standard texting function on the device outright, nor can you place a time limit on texting. (But you can place a curfew on the device, effectively blocking access to everything.) You're able to block specific users, but only by scrolling down a long list of contacts in the Web portal and selecting the ones you want to block.

The text-monitoring features in Norton Family Premier cover only the default messaging app on the phone. If you want to manage a third-party texting app, you'll have to delete it entirely. In fact, Norton offers very little in the way of managing social-media apps, other than by letting you uninstall them via the online portal. 

Bottom Line

Norton Family has some shortcomings, notably that it doesn't offer much if you want to stop your child from communicating or sharing with specific people. But overall, it's an excellent monitoring app, particularly for families with multiple kids and multiple devices. On Android, few programs can match its mix of Web-filtering, location-tracking and app-management features.

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