Protecting Your Kids Online: Is Your Child a Social Network Risk-Taker?

11/17/2011 05:03 pm ET | Updated Jan 16, 2012

Many parents still don't understand the risks their kids are exposed to on social networks; or they think that the potential dangers only involve "other kids," or "not our type of schools." Wrong. Every type of school, child and neighborhood has already experienced the dark side of social networking.

The question is what's the best monitoring solution for your household?

And the answer depends on what type of child you have, what type of parenting style you've adopted - and, mostly, how much risk you're willing to accept and embrace.
Let's start with kids.

Certain kids are natural risk takers and like to push the envelope when it comes to doing risky and/or new things; there are also kids, who tend to follow what "cool" kids are doing, even if it involves risky or illegal behavior.

The net result in either case is the same.

Kids who are risk takers are more likely to try drugs or drinking, sneak out at night, visit inappropriate Web sites, drive fast and recklessly, and engage in inappropriate behavior.

This doesn't mean they are "bad" kids; but they just don't respect boundary-setting, and may frequently get in trouble.

These types of kids are likely to be less honest and open with their parents, and seek ways around any monitoring or limit setting. They may or may not get good grades, and, if they hide their behavior well enough, their parents may not even know about their risky actions and tendencies.

But, in most cases, a parent knows if their kid falls into this category; at least the type of parent who would be interested in monitoring techniques. In addition to Internet monitoring, kids like this may be served well with GPS devices that track their driving speed, or calls to other parents to verify their location or confirm the parents really are home and supervising a party.

Any solution is wise because it's protective in that it reduces the chances that a kid is going to get hurt, get in trouble, or do something that may be hurtful to another person.

At the other end of the spectrum are kids who are generally obedient and compliant; they don't challenge authority, they have a strong sense of right and wrong, they are not risk takers, they aren't tempted to participate in risky behavior, and they're open with their parents about what they're doing and where they are.

And, of course, there are kids who are in-between. They are generally good, and rarely get in trouble, but they will occasionally push the limits or engage in risky or inappropriate behavior. They temper this, however, with reasonable judgment, and aren't considered troublemakers, although this doesn't mean they won't cross the line occasionally.