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Protecting Your Kids Online: How Much Risk Can You Tolerate When It Comes to Your Kids' Social Network Behavior?

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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.

We've already talked about kids in a previous post.

Now let's look at parenting styles.

At one extreme, there are parents who are strict, who want to micro-manage everything their kids do, who know exactly where their kids are and who they're with at all times, and who don't completely trust their kids because they believe that kids -- by nature -- are going to take risks and get into trouble if they're not tightly monitored.

These parents also set exceptionally harsh limits, attach strong consequences for any out-of-line behavior, and rarely, if ever, cut their kids slack or let them get away with things.

Parents like this might take away their kid's mobile phone, deny use of video games, TV, or recreational computer use during the week, limit their kids social interactions, enforce strict curfews, and occasionally or regularly drug-test their kids.

At the other end of the spectrum are parents who let their kids do pretty much whatever they want.

These parents rarely know where their kids are, who they're with, or what they're doing at any given time. They give their kids freedom to roam freely around the neighborhood, even at young ages like 12 or 13. They figure that if their kids get in trouble, they'll just learn the hard way. They probably don't make their kids wear bike helmets, let their kids watch R-rated movies at a young age, don't check what they're looking at online, and possibly turn the other way when they know their kids may experiment with alcohol or drugs.

Sadly, there are a lot of parents like this and, even more unfortunately, is the fact that you sometimes don't know which ones they are. So, if you are the first type of parent, you never really know if your kid is hanging around with a kid who has the "I-don't-care" type of parent.

As always, there are the in-between parents. They exercise a judicious amount of control and oversight, but also balance this with a healthy amount of freedom. These parents set certain specific guidelines and limits, yet they also trust their kids, which helps build independent young adults.