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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the Google+ social network is now open for teens, with some privacy tweaks for teen accounts and a new Google+ safety guide for teens. Just as with adult users, teens have the ability to limit who sees certain posts by "circles" -- friends, acquaintances, work, and general public circles for example. Google+ will automatically remind teens about who may be seeing their post if their posting on public or extended circles, and the company created age-appropriate privacy default settings for any users who are known to be teenagers by their site registration information. The education component includes a blog that highlights safety content, frequently asked questions, and links to other organizations concerned with Internet safety to help promote teen social networking safety and smart use, as well as provide answers for parents and teens new to Google+ about its features. The parent section includes content from Common Sense Media. Google+ also encourages the use of their features for users that allow teens to report abuse, block people, and remove negative comments from their posts. Still, teens will need to use the same caution they do with sharing on other social networks -- remembering that putting anything onto the Internet has the potential to stay there forever.
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Is it any good?
Google+ attempts to improve on Facebook's friend concept, incorporates Twitter-ish features, and includes group video and chat features with Hangouts. Privacy settings are customizable, and the core idea is that circles give users more control about what they share and with whom. While Google+ makes it easier to group contacts into Circles, it's still somewhat difficult to navigate, and teens haven't flocked to the site as some had speculated.
Initially, the inclusion of teen users on Google+ raised a lot of questions about how teens might use the site: How would each specific feature play out (will people like instant video chat or find it intrusive)? Would the teen privacy, safety, and education features be effective in creating a safer, more teen-appropriate social networking environment than others? How would the data sharing across Google services affect the teen experience concerning marketing and advertising? And, of course, would Google+ grow to become Facebook's top social network rival?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about social networking sites and teens. Parents will need to stay updated on the status of Google+'s teen use policy and new features, as these will change in upcoming months.
Parents may want to consider getting a Google+ account of their own before it opens to teen users to learn about the privacy settings and other ins and outs of the tool.
One of the main features of Google+ is the group video chat capability. Read our video chatting tips.
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