I love the parenting message in this Associated Press story, and I think it applies to teen social networking as well as videogaming. Across the US, according to the AP, many parents say hanging out with their children in the virtual worlds of videogames brings kids closer “by providing a safe, convenient way to stay in touch and talk to their children on their own terms.” Eighty percent of the parents who play videogames (35% of US parents) play with their children, according to an Entertainment Software Association study cited by the AP. One dad said “the time spent with his daughter … matters much more than the games themselves,” and the AP cites an expert saying that “videogames equalize the physical size differences between fathers and their kids. That means children often have the edge in a video game, and they may feel more willing to communicate.” That’s something I’ve been suggesting since I started writing this newsletter – that empowering kids (letting them be, e.g., the family chief technology officer or just asking them to guide a parent through software preferences) fosters both communication and mutual respect, which is increasingly protective of online kids. It’s protective because on the 24/7 user-driven Web it’s so easy, when parent-child communication breaks down, for kids to operate at greater risk online “underground” where parents can’t be involved.