As parents we quickly realize that our children did not come with manuals. Questions always come up and while books are good, sometimes we just want the opinion of some "real" people. We'd like to bounce ideas off other parents who have already walked down our similar path. Sometimes you just want to have a grown-up chat about topics other than PBS and Noggin. Virtual social networks can be a great resource for all of that.
You will have your pick of many different formats. Most require you to create some sort of profile. It is up to you how much information you feel comfortable divulging. Most profiles can be found by searching a common interest or location so that parents can find each other and connect. You can include pictures of you and your kids and some details about your interests. If you would like to remain private until you have met people, use nicknames for yourself and kids.
Once you have created your profile, you can search groups on the network. You will find everything from groups based on age (yours or your kids), location, unique differences, and common parenting issues to more frivolous groups based on spouses names, home town, and support for favorite (fill in the blank.) Some groups will be private and require you to join them in order to see their content. These groups will usually require an administrator to approve you. Other groups' content is public but you may need join in order to reply to the message board or RSVP to events.
A group will truly be what you put into it. If you post on the message boards or reply to mailing lists, you will find other people will follow suit. If you only check in occasionally or lurk (to read but never respond), it will be hard to make connections with the members.
Savvy Source has recently launched My Savvy Source, a community for parents to share their like interests and find activities for their family. You can join general groups or find a city group near you. Other great social networks can be found on Myspace, Facebook, Meetup, Google, CafeMom, MamaSource and RaisingThem. All of these offer virtual groups that only discuss online and never meet in person as well as groups that have a social calendar and use the message boards to keep in touch between events. You can also search profiles based on keywords and meet members one on one outside of the group features.
If you haven't done so already, take the leap into the virtual community. Find people and groups that interest you and start making friends and getting the answers to your questions.
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