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This crucial insight into teen lives

THE HERALD'S Teenage Kicks series is required reading for parents -- and young people. Our four-day series examines teenage attitudes to sex, body image and other issues, and the effect of the internet on these.

The findings may make for worrying reading at times, particularly for parents and guardians. Traditional ways of monitoring our children's behaviour, and who they associate with, have been turned on their head by the net.

Social networking sites have an increasing influence on teenagers' lives -- in some cases outweighing that of parents or 'real world' peer groups. As such, parents need to be aware of their contents and the effects they can have.

However, it's worth bearing in mind that most young people use the internet, and social networking sites, in a positive way. Openness about its use mean parents -- and their children -- will have nothing to fear.