Google+ -- sometimes called G+ -- is Google's new social network. It has two parts: something called "Plus 1" that appears next to links in Google, and Circles, the social networking system that allows you to dump friends and family into different buckets and contact those people en masse. Plus 1 allows you to select items on the web and share them with your circles. Think of it as Facebook meets a bookmark sharing site.
As a parent you probably have plenty more to worry about than a new social network, but I'd posit that Google's latest creation may be quite interesting and offers lots of improvement over Facebook's lax privacy features. It also reduces the noise and mess associated with most social networks ("Lydia is eating corn at El Rancho Corno!" "Boy, I sure love my little angels but they're exasperating! They just put the cat into a trash bag! Got him out just in time! Whew!")
For example, this is my G+ page. You'll notice that if you're not part of my circles (that is, if I haven't added you), you can't see any of my information. Once you've been placed in a circle -- and you can have multiple circles -- of trust, however, you can share with people individually or en masse. For example, if you wanted to send the family a picture, you'd make it visible to your Family circle. Want to share something with your work friends? Create a Work circle. Want to create a circle for your Swingers Club? Pop all your friends into a Swingers circle like I do.
You can share things with all of your circles at once, as well. The best thing about Circles is that it helps you maintain private and public posts and is built with your own real-life social networks in mind. Rather than share willy nilly, you have much more control over your online life.
Another interesting tool is Google+ Hangout. This is a multi-user chat system that allows you and your circle members to video chat. You simply send an invitation to certain people or a certain circle and wait as the users file in. You can make them public or private and the video and sound quality are excellent. It's a great way to get the entire family on one chat window and a special "follow" system focuses on the person speaking, bringing them front and center in the application.
Think of it as multi-user Skype that is dead simple to use.
To paraphrase Cracker, what the world needs now is another social network like I need a hole in the head, but Google Plus seems to get a lot of things right and makes it easy to compartmentalize your online life. It's hard to get an invite to G+ right now, but you can try to create an account here and feel free to add me as your first friend in this brave new G+ world.