Addictive, dangerous, and a bad influence, social media is always in the news for the wrong reasons. But as a mother of a teenage daughter, I don't agree the online world is an enemy of our children, in fact here are 10 reasons why I think social media is amazing for our teens...
1. It cheers them up.
Just because my teen's got out of bed the wrong side, or there's no Cookie Crisp cereal left or just 'because', bad moods in our house can strike at any time. But after a quick scan through a few Vines or YouTube my daughter will almost always find something to giggle about. Vines in particularly always make her smile, especially if it's a middle class American boy taking the mickey out of his mum or school, like US online star Adam Waithe.
2. Feedback boosts self- esteem.
Yes, controversial, but although we've all compared and despaired by looking at other's lives online, I've seen my daughter change her view of herself for the positive too. For example she always loathed her beautiful curly semi afro hair. She'd tie it up or want to keep it cut short. But after she'd posted a few pictures of her hair down, compliments came flooding in. Within months she decided to grow it as a long as possible and now she wears it big and with pride now. I used to tell her all the time she had lovely hair, but she needed the wider world to say it too.
3. New friends are just a click away.
Tweeting, Facebook, Vines, Chat apps, Instagram.. social media for teens is more far reaching than ever and as a result a much wider range of potential friendships is available, from across the world. At one point my daughter became very friendly with a fellow teen Tweeter from Australia. Through Facetime they started to chat every day and through the conversations my daughter learned lots about the Oz way of life, and they even started corresponding the old fashioned way by post. She's also made friends from Blackberry messenger, Whats App, and Facebook. It opens up a new world of friendships as long as sensible cautions are taken.
4. Teens can actually get in touch with their heroes.
A few years ago, trying to get in touch with a celebrity would involve standing for hours outside a stage door or sending a letter into the ether to be ignored by an agent. Today's teens can just sent a tweet and can get a reply or retweet from their favourite celebrity if they're lucky.
My teen even had a picture she drew of her favourite YouTuber retweeted, and at the time she said it was the most exciting day of her life (other things have usurped this moment thankfully).
5. It educates us.
Social media appeals to every facet of human emotion, including sharing of issues and problems our teens might not have come across otherwise. A YouTube video called 'How not to react when your child tell you that he's gay' attracted seven million views, and almost moved my teen to tears as it secretly filmed an 18-year-old being verbally abused by his parents for admitting he was gay. Afterwards we talked about homophobia and intolerance and my daughter was outraged it was still an issue in the modern world.
6. Sharing pictures easily.
Thanks to Facebook and Instagram, my teen's pictures and status updates keeps her family in the loop. Grandparents, her uncles and aunties, can all see where she's been and who her friends are and when she meets them they all have something to talk about and in the meantime can 'like' what she's doing to say how proud they are. These days few of us live near our families, so it's an important resource to keep everyone close and in touch.
7. Cheap entertainment.
It's cold and raining? It's the weekend and her friends are busy? She's finished her homework and there's nothing on TV? Looking on the computer or iphone is one my child's favourite ways to spend some free time, to laugh, to message her friends, or just to see what's going on in the world. Not something I want her doing all the time, but it's a boredom buster.
8. A place to turn to for advice.
If my daughter needs to ask a question about homework she doesn't have to bother ringing her friends or waiting until the next day. A few lines on Facebook and she'll have her answers. Or if she's not sure about what to wear for that party or wants someone to walk to school with the next day she only needs to ask. Her friends have even used it to seek advice on difficult subjects like their parents divorcing or overcoming self harm. 9. A place to test out your honesty.
Often people find it easier to express their feelings, rightly or wrongly, from the safety of behind a computer. Clearly trolls prove this doesn't always work for the greater good, but my teen has found expressing herself with written words is sometimes more easy than face-to-face. For example after a fall out with her friends, they have apologized on Twitter or sent an inspirational post on Instagram. Sometimes words online can provide huge comfort or give a motivational insight we might not think of when we try and talk.
10. It's a habit their futures will thank them for.
Like it or not social media is here to stay and many businesses, big or small, are signing up for a piece of the action. One of my teen's friends has managed to attract ( and keep!) 20,000 followers on Twitter using a fan account. That's quite an impressive feat for a 14-year-old boy. How to converse online, attract people to your website and understand your cyber profile, is something many employers will see as a good skill to have in the future. And if they're learning and having fun then all power to the next generation.
Do you agree? What do you think are the positives (and negatives) for children using social media?
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