Nowadays, teens have access to multiple social media sites, and can be found texting, face-booking, twittering, tumbling, insta-gramming, you name it, at all hours of the day and night. For many parents, the question a lot of times is,"How do I keep track of what they are looking at and who they are connecting with?"

Which leads me to the question: Is Social Media Good OR Bad?

Social media can be positive, however, it can also be very dangerous, especially for children and teens.

WHY?

The internet, along with the numerous phone apps out there, has brought both anonymity and accessibility to all kinds of social interactions. So, teens may go from having day to day chats with "friends" they both know and don't know, to finding a stranger that they consider a "hottie." The latter statement refers to an app called Tinder, the latest teen dating site that promotes "cutting to the chase"; alleviating getting to know someone and choosing to meet them based on their looks.

I am not against social media sites such as this one per say, however, my concern is that we are seeing an increase in the following among teens because of these social media sites:

Vulnerability to sexual predators Sexting (sending nude or semi-nude pictures of self to others, or using sexually explicit language, etc.) Seeing people as objects instead of subjects, Creating a disconnect where teens hide behind their phones Compromising the younger generation's ability to relate to one-another Cyber-Bullying

the media has shared recent reports of more than one teenage girl being sexually assaulted after going to a high school party and having nude pictures (taken by young men they were with) taken of them against their will, then exploited all over instagram or other social media sites. the damage that this caused and causes is significant: shame, embarrassment, and the impact to an impressionable teen's self-esteem can be life long, and sadly, in some cases, end in suicide.

There are benefits of social media, if people can use it maturely. For instance, Facebook, which is considered the most popular social media networking site to date, can be positive for teens to stay connected to friends and family. Instagram can be fun forum for teens to share appropriate pictures to friends and family, Tastebuds can be a creative way to connect with teens through music, and datemyschool can be a way for college student's to find people to date at their own college.

The challenge with teens is that they are vulnerable to peer pressure, they have raging hormones so their emotions run high, and their brain is not completely formed. So healthy decision making is often inhibited. Along with this, insecurity and self esteem are also highly common during this rite of passage, putting both young men and young women at risk for being exploited in hopes of being "liked".

I cannot stress enough that maturity and parental guidance is KEY to protecting your kids/teens from dangerous occurrences on social media. Know your kids. Know what they are looking at and talk to them about it. If you are connected to your kids, you will be able to strike up a conversation about the dangers and realities of social media. Educate them on the fallacies and truths of social media; if need be limit their access, not as a punishment, but as protection.

This is the generation of our future. Let's support them in having healthy connections to others while protecting them from the many dangers out there.

~Candice