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As children become even more immersed in technology, foster homes and guardians can use social media to understand these children better and learn about potential risks they are facing.

Social media allows youth to share writing, photos, and locations easily, helping the influential adults in their lives learn more about their creative pursuits, emotional well-being, and friend circles. Here are five ways in which social media is helping keep children safe.

1. Understanding peer networks

As children build their real-life social networks at school, they will often include their classmates and friends on their social media pages. This can provide guardians and foster care workers with valuable insights into the peers that influence and surround a particular child. Children can be encouraged to develop strong bonds during extracurricular activities, and carry on group discussions via the web.

Peer networks can also give guardians and foster care workers insight into the social challenges an individual child faces. Instances of bullying can be caught early if a child is a victim on social media pages. This can help predict and prevent these behaviors from occurring.

2. Location awareness

Children are quick to make use of social media features, using location services to check into restaurants, campuses, and other locations. This can help families understand what a child’s day looks like. For example, children might share exciting details about a class field trip by checking into a museum and sharing thoughts on their favorite exhibits.

Families can also be alerted if their children are in locations they shouldn’t frequent. For example, if a youth checks into an arcade during school hours, then families can explore the issue and find a way to resolve it.

3. Emotional outlets

Children struggle with more challenges than their families and peers are aware of, from social pressures at school to their home environments. Social media and blogging can provide a therapeutic outlet for children to share their experiences and organize their thoughts. Creative work, such as painting, drawings, poetry, and photography, can easily be shared via a social media post.

Educators, social workers, and guardians can work with a child experiencing emotional stress and encourage him or her to use social media posts as an outlet. Assignments such as, “Write about what you look forward to during the day, and what stresses you out,” can serve as clear and simple prompts.

4. Early risk signs

As children learn to share their successes and challenges online, families can keep an eye out for potential risk signs. Posting trends, such as continually depressed or aggressive status updates, may indicate a child’s need for emotional support.

Instances of neglect and abuse may be caught early because of social media posts. As children share details about their environments, educators may learn more about how to improve the school setting and which areas are operating well. As children become used to sharing their thoughts via social media, it will be easier for them to address the joys and challenges in their lives.

5. Traditional resources for kids in care

Foster care and preventive services can leverage social media tools to create a better quality of life for children in care. Social media can provide recognition for positive influences within a child’s life, such as teachers, guardians, and peers. Status updates and posts can also guide foster care services to the challenging areas of a child’s life, so they can address issues at home or school.

In addition to providing a creative outlet for children, social media helps families form closer bonds with children. They are better able to understand the kids’ peer networks, social motivations, and aspirations.

Written by Drew Hendricks