As with so much in life you learn a lot from your children. It was only when my eldest son wound up his Everquest game by selling his virtual trousers for 150 real dollars that I realised this world was very much part of the real world. And my youngest son helped me to understand that the friendships developed online are as significant as those in the physical world for him. Multiplayer online role-playing games have become increasingly popular with people of all ages, from all professions - in an increasingly digital world it's important that we are aware of the positives and dangers associated with them.
We are now well aware of the hazards of social media. As a vehicle for bullying and as a means for people with evil intent to gain easy access to children it is unprecedented. Many people rely upon social media for interaction with others and sharing with family and friends what is happening in their life. So the way in which we present ourselves and the feedback received through social media now forms part of our sense of self and sustains our wellbeing. It's powerful stuff.
The Children's Commissioner, Anne Longfield, is leading the efforts of many to press internet service providers to take more responsibility for controlling what they can to make the internet safer for children.
The world of social media raises professional dilemmas too. There are important debates taking place about whether social workers should access social media in order to understand more about the people they are working with. If parents are posting things about their social life and activities on Facebook, is it legitimate to take this into account when forming a picture of family life? Or is this professional stalking?
But social media also operates as a force for good.
Through my Twitter account I have seen the power of personal support for people through times of crisis. The networks which organically form, of people with shared interests, enable connections between people who would simply never meet in the same way in the physical world. And the informality of the environment can also facilitate conversations which are very useful in taking forward important debates.
Over the past six months I have seen a very vibrant set of conversations amongst care experienced people on Twitter. Ian Dickson has successfully generated conversations about the potential for care experienced adults to contribute more to the debate about how we should be supporting children in care. Using the power of networking he has been able to generate lots of conversations to clarify and develop ideas and thinking.
And from this has come the idea of a conference, a physical coming together, of care experienced adults. He's gained lots of support and it is now clear that this will happen in the spring next year. It's pleasing to see support from the Department for Education, Ofsted, the Children's Commissioner and others with a formal role to play too. The University of Liverpool are on board with not only facilitating the conference itself, but also enabling research to support this area for the future.
And if Ian's ambition is realised this will contribute to the future for children in care. As he puts it:
"Imagine also if those who made decisions about care had access to the massive experience and understanding of not just one band of care experienced people but could speak with care experienced people of all ages and in all their diversity, including those still in the care system and those who have successfully negotiated it and are now in the community. How services could be improved!"
None of this would've happened without Twitter.
Alison O'Sullivan is former president of ADCS. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website