OUR columnist Ruth Wishart considers whether social media is really a force for good for the next generation.

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It seems that nice Donald Trump and myself have something in common after all – an addiction to Twitter.

There are of course some salient differences. I greatly prefer sleeping to tweeting in the larger of the wee small hours, I keep to the promise I made never to use it as a means of personal abuse – regardless of the provocation – and I have just a few less followers.

The Donald, who has an ego the size of Wales, an attention span that would embarrass a gnat, and a skin thinner than the make-up which “enhances” it, revels of course in the millions to whom he can point as his ‘followers’. “Tremendous numbers, Ruth, tremendous. I can tell you that. I go down real bigly.”

What his hapless courtiers probably don’t care to tell him is that many of these millions tune in merely to access his latest outburst, many of them are unable by dint of geography or personal inclination to vote for him, and many use his offerings to bolster the burgeoning industry that is Trump-based comedy shows and impersonations.

But while, by common consent, it is both ludicrous and unseemly for a US President to communicate via online ranting, it does pose the ever more urgent question as to whether Twitter and other social media are forces for good or evil.

The 45th incumbent of the Oval Office may throw around the term ‘fake news’ at random, but in fact there’s a lot of it around in cyberspace – a forum it’s very difficult to police and cross check.

Yet there is another side to that coin. Many important campaigns have been started online, many fine causes have found funding, many missing children have been found, many important debates have been aired. And of course for the screen-based generation, the notion of utilising anything other than keyboards, of whatever dimension, to access or disseminate information is strictly for dinosaurs.

Self-evidently the biggest players, Google, Facebook etc have yet to take their own responsibilities seriously enough.

They don’t want to be regarded as publishers, because that would imply the kind of regulation their print-based colleagues have always had to observe. But publishers is what they are nevertheless.

And there is another conundrum we have to crack. Children and young teens who routinely use social media for most of their personal interactions need to be acutely aware of the need to restrict the personal material they put online – and to understand the possible perils of ‘sexting’.

There are too many malign folk out there who would happily take advantage of their unwitting naivety.

But at the same time, the adults who want to flag up these dangers are rarely as internet savvy as the kids they want to warn.

I’d love to have been a fly on the wall as police and Rotarians visited primary schools in our locality to talk about safety online.

Methinks the under tens would be the smartest users in the room.