Young people are all over the internet. Facebooking, Instagramming, Snapchatting, and Vineing their way to a digital future. Some are making fortunes out of 6 second videos; others are getting themselves into trouble, sharing things that really shouldn’t be in public spaces, and which may come back to haunt them in the future careers and relationships. Gradually, many of them are waking up to the implications of permanent loss of privacy, and they are moving away from openness towards more private platforms like Whatsapp, and from permanence, towards more temporary media such as Snapchat.
That is the picture that many people have of today’s youth. But, it is by no means a universal truth. Is it true, for instance, of the 1400 (at least) children abused in Rotherham? Or of those abused in similar circumstances in Rochdale, Oxford, Derby, and who knows elsewhere? Were they sharing images and videos of where they were all the time? Were they raving on Facebook about their new “boyfriends”? Were they posting pictures on Instagram of the men they were spending time with? I’m pretty sure the answers to all these questions is “no”.
We worry, rightly, about how some young people seem to disregard the notion of personal privacy; and there are serious, legitimate, concerns about this, particularly with regard to vulnerable children. But, could it not be said that there is sometimes a positive side to reductions in privacy? I know, from my point of view, that I am glad that my children grew up in the era of mobile phones when they could contact me wherever they were. And I have been concerned over some of the things they have shared on social media. But, after all, what was purely playground high jinks to most of us, is now public for all the world to see.
It is evident that the testimonies of some of those abused by the likes of Jimmy Savile have encouraged others to come forward with their own stories. I was someone who had well-founded suspicions of Savile, based on what people who had experienced his presence had told me, but like so many others, I had no evidence. I cannot believe he would have got away with his abuse if his victims had been able to share their stories on social media. So, I won’t stand for the argument that loss of privacy is a trend to be deplored 100%. Sometimes privacy can be a cloak which allows evil people to get away with abuse.