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  • I was sat with my seven year old daughter Lyra and my friend Stefan who was visiting us from Poland. I was telling Stefan about how Lyra was able to use YouTube to find things she wants to watch (a concern of mine as you can imagine). Lyra then asked if a particular home video we had made when she was just a toddler was still online. She reminded me of it: she was holding a lollipop in her hand and had fallen asleep at the bottom of the stairs. I’d discovered her, and together with my wife, Lesley, filmed ourselves discussing whether we should leave her outside for the bin men (you had to be there to appreciate the humour). Anyway, the short clip was damn cute, and funny, and looked back upon with very fond memories.

    So I acknowledged my recollection of the clip to Lyra, thinking that maybe she wanted to see it; possibly even show Stefan. I was very wrong. She instantly broke down, sobbing uncontrollably. I tried to comfort her, asking her why this made her so upset. It became quite clear that she didn’t want that video to be on YouTube and she hated the fact that so many people had already seen it.
    So, as a father, I was devastated. What have I done? Why did I assume that she would approve of these intimate, personal moments of ours to be broadcast to the world? The answer is: I didn’t assume anything. I didn’t even think about it. She’s a baby, a toddler, a child. She doesn’t get a say. She didn’t get a say when I uploaded all those baby photos to Flickr, and Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter, and the list goes on and on.

    But, of course she does have a say. She’s realising now as she gets older and uses the internet that anyone could see that video. I imagine her concern is not so much the random trolls out there, but that her school friends are watching our videos. I’m pretty sure none of them will ever have seen them, but she doesn’t know that. How could she? All she knows is that there’s an easy way to go online and watch movies and funny clips. She’s not aware of the complexities of actually finding something specific, she just knows how easy it is for me to load my YouTube channel and start embarrassing her.

    So it ends. It stops now. My Facebook page is going private. There’ll be no more Vines, or content hosted on sites that do not allow me to control the privacy settings. My YouTube videos are now all private, and I am trying to find a way to make my 6000+ photos on Flickr also private ( I may have to write a tool to do it myself). There’s going to be a lot of work to purge all of the content and it will be impossible to completely eradicate it; but at least I am stopping this now. Imagine what it would be like when she is 13, 15 years old?

    But, what about your kids? What about all of the other kids growing up over the last 10 years? Are we, as parents, ready for the backlash? When will your kids demand you take their photos down? What will you do? Refuse? Will they seek revenge (there’s a film plot there I’m sure)? How will you feel if the content you have published publicly online is used against your child by cyber-bullies?

    We all have a responsibility to consider the privacy of others when publishing stuff online; but your children can’t give you their permission. Don’t just wait until their old enough to decide for themselves before trying to remove this content from the web: take action to update your privacy settings on all your accounts now. And most importantly of all, if your child is old enough: sit them down and discuss this with them. Make sure they know that you do care about their privacy and that you are taking steps to protect them in the future.
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