I grew up in a world which has disappeared. My past is just that, my past. It happened and it is over. I lived a colourful life most especially when I was at school as I did not conform very well.
However as far as my children are concerned I worked hard, never skipped a class or a day, always did my homework, and studied well. Thankfully there is no evidence to the contrary, because in my day there was no internet.
Today one of my daughters came home from school and said they had had a talk on the dangers of the internet. She is sixteen, that age where many who come to the school to give talks to them, may well feel they have entered the lions den.
However she told me it was a really good talk. The woman who gave it works within the prison system. She explained to them that it only takes five minutes for someone to take every photo and detail from them, while they are engaging with them.
They were also shown pictures of different people. Some outside their houses. She then went on to show them how that persons house can be identified, by figuring out where they go to school, or hang out etc. She explained to them that some of those she met in prison had burgled houses having read that people were going away for the night or on holiday.
She also told them that no matter what they do everything they post will last forever.
She then asked them had they ever posted anything they really wished they hadn’t. There were some smiles but no hands went up. Then she said to them that the school had okayed her to check out some of their facebook pages, and she had discovered that not all were as private as they thought.
They began to get uneasy. “Well?”, she said, “I’ll ask again, are there any of you who have posted something you really wish you hadn’t?”. They said nothing. “Well, I have here just one picture from one of your facebook pages and I can assure you this person cannot be proud of this”.
She looked around. “Put up your hand if you are now worried this might be from your profile”. My daughter said a lot of hands went up. The speaker began to smile, “Here it is”, and she showed them an empty slide.
However it was a point well made.
There is another final point she made which I admit surprised me.
She spoke to them about how easy it was for them to end up on the sex register. It took an inappropriate comment or photo, sent in error to someone, or sent to someone they thought was older and they would be under investigation. She remarked on the numbers engaged in cyber sex and how unsafe that is.
As I listened quietly to all this, inside I was spinning. Burglary, cyber sex, bullying, facebook, stalkers,
my children really do live in a world I do not know or recognise. I am so incredibly grateful that I grew up without the internet. My mistakes are in the past and I can pretend they never happened. My children will only know the me I want them to know, and I can happily draw a line in the sand between my past and my present.
What of my future?
I myself am a part of the internet now. Not only is my blog out there, but other parts of my life are also visible. I purposely do not post photos of myself or my family, as I have no idea what my children would think of that in years to come, nor am I comfortable that strangers would look at them. In years to come will it be possible for future employers to put together a profile from baby days upwards? We have no idea what the possibilities are. As it is I share a lot of my life here, maybe I will regret that in years to come, or maybe my children will.
There is no doubt that the internet has changed our worlds. Largely for the better. However as I look at my children I remember what I was up to at their ages, and I am oh so grateful that there was no internet.
More specifically, I am so thankful that there are none of my memories out there, no moments I wish had never happened, no inappropriate photos, and no comments I wish I had never made.
As for my children their past will never be past. Every moment they live they leave a cyber footprint, which will follow them wherever they go. Until death do they part.
I hope they know what they are dealing with, but I think in truth none of us really do.