The new Youth Police Commissioner for Kent is a seventeen year old girl who’s just come under fire from…well, everyone, for certain rude and offensive tweets she posted before she got the job last week.
I’d just like to stop here and say how sorry I feel for her; it was the Mail on Sunday that was responsible for hunting down and publicising these tweets. I personally can’t think of anything worse than to have the Daily Mail on my case with regard to stuff on the internet.
I also think that she’s a silly girl who didn’t listen in the Internet Safety talks we’re being given repeatedly at the moment. As teenagers, we’re all supposed to be internet-savvy, and frankly, it’s common sense to realise that tweets are public and if you are applying for a highly publicised and groundbreaking role in an area that is particularly sensitive to the British public, it may be an idea to check what you are tweeting. There are millions of journalists out there (most of them are probably employed by the Daily Mail) with nothing better to do than to search through minor celebrities’ twitter accounts for something to kick off about.
I also do not think it’s necessary to cry when giving your public statement. Yes, this is a hideous and embarrassing thing to happen to anyone, not least a seventeen year old girl, but please try to be dignified about it.
My real anger here is directed at the Police Commissioner for Kent and the people in charge of appointing the YPCC. Where were the background checks? Where was the ‘Oh, by the way, maybe you shouldn’t have racist/homophobic/anti-immigration comments on your Twitter account, and condoning violence in any way, no matter how many qualifications you make, is a huge no-no’ when she got the job?
I mean, just the other week at school we had an Information and Guidance session going over the dangers of putting exactly this sort of thing on your social media accounts. They covered everything, from why you might not get a job, to how that information could be used against you or taken wildly out of context. Also, just how easy it is to be tracked down on the internet. On the one hand, the girl in question should really have known all this, being a ‘normal teenager’, but on the other, why wasn’t an internet background check carried out? Why? And if it was, why was she not told to remove the comments or told she couldn’t be a YPC with this sort of stuff floating around?
Also, why does it appear that she’s being given no support besides a statement from the Police Commissioner about how she won’t lose the job. This seems grossly unfair and really harsh on her. Yes, what she did was wrong and more than a little bit stupid, but she’s admitted the problem, taken down the Twitter account and made a public apology. She’s seventeen. I’m seventeen, and I make stupid comments on a daily basis. I think very carefully before I write things online, but it’s generally accepted that I am not a horrible person and I will grow out of saying stupid and mildly offensive things.
One comment made by Ann Barnes, the Police Commissioner, did make me laugh, though: “I think that if everyone’s future was determined by what they wrote on social networking sites between the ages of 14 and 16 we’d live in a very odd world.” We live in that world now. It is routine practice to check out a person online. Maybe something said at the age of sixteen doesn’t apply so much to a thirty year old, but what is said at sixteen definitely applies to a seventeen year old. Especially as some of the posts are as little as a month old. All it’s doing is giving teenagers a bad name and proving that no, we aren’t mature enough to hold £15,000/year jobs.
That was a gross generalisation, but I don’t think the majority of teenagers have got the life experience necessary to represent the views of a massive age group in a large county diplomatically and sensibly. At least, not without a huge amount of support from people who do have that kind of experience, which this poor girl obviously isn’t getting.