Online teenage shenanigans and embarrassing posts could soon be a thing of the past

By Holly Rees, Account Director

The axing of striker Julio Rey from Spanish football side Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña this week is a stark warning to all of us to think twice before posting to our social media channels. When an abusive tweet about the club from 2012 was discovered, they responded by cancelling the planned transfer and Rey’s hopes of his dream move from fourth-tier Arosa SC to the La Liga club were shattered. In a statement, the club said: “Deportivo, who announced the signing of Julio Rey this week, has decided not to complete the deal after finding unfortunate comments made by the player on a personal profile online.” Rey has since deleted his Twitter account.

Rey is the not the first and definitely won’t be the last to make a social media mishap. With today’s digitally-savvy teenagers capturing every moment of their lives online, Rey’s tale is a cautionary one to beware of what you post as you never know when it might resurface! But do teenagers realise the wider consequences of their posts, and do they actually care? I don’t think my 15-year-old self was worried about any teenage hijinks affecting my university or job prospects, but then again I wasn’t leaving a digital trail all those years ago.

Worried about what today’s youth are posting, ministers are backing proposals for a series of internet ‘rights’ for under-18s to have incriminating pictures permanently deleted. The move comes as the European Union prepares to allow adults to demand any online images or texts posted by them when they were under 18 to be taken down. The iRights coalition has set out five rights that young people should expect online, including the ability to easily edit or delete comments or pictures they have posted on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and to know who is holding or profiting from their information.

As someone who is not on Facebook, and tries to keep a low profile online (I only do Twitter and Snapchat), I’m actually surprised by how many photos there are of me on the social platform. My friend regularly sends me pictures from her timeline of our university days, nights out and holidays, but they are all very tame compared to some of the material teenagers post today.

But today’s youngsters are different, they have grown up in a digital world where there is online evidence of every meal they’ve eaten, night out they’ve had and concert they’ve been too – there is not much that is kept private. And this is all available for future university tutors and employers to see and judge. I mean, it’s the first thing you do these days, when a new starter joins the business or someone is joining for work experience, you look them up online!

I once remember a girl on work experience (at a previous company) who tweeted that work experience was boring. I was really mad and wanted to pull her up on it and warn her to be careful about what she tweeted but decided that she should learn on her own. And looking back, it was actually not that big a deal, it could’ve been a lot worse and I doubt it affected her career like Rey’s tweet did his. So, in my eyes the iRights proposal is a great idea. Nobody would want to think that anyone would damage their future prospects by youthful hijinks being captured online when having fun is front of mind and a career seems a long way off.

The internet is 25 years old, still a youngster itself but it was not designed with young people in mind. For me, I can reminisce about growing up and not worry about the digital footprint that has been left behind. iRights will help today’s youth to have the right to be who they are in the present online, as well as in real life.