Teenager vilified over Twitter stream: Gets job, loses job

Teenager vilified over Twitter stream: Gets job, loses job

Summary: Teenager Paris Brown had a new job in the police force. Then the media dredged up her online past to try to make sure she lost it.


Seventeen-year-old Paris Brown seems to be a typical gobby teenager. She voices her opinions, swears, drinks, and goes out with her friends. She uses social media like almost every other teenager in the country.

paris brown
(Imgae: This is Kent)

But unlike every other teenager in the country, Paris beat 164 applicants to be appointed as the Youth Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent in the UK. This job involves advising the police about how its policing affects typical teenagers. Teenagers just like Paris Brown.

When her new role was announced, one of the UK's tabloid newspapers, the Daily Mail, took it upon itself to search through her entire Twitter feed. Twitter only exposes the last 30 days of tweets in its search API — you need to use paid search options to expose historical data.

It managed to find examples of typical teenage outbursts (Remember the outbursts you, yourself had at that age?). Sunday's Daily Mail article contained examples of her tweets, which she has now deleted. Tweets such as: "I really wanna make a batch of hash brownies"; "am getting so drunk this Saturday, so so painfully oh so unattractively drunk"; and "Been drinking since half 1 and riding baby walkers down the hall at work oh my god i have the best job ever haha!!".

You can read the other “foul-mouthed, self-obsessed” tweets in the Daily Mail article.

The Kent police are now going to decide whether she has committed any offences with her apparently "violent, racist, and anti-gay" comments (according to the Daily Mail article) on Twitter posted up to three years ago when she was 14 years old.

And this afternoon, Brown resigned from her post and deactivated her @vilulabelle account.

It seems that whenever someone is catapulted into the public eye, and who has a social media history, they are fair game. Seventeen-year-olds are not technically "adults" yet, they are learning life's lessons and finding out what is socially acceptable in day-to-day behaviour.

Baby Boomers and generation X are probably relieved that social media was not around when they were committing their indiscretions away from the beady eye of Twitter and the Daily Mail. But how do digital natives learn what the socially acceptable norm is — unless they experiment for themselves?

Have a look at the Twitter stream of your children and their friends. These kids are experimenting with their behaviour and language to find the most appropriate fit for their peer group.

Many teenagers would fail the scrutiny of having their whole Twitter or Facebook stream examined for swear words, examples of under age drinking, carousing, and inappropriate behaviour.

Just like most of their parents would have failed a similar test 30 years ago.

Making an example of Paris Brown's online behaviour might open up a whole can of worms for future employers. Recruiters might be rather busy scanning every tweet that prospective employees have sent ever — especially generation Y, who have grown up with the oversharing culture that is social media today.

So what is the solution? Deleting your childhood Twitter and Facebook accounts as you move into the world of work is one option. Being bland and neutral on your social feeds forever — is another.

Or perhaps having a healthy dose of tolerance towards the young might be the best answer. Ask yourself — were you much different at that age?

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • Keep your opinions to yourself

    Instead of sharing them with the world. You're not that interesting.
    • Why so much intolerance?

      But why is everyone so intolerant of her views and lifestyle? Why so judgmental and narrow?
      • Tolerance dictates how we respond to differences

        it does not insulate those differences from examination or criticism.
    • and neither are you

      You are no more interesting than anyone else. Social media isn't for everyone and people use it how they see fit. I think it's stupid employers are allowed to base their decisions off of social media. You cant even ask a person their age legally (at least in NH), but yet they can use this personal information.
      • It has nothing to really do with employers

        It is more a way to scrutinize, glorify or in most cases, vilify a person. You as a person, now have that delightful ability to be scrutinized and medially drawn and quartered at any persons or organizations whim.

        Welcome to the new social "we have no clue what we are doing" experiment and you are the test subject.

        Chuckle :-O
      • So would you have a problem with...

        an employer using info in newspaper/magazine articles, TV news stories, public records (e.g. legal, criminal)? I don't agree with employers that ask to be friended or ask for a Facebook or Twitter password, but if people don't secure their social media accounts, anything that's public is fair game in my opinion. If you don't want an employer or potential employer to use it, take some personal responsibility and configure your accounts accordingly so they can't do so without your consent.

        If you don't want your neighbor to see you naked (or worse), close your curtains before you get undressed.

        If you don't want your boss to know you're hungover, don't brag about last night's exploits with your "bro" at the water cooler right outside the boss's office.

        This isn't rocket science folks.
        • Grownups can get that

          We have fully developed frontal lobes. Teenagers -- literally -- cannot understand that their posts will have long-term consequences. They are missing that part of their brain.
          x I'm tc
          • Frontal lobe? Get real people!

            If I hear another lame comment about teens not having a developed brain. Ok, so teens aren't smart enough to not blab about their exploits on facebook because their brain in not fully developed... But we let them drive 3,000lb cars by themselves, fly airplanes alone over populated areas, drive heavy farm equipment on public roads in rural areas during harvest, and drive tanks during war at age 17 with parental consent.

            Teens aren't dumb. It's just some teens (like some adults) are to dumb to figure out something so simple.
            Teila Day
  • Tabloid uses Vast Resources to Harass 17-year-old kid!

    What I take away from this is that when a tabloid exploits children in order to enhance its circulation, people get upset with the kid for doing what all kids do in one form or another: trying on a persona that Mom and Dad might not like.

    Does the Daily Mail make it a practice of abusing children for their own benefit?
    Robert Dunehew
    • Could be interesting

      To see previous text messages and emails of the journalist that went after a 17 year old.

      Surely as an adult they've never said anything stupid... Well you know... Daily mail articles aside.

      What really hits my none sense detector is the point was that she be an average teenager correct? What would be the point on the police being advised by a teen that spent every Friday at home studying for university? So they can better understand why they aren't breaking the law?
      • Text messages and emails are targeted correspondence.

        Tweets are the definition of public. Why compare private correspondence to private?
        • Because it's a teenager

          Who do you think are following them? How public do you think it is?

          Let's be realalistic; it's about as public as her facebook wall.

          Whilst anyone can see them, they have to request to. And who on earth do you think was following her when the tweets were written? Peers. It's not as if she spread her ignorance through the nstional press.

          I didn't defend her. She messed up, but I do attack mr Myer. He is a man attacking a minor for saying stupid things. If you're going to do that, the air from your mouth better be real clean.
    • Maybe, but...

      It's not always going to be a tabloid trying to increase circulation. It may be an employer using public social media profiles and posts to vet an applicant. It may be a university using it as a factor in whether to accept an applicant. It may be a father trying to determine whether you're worthy of dating his 15 year old princess. Either way, the stuff kids so freely document via social media may be counterproductive to a wide range of desired objectives.

      20 years ago when I was in HS, we did the same stuff as kids today, we just didn't have tools in our pocket that made it ever so convenient to create a permanent record of it for the world to see. Our biggest concern was a parent or teacher overhearing a conversation, not someone out there lurking on the Internet Googling me and my peers to dig up some dirt.

      Don't get me wrong, in some cases, I'm glad social media and kids general indifference to privacy has had some benefits, like helping convict the jocks in Steubenville (as well as those harassing the victim) and the countless lesser profile cases of people bragging about crimes they committed on social media who were apprehended as a result.

      But it's the less serious youthful indiscretions that kids need to realize can still come back to haunt them. Whether it's a tabloid or a more noble cause doesn't really matter. Once that information is in someone's hands, the damage is done. The Internet doesn't forget, and you can bet that there's someone looking to tap into its memory around every corner.

      Kids need to learn that while your counts of "Friends", "Likes" and "Retweets" may win you Prom King/Queen, it isn't going to have the same effect on a potential college, employer, etc.

      PS - Most colleges and employers aren't really going to care if you were the Prom King/Queen, just in case you were wondering.
  • Hmm

    I don't want to judge, but a teen-ager getting blitzed at work would seem to me to be a bright red warning sign.

    Though, maybe it was parody. Or improvised performance art. It is writing and we don't know if this is a public journal or a work of fiction loosely based on a particular life. Or snapshots of the future adult as a work in progress: making mistakes and discovering identity and values. One can imagine the tweets of St. Augustine's young self as being quite colorful.

    On the other hand, public institutions and employers do not want to be embarrassed. They have to do what they have to do within their matrix of civics, politics and competition for customers.
  • Perfect for that job.

    The police wanted an advisor on how to deal with teens. A squeaky clean honor student would botch the job. They wouldn't understand how an average teen thinks! But someone who's "been there, done that" would be a perfect advisor.
    • Yes

      I actually agree.... The police don't go to the upstanding citizen when they are looking for informents haha... they get people that blur the line... so their not nuts but know what the story is... but anyway
  • Related?

    Eileen Brown writing about Paris Brown...

    Any relation?
    Allan Farrell
  • she looks

    "oh so unattractively drunk" in that picture too. That's a 17 year old? Wow.
  • Teach Your Children Well.

    It is easy to vilify the tabloid or the teen. The truth is that we need to teach our children the danger of posting things online. They need to know that it can come back to bite them. You can shake your fist at the tabloid all you want, but that fact is not going to change. It is a historical premise: Get public recognition, prepare for a background check. Right/wrong/indifferent - love your kids enough to try to help them see this. Then - if they make a mistake and some private things gets out - stand behind them and support them.
    Chuck McMahon
  • And yet we missed the target...... again

    Yep, she gave up her job. So? She posted a bunch of garbage on yet another public blog. Another fine example of this so called internet privacy niche that we so think exists. Why do we have this false belief that whatever we post online, blog, "like", or click on has to be 100% private? Who made that privacy thing free? Why do we "have" to let all these free sites just abuse us by publicizing our deepest thoughts and what we had for lunch three years ago? Oh the humanity of it all!!
    She drunk posted on Twitter of all things. Seems to me she was showing off since that's definitely not the place you want to post "private" stuff. Give me a break. And a police department wants "that" as a Commissioner? Kids these days... (facepalm)