Paris Brown and Twitter: a lesson for students and graduates

Last week, 17-year-old Paris Brown was appointed the UK’s first youth police and crime commissioner. She was due to represent young people across the country, assisting Kent’s PCC Ann Barnes. Over the weekend it emerged that she had posted offensive (and potentially illegal) material on her Twitter page, when she was between the ages of 14 and 16. This led to a major media storm, with Paris appearing on the front pages of national newspapers and featuring regularly on the 24-hour news channels.

Paris offered a tearful apology on Sunday in a BBC interview but that did little to quell the storm around her new job and, today, she offered her resignation.

I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of her stepping down (although for the record I don’t think a responsible media should hound a 17-year-old girl in this manner), but there are lessons to learn here for all students and graduates.

Although we use Twitter, Facebook and other social sites to communicate with friends and you may think no-one of note will be watching, you must always remember these are public forums. Anything you publish on them, ever, will be available to access in the future. A bit of banter with mates on Twitter might be funny at the time but would a future employer approve?

Of course, the vast majority of you will never come under the media scrutiny Paris Brown has experienced in the last few days. But companies are increasingly scanning digital footprints for reasons why they should – or shouldn’t – hire you, and anything on your social media profiles that could be construed as illegal, tasteless, offensive, or even unprofessional might lose you an interview or even a job.

There will inevitably be more cases like Paris Brown’s, as a generation that has grown up communicating in very public forums starts to move into the public eye and into positions of responsibility. Unfortunately for Paris Brown, she has found this out the hard way. Learn from her mistakes: watch what you say online, delete questionable posts from your past – and remember, someone will be watching.

Andrew James Scherer was thrust into this world in 1986 and from the moment he was born knew he was destined for the top…of the marketing department at Inspiring Interns. Scherer somehow persuaded Inspiring to take him on in November 2009 and has been immovable since. Can be found @scheza on Twitter and intermittently at andrewscherer.co

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