I RECEIVED a notification from the police saying, as a victim of a crime, the opportunity to attend a Family Group Conference would be open for me, to "address" the offending of two teenagers who broke into my car in December.
I had wondered what I would say at this meeting. I noted the ages -- 14 and 15 -- and as a reporter I knew technically they were too young to feature in an adult court, and thus would not turn up on a Google search under their names, for this crime.
As a reporter, I know how quickly, almost rabidly, names will secure themselves to the internet for any reason. I would have liked to have said to these teenagers, and to any teenager in general, that by the time they are 18 they will be defined for all time by whatever Google brings up under their name. The only thing that protects teenagers, keeps them private, is the court's protection of their names due to their age. Once you reach adulthood, everyone can see what you've done.
By everyone, I mean your aunties, nannas, cousins, father, mother, brothers and sister, all your mates at school, and any potential employer. Visible records never existed before the internet. Sure, they were public information, but no one apart from reporters, people willing to leaf through newspapers at the library and those with police database access could go to the trouble to locate your crimes.
I would ask, can you withstand everyone knowing your business? Because if you don't stop with this crap, you will have no private life any more. People judge you because of what the internet says. People think they know you because Facebook talks about you. People see a photo of you online and will write your entire life story in their own heads.
I'd tell them, I have adults pleading with me to take internet items down, because they committed a crime and they're sorry, but the information is hurting them. I can't. Today's new punishment is the entire world knowing what you've done and making instant judgments.
I could tell them all this, but I don't think I'll get my moment to do my "adult" talk. One of those teenagers died in Masterton on Sunday fleeing police in a stolen car.