Cyber safety gurus are calling on the Government to follow in the footsteps of the UK and introduce a law allowing people to wipe their social media history when they become adults.

Companies including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram will be required to permanently delete everything posted by an individual before the age of 18 if they request it under the law announced in yesterday's Queen's speech.

Ill-advised social media posts by young people and their peers are increasingly coming back to haunt them later in life.

Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, who is part of the Government's online safety working group, told the law was a "brilliant idea" that "could save a lot of heartache" and even prevent serious mental health issues.


"One of the characteristics of children is their brains aren't fully developed yet. They tend to do things without thinking about the consequences, post something on Snapchat and later regret it.

"There was a 15-year-old girl recently who took a full nude selfie and sent it to her boyfriend. He sent it to 20 mates, and it had her name on it. A cyber security expert told me that could end up on a porn site with her name on it. It could affect her getting a job, and her whole life."

Carr-Gregg said these sorts of experiences had led to "increased anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and even suicide."

The UK law will apply to all adults, not just people who are children now, which could prove immensely valuable to over-18s currently battling to have certain data on them removed from the internet. It's hoped it will "strengthen rights" and give users "more control over their personal data."

Cyber safety adviser Susan McLean, who regularly gives presentations on the risks of social media, told she thought it was "a really good idea" to have a law like this one.

"Children are children," she said. "They need opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them and not have it impact their life.

"The vast majority of people would look back in horror at what they said when they were 18. Young people who make foolish decisions or ill-judged comments on social media should have the opportunity to remove that.

"We still need to educate young people to make safe, positive decisions with technology but the ability to wipe social media history would be great.

They need opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them and not have it impact their life.

"There's no mention of Google searches, so it's not a catch-all. If someone's taken a copy it's not going to remove that, but I certainly think it's worthy of discussion."

McClean said she always reminds young people that "anything you do digitally and electronically is permanent, it doesn't matter if you delete it, it's still there." Making a mistake can have lasting consequences.

Harvard University recently cancelled the enrolment of 10 students after it was alerted to certain offensive social media pages they were linked to. Employers regularly search social media profiles and the internet to make decisions on job applicants - if they find photos of drunken misbehaviour, controversial rants or complaints about your boss or job, it could have a very real affect on your future.

Carr-Gregg noted that it wasn't just young people embarrassing themselves. The most common problem on social media was bullies masquerading as someone, creating fake profiles to do inappropriate things and humiliate them.

"There are a lot of silly things going on," he said. "The stories are horrendous.

"There have been a litany of sites set up to torture my clients - pictures of their head on fat, naked bodies, pictures with sex toys, it defies belief. It's nasty.

"It would be a psychological balm to know at 18 it could be taken down. I think it would make parents feel a lot safer giving their kids a social media account at 13.

"It's a really sensible idea that takes into account that kids do dumb things online. There should also be mandatory cyber safety classes in schools, but this is cleaning up afterwards.

"It won't haunt them forever."