Tuesday's public announcement that Paris Brown would resign as the UK's first Youth and Crime Commissioner was sad news for an aspirational, if not hubristic, initiative. However, amongst the cynical journalism and on-line jokes, there are some significant points to note.
1. Young people do need to see that what they write on line may have consequence for their immediate and later life. Often pupils feel that their on-line life is 'private' and that if they are not directly attacking a person or institution, they are not at fault. In many ways I recognise their arguments, but we are all feeling our way with tweets, emails and posting; in this climate they need to be mindful of what they write. Kidscape, the excellent charity, encourages children to not write anything on line that they would not show to their parents- again this is a bit ambitious and perhaps forgets some of the excitement inherent in rebellious adolescent life, but it's a wise bit of counsel nevertheless.
2. Sometimes lessons come in many guises and often you do not teach students what you expect you will in a lesson. Paris Brown was meant to be a symbol of youthful hope and future decency- this sadly has not been the case. However, watching her read out a prepared and cogent resignation speech with a sense of maturity, contrition and integrity made me believe that she had within her all the tremendous personal qualities Kent Police thought she had. It is a shame that she has not been able to fulfil the position as youth commissioner, but she and others may well have learnt a huge amount from the incident and she showed a great deal of character under a lot of social pressure.
3. Do adults have unrealistic expectations of children today and weren't we all subject to the same misjudgements when we were growing up? The only difference for us is that thankfully the lack of internet meant that many of our adolescent actions were not recorded for posterity or, in the case of poor Paris, possible and seemingly high-handed legal action. For many of us born in the pre Internet age the worst reminder of youth we have had to fear is the parents getting out the embarrassing childhood photos.
Neither Kent Police nor the public got what they expected in this venture, but there was something good in the aspiration, something to be positively recognised in Paris's mature response and something to be learnt for us all regarding the indelible record of those innocent 140 character tweets.