Social media seems to be taking over the world as a form of communication. Both young and old are opening Twitter accounts, regularly updating their Facebook pages, constantly sending text messages and exchanging photographs on Instagram to name a few.
In the context of family law, and particularly the breakdown of relationships, we are seeing more and more examples of information being disseminated via social media which has a direct impact on families and the breakdown of relationships. To give a few real life examples:
- A husband who denied that he was involved in a new relationship, but on the public page of his Facebook entry, there was a photograph of him and his new partner
- A husband who denied that he was in a committed relationship with his girlfriend – on the girlfriend’s Facebook pages she had photographs of herself, admittedly not with the husband in the photographs, at the couple’s foreign holiday home
- A wife who first became aware that her husband was having an affair when she saw a photograph of one of her female friends on Facebook having dinner with her husband
- An individual sending a text message which was addressed to a boyfriend or girlfriend, but was inadvertently sent to their spouse.
The above are just a few real life examples of situations where information about new relationships which people think is confidential and private, is not.
WhatsApp is becoming even more popular than texting. In early 2015, WhatsApp was sending 30 billion messages a day from its 700 million users.
It is safe to say that social media is not going to disappear, and indeed the different forms of social media and technology which are available are increasing all the time. The new generation which doesn’t remember life before social media will soon only communicate in this way. Privacy is more and more difficult to achieve in our modern social media world, and people really do need to think carefully before uploading photographs, pressing send on an email, and sending a text or WhatsApp message.
As Susanna Gilmartin mentions in ‘Social media in the work place ‘if you don’t think you would feel comfortable being cross examined on a comment you make on social media don’t do it. Assume that if it’s on social media it will not be private and can be accessed.’
Help for parents?
If you have children and would like to help them with how they too use social media safely then we strongly recommend the government’s website which has help for both parents and children to avoid risks online. They have even prepared some simple checklists to help you keep your children safe online according to their age group. www.getsafeonline.org/safeguarding-children/