‘Statistics,’ ‘advice,’ ‘nurture,’ ‘nature’ – over the past month England’s broadsheets have been preoccupied with debating childrens’ privacy policies. David Cameron’s new advisor on childhood, Claire Perry, has said that ‘parents should not be afraid to snoop on their children.’ Meanwhile, a study showed that 83% of 16 – 19-year olds keep a pen-and-paper diary; up from 69% in the 90’s.
So, on the one hand you have got 14% more diaries floating around the UK and on the other you have got government officials advising parents to ‘snoop.’ Therefore, statistically-speaking, being under-18 in 2013 doesn’t bode well for one’s privacy.
‘Thank goodness I was a 90’s child and a 00’s teen, before the government spawned these Big Brother parenting ideologies,’ I thought as I flicked through Bryony Gordon’s ode to her Winnie-the-pooh diary. But then I thought about it some more; though my diary days predated this spying phenomenon, is not to say that spying didn’t exist back in the day – it just wasn’t as accepted. Evidence: my mother read my diary.
Pink, covered in smiley-faced stickers, my first (and last) diary was bought for me by my Kenyan friend Camilla, back in late 2003. My mother read it in early 2004. I remember walking into the kitchen as she leafed through at the kitchen table while drinking a cup of tea. She looked up, saw me and laughed. “Alice, you don’t need to worry about having bigger breasts. It will all happen in good time.” I ran to my room and cried.
Almost 10 years have passed since that encounter and after these privacy/diary articles were trending, I decided to hunt the diary down and have a read. Stuffed down the back of my bookshelf, I found the tattered artifact, smiled at my youthful scrawl and started to dissect. Milla had written instructions on how to keep a diary on the first page: ‘you don’t have to write in it all the time,’ ‘stick things in,’ ‘write down all the amazing days,’ etc.
By page 20, it was obvious that I hadn’t followed Milla’s guidelines; I hadn’t followed them at all. My 13-14 year old diary is the most miserable read I’ve had in a very long time. Tear-splattered letters begging my mother to let me leave boarding school are juxtaposed with hideous monologues about my teachers and enemies (now friends). There are the occasional rants about how much I loved my brother’s best friend which are seasoned with badly drawn love-hearts and a few pre-digital photos of my black-haired, red-eyed (from a year spent crying) translucent-skinned, self.
There are no happy memories in my diary; on all accounts it is a year of my life that I would rather forget and after thinking it over, I don’t want to run the risk of my mother, siblings, friends or even me being able to read it again; so I have decided to burn it.
Milla finished off her introductory page with: ‘when you’re old you will look back on this and say ‘I remember that girl’ in a croaky old voice.’ No Milla, I’m afraid I won’t. But I will look back on our other memories, our happy memories, and remember them instead.