Social software - expect the unexpected

Should a 16-year-old pregnant schoolgirl be allowed to publish the black & white scan image of her unborn child on a social network which has members aged between 12 and 19?

This is just one of the many fascinating questions faced by the staff team running one of SHMU's Incluso pilots in Aberdeen, Scotland.

The team discussed the issue and found valid arguments for and against allowing her to publish the image. The social network site is closed to outsiders of the project in question, and so only people known to the young woman in question would be able to view the image. So we found our discussions were along two lines.

1. The young woman is positive about her pregnancy, supported by her family and friends. This, and her privacy, should be respected above all else.

2. The team members running the site have to consider ALL users - some of whom are as young as 12. It was felt that the image may accustom the younger members to the notion of teen pregnancy, something which health and education authorities try to discourage.

One team member who knows the girl well arranged to have a discussion with her about the issue, with the intention of persuading her to remove the image.

This discussion took four members of staff 30 minutes to reach a decision. The more often these isues arise the quicker it is to solve them, but with online social software you should expect the unexpected.