A Sunderland story went national on Friday. The Sunderland Echo reported that a father who decided to photograph his own son sat on a ride while out shopping with his wife and son at the Bridges mall was stopped by security. The father described what happened:

“That’s when the security guard came over and said I couldn’t take the picture,” said Kevin, 48.

“He said it was the centre’s rules because I might be a paedophile.

“I said I was Ben’s dad and told the guard he must be exaggerating about the problem.

“He started getting a bit stroppy and radioed his control room.

“I wasn’t happy so I took a picture of him, so I could identify him if I wanted to make a complaint.

“When the security guard first came over Ben got a bit upset because he thought I was getting told off because he had got on the ride.”

Read the full story here. At first glance, the story might appear just to be a political correctness/lack of common sense story. Of course, a parent should be able to photograph their child on a ride out shopping. That’s a normal family experience. Let’s change the story. Let’s say the Sunderland Echo was a story that a paedophile known to Police was exposed as having regularly been taking photographs of children going about their business in the same shopping centre. How would the readers react? What would the editorial say? We would, I imagine, collectively demand action – “where was security? Why didn’t the Police get involved?”. So there we are, a shopping centre management and security team that are damned whatever they do.

Our attitudes to paedophilia remain at best confused. If we want to stop these ‘lapses in common sense’, we need to recognise that somewhere, sometime there is a chance a paedophile might take a photograph of your child for their own gratification. The photograph at the centre of this storm has featured in almost every news report describing the incident. If someone found some sort of satisfaction looking at this image, they now quite easily do so online. Frankly, as we upload more and more of our photographs to photo sites and social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter, people don’t need to loiter around in a shopping centre – we’re taking the photos for those people. Yet, at the same time, our schools don’t include children’s photos in their own school prospectuses. Social historians will surely look back at this time and conclude that we must be completely bonkers.

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