"Dad at 13" - The Sun's coverage

By Charlotte Goddard

| 13 February 2009

Have you seen the front page of The Sun today? No, me neither, but I have seen a story splashed all over its web site that I am told is also on the front page - an "expose" of a 13-year-old boy whose 15-year-old girlfriend has just had a baby. "Dad at 13" it screams. "The baby-faced father of little Maisie". (With a pic of the boy and the baby). Inside, it continues: "Baby faced boy Alfie Patten is dad at 13".

The internet adds an extra element - you can actually watch a video of Alfie, his girlfriend and the baby sitting on what looks like a hospital bed being questioned by (presumably) a reporter who we don't see. Yes, it is shocking how young he looks. But what is more shocking is the invasion of privacy this represents. We're talking about a 13-year-old, a 15-year-old and a baby, served up at a traumatic time in all of their lives for anyone with internet access to have a look at. Would you want your children displayed like that? Presumably consent was given, but do the couple really understand the implications? The paper is quick enough to suggest they don't understand the implications of being parents, so quite how they are supposed to have given informed consent to the coverage I don't know. When I just had my son I couldn't give informed consent to whether I wanted a tea or a coffee and I had to ask a midwife to help me do up his babygro, after half an hour spent lining up poppers incorrectly.

The article itself isn't too damning towards the young parents, probably because the paper wants to play up the "he's a child himself" angle (children are victims, teenagers are demons): the boy "tenderly" looks after his daughter, his girlfriend Chantelle comes across as pretty sensible: "We know we made a mistake but I wouldn't change it now. We will be good loving parents. I have started a church course and I am going to do work experience helping other young mums." 

The article seems to blame both "sex education" and "no sex education" for the youth of the parents. Blame is directed (via quotes) towards "value free sex education" and, obliquely, the grandparents (a telling quote from Alfie's dad that it's time to have a chat about the birds and the bees, implying it hasn't been done yet). Slightly strange though to blame sex education  - surely the main, ahem, thrust of "value free" sex ed is "use contraception".
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