Wandering toddler – the harmful effects of viral videos

By Heeni Brown

The grandmother of a toddler found on the street wandering in just her underwear says she's taken the toddler into her own care. A video of the distressed child has gone viral online and police inquiries into the incident are continuing.

Grandmother Katie Meke is worried this video of her three-year-old mokopuna will have a lasting effect on the toddler and their family.  

"For me as a grandmother, I don't want to disclose my granddaughters name on the media because I don't feel for future reference I don't want that girl to grow up knowing that she was a kid that was found somewhere and that you know the whole case is disappointing and also it's a bit shameful that it's happening with my family."

Police are conducting inquiries and are now working with the family and the Ministry for Vulnerable Children.

Meke says she maintains her support for her daughter. She says the toddler was left sleeping with an uncle, while the mother went to pick up another child at a nearby school. 

"She admitted that she was wrong, it was just an accident, it was just a big mistake, but she didn't realise it was going to be this big."

Since the video was posted yesterday, it has had more than 130,000 views on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Netsafe New Zealand's Sean Lyons says the person who filmed the toddler should consider the impact the video is having on the family.

"I think you could probably argue that a young child wandering around in their underwear being filmed and that being published to a much wider audience is something that could probably cause distress to a family. If you see stuff like that going up online what often happens after that is the commentary from other people. So people start to say things about the other person taking the film or about the parents of the child and it's at that point they're generally where the harm starts to occur. They start to express their opinions quite forcefully. People start to make criticism of people involved, some people start to make threats and especially when they can start to identify who the people are and at that point. It's likely to cause problems.”

He says if it's having a harmful effect, then the content should be removed.

"If they do know it's causing problems for the family then the right thing to do is to remove it publically. And any harm that has been done will sort of fade into the distance."

Te Kāea contacted the person who posted the video. They are yet to respond.