As I checked the news this morning, there are still stories coming out about the rape case in Steubenville, Ohio involving 2 high-school football players and a 16-year old girl.  I have been following this case for a while for several reasons.  First, I just can’t believe the details of the story.  High school students get together to party.  Two star football players, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, rape a drunk 16-year old girl several times at several different locations.  But if that’s not bad enough, as the incident transpired, those in attendance took photos and videos.  They also posted, tweeted and uploaded the photos and video of the incident.  Unbelieveably, no one stopped the rape but just let it occur and it was all over social media.

I just kept thinking about this incident over and over.  There are so many horrific things about this that happened.  Like, why did Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond rape a drunk girl?  Why did those in attendance do nothing to stop the rape?  Why did the community taunt the victim online after the convictions of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond?  But what bothered me the most is why did those convicted and those who watched take photos and video to post all over social media?  They did this not to shame or indict Trent or Ma’lik but just to put it out there.  That really bothered me.

So why did the social media element of this crime take place?  In other words, why did those youth think it was okay to takes pictures and video of the rape and post it online.  Well maybe I can chalk it up to youth.  They didn’t know what they were doing and didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation.  Nahh!  I’m not gonna accept that.  They were old enough to know they were stepping outside the boundaries of the law and what was appropriate.

Then I really thought about it.  Technology and social media is a big part of our young people’s lives.  Many young people put things online, good or bad, because well, that’s just what they do.  That’s all they know.  My dissertation research was about how our face-to-face social networks impact our online social networks.  In other words, they people we hang around and what we do with them impacts what we do online.  So, in this scenario, what was being done in a social situation spread to their online social circles.  To them, it was not right or wrong.  It just was a natural progression of the events that occured that night.  Now, I’m not saying that’s right but that’s what happened.

What can we learn from all of this?  We can definitely use this as a dinner table discussion topic with our tweens and teens about how to act and use technology appropiately.  Here are some points that I suggest:

    1. Hold young people accountable for their use of technology.  Discuss the do’s and don’ts of using technology with your children.  Tell them what your expectations are for using computers, social media and cell phones.  Also, be clear about the rewards and punishments when used appropiately or inappropiately.  Have them sign and follow Family Computer Use Contract.  This is a great tool I recommend for families.
    2. Encourage your child to do what’s right.  I used to hear these infomercials that said “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk”.  Well, maybe we should create a new one –  “Friends don’t let friends get videotaped while they’re raped”.  Encourage your child not be a bystander or just go along with the crowd when a crime is taking place.  It’s not okay to watch a crime occur and do nothing.  That’s not cool.  What if that girl was their best friend, sister, or cousin?  What would they want others to do if they were the ones getting raped?  Yes, you can take a photo or video of the incident, but only if you are going to turn it over to the authorities.  Because if you are not helping the situation, you are part of the problem.
    3. Supervise Your Child’s Activities. In reading the details of this incident, the teens were partying, drinking and driving until the wee hours of the morning.  I don’t know about you but when I was 16, I couldn’t get my hands on alcohol or stay out until 3 a.m.  That just wasn’t happening.  So it just baffles me as to what kind of supervision these young adults have.  Maybe I’m old school but give your child a curfew, know who there friends are and supervise their recreational activities.  Some people may think I’m a mean, old-fashioned mom but I don’t care.  I thank God I had one of those mean, old-fashioned moms raising me.

It is my hope that the victim, Trent Mays, Ma’lik Richmond, and the community can all heal from this horrific incident.  What are your thoughts about this inciden?  How do you think the students could have used social media to help and not hurt the situation?