Michael Nodianos really messed up. He is the teenager in the video recently released by the hacktavist group Anonymous shown joking about an incident of rape allegedly perpetrated by his fellow high school football teammates in Steubenville, Ohio. Warning, the language and attitude in the video is highly disturbing and offensive.
As a consequence of the outcry on social and traditional media, as well as reported threats on Michael, he has been forced to withdraw from the University of Ohio where he was offered an athletic scholarship. In the days following the release of the video an attorney by the name of Dennis McNamara representing the teenager said that Michael was drunk at the time of the video and that “after sober reflection” he is “ashamed” of his behavior the night the video in question was shot.
In my opinion, this teenager is not as much of an outlier as some would have you believe. He made horrendous comments about the extremely inappropriate topic of rape while he was drunk. He was thoughtless, impulsive, and upsettingly insensitive and although the comments he made are wrong, he stupidly made a spectacle of himself by allowing the comments to be recorded. Additionally, he has brought intense public shame upon his family. The price that this teenager is being forced to pay for what he said is a perfect storm type, worst case scenario that could have happened to many teenagers.
Following the Sandy Hook tragedy, a teenager in Miami got in trouble with the police because he tweeted “ironically” that he was going to shoot up his school. Because of neurodevelopmental and maturational issues teenagers are much more prone to make horrible mistakes of this kind, especially when drugs and alcohol are introduced into the mix. Let’s not demonize Michael Nodianos and allow ourselves to pretend that he is the only teenager capable of making such morally disturbing statements. He made a huge mistake, shame is the appropriate response and I hope that he learns from the consequences of his actions and that in the future is more conscious of impact his words can have.
Parents, this is a great opportunity to educate your teenagers on the power that their words can have to elicit strong and even hateful reactions in others. It’s a good opportunity to help your teenagers understand that saying “I was just joking” or “I was drunk” can be more about damage control that anything else and does not excuse them from taking responsibility for what they chose to say. Have a conversation with your teenager about what happened to Michael Nodianos. Get them to talk about their view of it and if they are off the mark on their thinking help them see why in a nonjudgmental way. Take an educational stance and allow them to develop their own more mature opinions on what happened to Michael Nodianos.
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By Miguel Brown