Remember that game you played when you were a kid? The game where everyone is sitting around in a circle and one person whispers a message into the ear of the person sitting next to them. That person then passes the message along to the kid sitting next to him and so on.
The last person to receive the message must say it out loud.
Then everyone giggles at how distorted and far the message is from the original words whispered.
That game was the modern-day equivalent to the social media that played a role in the rape case involving two Steubenville teens that has held the headlines for months now. But this was no child's play or anything to laugh about.
Lawyers for both sides in the case had to wade through tens of thousands of vile, vulgar text messages, emails and Facebook posts among teens and some adults to learn more about what happened on Aug. 11, 2012, after a night of drinking and other questionable actions among teens.
What a sad day for the Ohio Valley community, the families of both the victim and defendants, when so many lives were forever changed and tarnished by drinking teens out of control.
I don't know how many times something like this has to happen before we realize, as parents and children, that there have got to be behavior boundaries and consequences for our actions.
I am of a generation whose teen years were spent in the turbulent, "free love, if it feels good do it, me decade." It was not all fun and games. There was a definitive clash between the crew cuts and pressed slacks crowd and the long-haired, bead-wearing types, all who enjoyed a walk on the wild side. Talk about sending confusing messages. It was a constant battle of trying to do what's right while attempting to fit in to be part of the "cool" crowd. Many of us would like to think we learned something from those experiences.
Today's teens are experiencing their own challenges in a very fast world where instant gratification is sought at just about any cost.
But this recent rape trial has shown local teens, their parents and now a global audience just how far and quickly things can go from right to wrong, good to bad.
Perhaps if anything is learned, and I pray to God it is, we as a society will not tolerate the language and the disrespectful actions that many of our youth believe are OK. They are not.
I have lived through times that I wish I could have changed, including plenty of my own actions. Maybe that's why I want better for our kids and grandkids.
Without rules or boundaries, anything goes and that really is confusing to young people. It's easier when kids know what's expected of them and are held to those expectations of respect for others and themselves.
What goes around really does come around and I don't want to be sitting in that circle anymore.
Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.