Using Manti Te’o’s Situation as a Teachable Moment

Notre Dame star football player Manti Te’O set the sports world abuzz recently when he claimed his romantic online relationship was the product of an elaborate, four-year hoax. Although additional facts may yet emerge that clarify his role, the story raises many provocative questions about love and modern technology. News stories like these are a non-threatening springboard for sensitive discussions with teens. At the very least, Manti Te’O’s story cuts through adolescents’ characteristic denial; if this can happen to a likely first-round draft pick, it can also happen to them. Talking about his situation and asking for teens’ opinions can be most illuminating. Do teens think it’s possible to fall in love with someone they never met face-to-face? Could Manti Te’O really have been duped? Are there signs of deception teens would look for if they were in similar situations? Speaking about people other than themselves or their friends liberates teens from guardedness, prompting them to express views and beliefs their parents might not otherwise hear.

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