“In a case that hinged largely on a teenage couple’s intimate text messages, Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter Friday in the 2014 death of her boyfriend, who poisoned himself by inhaling carbon monoxide in his pickup truck, a Massachusetts judge ruled.” (via CNN.com)
Over 100 of Carter’s text messages were submitted as evidence during the 6 days of testimony in her trial. She could face up to 20 years in prison. Michelle Carter was 17 years old when she sent the text messages, Conrad Roy who was found dead, was 18 years old.
The ruling states that Carter’s “virtual presence” at the time of the suicide and the “constant pressure” she had placed on Roy, who was in a delicate mental state, were enough proof for an involuntary manslaughter charge.
Here’s what we need to be talking about with our kids:
“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” — Yehuda Berg
Words are powerful. And scary. We can use words to build people or break them. Our kids need to understand what that means.
There Is NO Expectation Of Privacy
EVERYTHING we do online and with technology can ultimately been seen and found. There is not (nor should there be) any expectation of privacy. Our actions, whether we are 18 or not, can and will be held for or against us.
Your Actions Have Real World Consequences
Risky and rebellious behavior on the part of teens has often been explained by their developing ability to understand “Cause and Effect”. Some effects are permanent and lasting. No one wants to live with this on their conscience for the rest of their lives.
One of the best things we can do as parents is follow through with our own limits and boundaries so that our kids actually feel the effects of their actions. We must be both consistent and compassionate in our parenting.
Empathy and Kindness
It’s a conversation, and an example we must lead with, over and over again. Empathy and kindness must start in our homes and then travel outside our walls, not only in our children’s actions, but in our own actions.
Depression and Mental Illness
Most parents are keeping tabs on their own kid’s physical and mental wellbeing. However, occasionally I check in with my kids and ask how their friends are doing. I’ve asked if they’ve ever had a friend who seems depressed or has ever talked about suicide. Have you talked to your kids about depression? Do your kids know who to talk to if they are concerned for a friend? Is it you? Is it a school counselor? Their friend’s parents?
We need to keep an open dialogue with our kids about this stuff. Was there anyone else out there that could have helped Conrad Roy? Was there anyone else out there who could have helped Michelle Carter?
Parents: Don’t Expect Your Child Would Never Behave This Way
People say and do things via text and online that they would never say to someone’s face. Kids are armed with devices that yield more power and responsibility than it is fair for them to hold in their hands. The developing teenage brain is impulsive and often irrational. They need help understanding that.
This case turns the notion that “sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never hurt you” on it’s head and we, as parents, need to understand that issues facing children and teens today in the age of our digital connectivity can create situations with such tremendous lasting consequences.