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How a recent case has left parents with more questions than answers

A few weeks ago, legal observers -- and much of the nation -- were closely following a criminal trial in Massachusetts involving a 20-year-old woman charged with involuntary manslaughter for sending her boyfriend text messages encouraging him to take his own life, which he sadly did.

Specifically, prosecutors alleged that the then 17-year-old woman sent her 18-year-old boyfriend, who was already of a fragile mental state, a series of text messages back in 2014 that caused him to inhale a fatal amount of carbon monoxide while sitting in his idling vehicle.

In a somewhat shocking outcome, the presiding judge found the young woman guilty of involuntary manslaughter, indicating that her more than 100 text messages put the young man in a "toxic environment [that] constituted reckless conduct" and that this conduct, in turn, was responsible for his death. She now faces up to 20 years in prison.

In the aftermath of such a tragic case, it's likely that many parents have been left wondering what they should be talking about with their own teens.

While there is, of course, no definitive list of talking points, experts indicate that some viable subjects to broach with their children about this tragic case could include:

  • Privacy expectations: While we like to think we are afforded anonymity on the internet, the reality is that every comment, tweet, text, etc. can be traced back to its original author, and that everything memorialized via these forums will exist in perpetuity.
  • Actions have consequences: No matter whether dangerous or disobedient conduct occurs online or in the real world, it can have lasting consequences for all parties.
  • Compassion matters: Showing concern for the feelings of others can truly make all the difference.
  • The power of words: Words, whether spoken aloud or posted under a screen name, can prove just as damaging as actions.
  • Asking for help: Understand that its always okay to talk about mental health concerns.   

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is there anything else about this case that you've discussed with your child?

As always, please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible if your child has been charged with any manner of criminal offense.  

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Mr. McKellar was voted by his peers as a “Top Attorney” by Knoxville’s CityView magazine in its 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 editions. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, Mr. McKellar was selected as a member of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” by the National Trial Lawyers.

Ms. Easter was voted by her peers as a “Top Attorney” in Cityview Magazine for Family Law / Divorce / Child Support in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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