From the Desk of Mrs. McGowan


On August 3, 2017,  Michelle Carter was sentenced to 15 months in Massachusetts prison. Carter had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter over the suicide of her boyfriend. She will also serve 5 years of probation. Additional details on her sentencing can be found HERE

What the Michelle Carter Conviction Means For YOUR Kids—The Michelle Carter verdict could set a legal precedent for whether or not it’s a crime to tell someone to commit suicide. Here’s 5 things to discuss with your kids TODAY.

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 Matter “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 well being. 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.

In February of 2019 Michelle Carter was taking into custody following a brief appearance in court. She was sentenced to 2.5 years in jail with 15 months to be served and the rest suspended. Carter is now 22. 

The comments are full of people who want to decide who was evil, debate the details of the case, and what the punishment should be. That’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to help us all take an opportunity to continue the dialogues with our kids about hard issues. For those of you who’d like to burn everyone at the stake, might I suggest this fantastic podcast about screentime and how quickly we alter our behavior and the way we interact when we are behind a screen.