Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Sexting" and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Pittsburgh Parents May be able to curtail the potential effects of sexting through claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Three years ago school authorities in Wyoming County Pennsylvania discovered a group of high school students that were sending nude or scantily clad images of each other over their cell phones. This practice is commonly referred to as “Sexting”(clever but corny). In response, the district attorney of Wyoming County threatened to prosecute all of the students involved on child pornography charges unless they attended a probation program. Ultimately, this punishment was deemed to violate the students’ free speech rights and was enjoined by a U.S. District Judge.

Parents of adolescents and teens that may be directly or peripherally involved in this recent trend of sexting may be wondering if there are other forms of recourse beyond what the local authorities can do. Any parent in Pitstburgh, PA, can see that this issue is problematic in regard to the psychological harm this can cause young adults…psychic injuries that can last a life time. What often happens is a picture or video is created from one person for another but with the viral nature of the internet that picture or video ultimately becomes widely distributed and viewed by many more people than originally intended. The embarrassment, shame, guilt and anger can set impressionable young adults into life-threatening depressive episodes. For proof of the harmful power of sexting, one look no further than the tragic case of 18-year-old Jessica Logan who committed suicide after a photo she sent her boyfriend was quickly circulated throughout her community.

I have always felt the civil justice system works wonderfully with the criminal system to affect and promote positive social change. Where one falls short, the other picks up the slack. Such is the case with our local courts helping curtail the affects of sexting. Though our criminal statutes at present may not serve as much of a deterrent I believe that in many sexting cases injured persons, among other claims, have strong grounds to bring civil actions sounding in intentional infliction of emotional distress.

I will discuss the current state of claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress in Pennsylvania in my next couple of posts. Share this post :
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