Minors who participate in sexting, the practice of sending sexually explicit messages or images between cell phones, could soon face new charges.
Monday, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Senator Kirk Watson announced a new initiative to prevent the practice. That initiative provides legal provisions for youthful offenses so minors are punished for improper behavior but do not face life-altering charges.
The proposal would make teen sexting a misdemeanor offense with punishments ranging from probation to restricted cell phone usage. Judges would also be authorized to sentence minors in violation to participate in an education program about the long-term consequences of sexting.
Under current law, anyone who transmits an explicit image of a teen can face felony charges of possessing or trafficking child pornography. That means, children who send images of themselves and their friends face serious criminal repercussions.
"Studies show that teenage students are increasingly taking, sending and receiving explicit pictures of themselves on their mobile telephones," Attorney General Abbott said. "This practice is not just harmful to young Texans - it's potentially illegal. We are joining with Sen. Kirk Watson to address this problem in the State of Texas and offer common-sense solutions that will help protect young Texans."
Sen. Watson added: "The legislation that we are working on recognizes that sexting is wrong and illegal. This proposed new law would provide education for our children regarding the harm sexting causes, and it will give prosecutors an appropriate tool to stop this problem."
A report from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy said that 22 percent of teen girls said they have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves online. Those students have no control of how those pictures are spread throughout the internet.
Randall County District Attorney, James Farren, released this statement in regards to the proposed legislation:
"The Randall County District Attorney's Office welcomes news that an attempt to modify this law is in the works. We agree that this activity is dangerous and can come back to haunt the teens down the road when the images fall into the wrong hands. However, we also agree that the intent of the original statute was to punish severely those who exploit the teens and not the teens themselves. I believe the proposed changes will facilitate holding the young people accountable without placing them in an arena of felony prosecution."
Should laws be changed to allow for more lenient punishments in certain cases of teen "sexting"? Tell us what you think.