November 8, 2010
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A new “Sexting” proposal aims to make the offense a misdemeanor for teens instead of a life-altering child pornography charge.
Under current Texas law, anyone who transmits an explicit image of a minor can face felony charges of possessing or trafficking child pornography.
As a result, minors who send sexually explicit messages or images of themselves and their friends through mobile phones, or “Sexting”, face potentially serious criminal repercussions.
Sexting message senders have no control of their message’s ultimate distribution. Embarrassing or sexually explicit messages can be forwarded to other students and later spread quickly through a school or across the country. In some cases, sexting images can even get posted on public websites.
Under a new proposal by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Kirk Watson, teen sexting would become a misdemeanor offense punishable by probation and restricted cell phone usage.
The proposal, if implemented, would punish minors for improper behavior but take teens out of a situation where they face life-altering child pornography charges.
Judges would also be authorized to sentence minors to participate in an education program about sexting’s long-term harmful consequences.
“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.”
A 2008 report from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy indicates that 22 percent of teen girls said they have electronically sent or posted online nude or semi-nude images of themselves.
In a study released this year, the Cyberbullying Research Center surveyed approximately 4,400 11-18 year-old individuals from a large school district in the southern United States. The results indicated that five percent of boys and three percent of girls acknowledged uploading or sharing a humiliating or harassing picture of their romantic partner online or through their cell phone. Six percent of boys and girls said their romantic partner posted something publicly online to make fun of, threaten or embarrass them.