Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today joined State Sen. Kirk Watson, who announced the filing of Senate Bill 407, legislation that will help curb the dangerous practice of “sexting.”
If enacted, SB 407 would classify a sexting offense as a Class C misdemeanor for first-time violators less than 18 years old. Judges would be authorized to sentence minors convicted of sexting – and one of the minor’s parents – to participate in an education program about sexting’s long-term harmful consequences. The new law would also allow teens to apply to the court to have the sexting offense expunged from their records.
“Studies show that teenage students are increasingly taking, sending and receiving explicit pictures of themselves on their mobile telephones,” Attorney General Abbott said. “This dangerous trend is harmful to young Texans. We are joining with Sen. Kirk Watson to address the growing problem of sexting and educate – not criminalize – young Texans who make the unwise decision to participate in it.
“This bill ensures that prosecutors – and, frankly, parents – will have a new, appropriate tool to address this issue,” Sen. Watson said. “It helps Texas laws keep up with technology and our teenagers.”
Sexting – a harmful and dangerous practice – typically occurs when teenage students use cell phones to send each other sexually explicit messages or images electronically, primarily between cell phones. 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.
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 anywhere in the world.
Under current Texas law, anyone who transmits an explicit image of a teen can face felony charges of possessing or trafficking child pornography. As a result, children who send images of themselves and their friends face serious criminal repercussions. SB 407’s legal provisions ensure that minors are punished for their improper behavior, but do not face life-altering criminal charges.