Thanks to outdated laws (and hysteria over teen sexuality), some minors caught "sexting" have been added to sex offender registries for distributing child pornography starring themselves. Now one Texas legislator has proposed a bill that would address the issue in a more intelligent way, by sentencing kids and their parents to an education program about the consequences of sexting.
State Senator Kirk Watson worked with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to draft legislation that will make sexting a misdemeanor for first-time offenders under 18, The Houston Chronicle reports. After completing the required education classes, minors would have the right to apply to have the offense expunged from their records. Right now, kids caught sexting in Texas can be charged with a third-degree felony, sentenced to two to 10 years in prison, fined up to $10,000, and added to the sex offender registry for the rest of the lives.
Abbott said his aim isn't to make teen sexing more permissible, but to give parents and prosecutors, "a new, appropriate tool to address this issue." He added,
Studies show that teenage students are increasingly taking, sending and receiving explicit pictures of themselves on their mobile telephones ... 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.
Consent laws vary from state to state, and sexting is in a gray area. Should two 15-year-olds be prosecuted for sending naked photos to each other when it's legal for them to have sex with each other? Is a sexual photo of a minor porn, period, or does it not count if he took it himself? Do teenage girls need laws to protect them from sexting, or is this all just another way to tell them they aren't mature enough to make decisions about their own body and sexuality?
Teen sexting is definitely "unwise," since a fickle ex can hit "send" and suddenly the photos are in the inboxes of the entire student body, your parents, your teachers, your postal carrier and so on. Whether or not its morally wrong depends on your own feelings about teen sexuality. As for the legal issue, everyone should be able to agree that creating laws that specifically address sexting is a smart move. There's a difference between a 16-year-old girl who sends a picture of herself wearing a bra to her boyfriend and an adult who's preying on children. Teens who sext need education, not ridiculously harsh punishment. The point of the sex offender registry is to track criminals who are truly dangerous, not to brand people who got caught doing stupid shit when they were in high school.
Measure May Cut Sting Of 'Sexting' Penalty [The Houston Chronicle]
Image via Supri Suharjoto/Shutterstock.