A new Texas measure, seeking to downgrade the penalty for first-time teen "sexting" offenders, is also targeting parents.
Under a new bill filed in the Texas legislature, teens younger than age 18 could face a misdemeanor charge, not a felony, for "sexting" -- the use of cell phones, typically by teens, to transmit sexually explicit messages or images.
Texas Senate Bill 407 would downgrade the sexting offense to a Class C misdemeanor if it is a first-time offense and if all violators are under the age of 18, MyFoxHouston.com reports. Current Texas law says anyone who transmits an explicit image of a teen can face felony charges of possessing or trafficking child pornography.
Texas State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) said in a press conference Monday that Senate Bill 407 is supposed to help educate teens as well as their parents about the dangers of sexting.
“Technology has now changed what it means to be a child and an adolescent, anywhere, but certainly here in Texas,” said Senator Watson. “What this bill does is it gives prosecutors an additional and more effective set of tools for addressing this problem.”
The bill also require first-time violators and their parents to undergo an educational program about the long-term harm of sexting.
Senator Watson presented the new bill on Monday along with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has written extensively about the dangers of teen sexting and how prevalent it has become in today’s society.
“Maybe around 20 percent of all teen girls take an image of themselves on something like a cell phone that is sexual in orientation and then transmit that to someone else,” said Abbott. “This is done by people at such a young age that they really don’t understand the consequences.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report