Texas Going Soft on Sexting? Teens May Be 'Educated' Rather Than Jailed

Filed under: In The News, Teen Culture

sexting

Don't even think about sexting. Credit: Getty


Sigh. What has happened to Texas?

State law makes it illegal for teenagers to send sexually explicit text messages, but the offenders are not executed.

Texas is usually the state you can count on to execute everyone -- even the developmentally disabled. All the "sexting" law does is chuck teens behind bars for up to 10 years and put them on sex offender lists for the rest of their lives.

Sorry. No "sexecutions." What fun is that?

Now, state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, wants to water down the law even more. The Houston Chronicle reports Watson wants to make sexting a Class C misdemeanor for first-time offenders younger than 18.

That reduces the offense from a third-degree felony with two to 10 years of jail time and other consequences. Watson's bill would enable judges to sentence kids (and at least one of their parents) to a program designed to teach people about the negative consequences of sexting.

Participants wouldn't even be chained at the ankles.

Nonetheless, Watson tells the Chronicle, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Teenagers should be taught rather than punished, he says.

"This bill ensures that prosecutors and, frankly, parents will have a new, appropriate tool to address this issue," he tells the newspaper. "It helps Texas laws keep up with technology and our teenagers."

Watson's bill also would allow teenagers to ask the courts to have their records wiped clean.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott tells the Chronicle the Lone Star State does not take sexting lightly. He cites a 2008 report from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy that says 22 percent of teenage girls have electronically transmitted nude or semi-nude images of themselves.

"Studies show that teenage students are increasingly taking, sending and receiving explicit pictures of themselves on their mobile telephones," Abbott tells the newspaper in a prepared statement.

"This dangerous trend is harmful to young Texans," he adds. "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."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.