Politics

Senator & AG Propose Reduced Punishment For “Sexting”

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A man sends a text message on his cell phone.

A man sends a text message on his cell phone.

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Some Texas lawmakers want the offense of “sexting” reduced to a misdemeanor offense. Currently, under current Texas law, anyone who transmits an explicit image of a teen can face felony charges of possessing or trafficking child pornography.

Monday Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and State Senator Kirk Watson announced the initiative they say is meant to “help prevent sexting”, which is generally viewed as the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between cell phones.

Under the proposal announced Monday, teen sexting would become a misdemeanor offense punishable by probation and restricted cell phone use.

As it stands children who send messages of themselves and their friends face serious criminal charges and both Abbott and Watson propose a new legal provision for the “youthful offenses”. Both men say the changes would punish minors for improper behavior but would not have them facing “life-altering charges”.

The proposal also allows for judges to sentence minors to participate in an education program about sexting’s long-term harmful consequences.

According to the press release sent out by the Attorney General’s Office, 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 the release Watson said, “The legislation that we are working on recognizes that sexting is wrong and illegal. This proposed new law would provide education for our children regarding the harm sexting causes, and it will give prosecutors an appropriate tool to stop this problem.”

Sexting is a main factor in digital abuse, which also includes cyberbullying and all forms of digital harassment. Sextortion is a byproduct of sexting and experts say cases are on the rise. While anyone can be the target of sextortion, teens are the most vulnerable. Sextortion happens when someone tries to end a relationship and an extortionist threatens to use images they have of the individual to black mail them. But many sextorting situations involve complete strangers who hack into accounts and steal mesages.

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