Texas Lawmakers to Address Teen "Sexting"

Texas is one of about a dozen states poised to change the laws about the activity known as sexting. Lawmakers will consider legislation to change the punishment for minors who send and receive sexually explicit images. Laurie Johnson reports.

In Texas, sending or receiving sexually explicit images of minors is a violation of child pornography laws.

But what if the people doing the sending and receiving are children themselves? Right now, if a 14-year-old girl sends a nude photo of herself to her 15-year-old boyfriend, they can be prosecuted for possession and distribution of child
pornography.

State Senator Kirk Watson says the punishment doesn't fit the crime.

"The laws as they are drafted, they're really drafted to address adult abuse of minors. But they result in ill-fitting penalties for minors who create and distribute images, even the pictures of themselves."

A 2008 survey indicates 20 percent of teen girls have sent nude or semi-nude images of themselves, via cell
phone or internet.

Watson plans to introduce legislation in the upcoming session that deals specifically with sexting. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is helping to draft the law.

"The new law likely will lead to a misdemeanor prosecution, as opposed to a felony prosecution. Where one of the goals will be to allow judges to impose probation as opposed to putting kids behind bars."

Abbott says parents and teens need to know that sexting is illegal, but the consequences shouldn't destroy a child's
future. If the legislature approves the new law, it will go into effect next September.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...