In Texas, our state Attorney General has opined that adults with nude or semi-nude photographs on their mobile devices can be investigated and tried on felony child pornography charges. Teenagers with photographs of other teens aged 18 and under can be prosecuted, and face up to 10 years in prison. The recently proposed Texas Senate Bill 407 gives prosecutors an additional tool to use when prosecuting teens who engage in sexting by providing a more appropriate offense.
Under Bill 407, charges for sexting for first-time offenders who are younger than 18 are considered a Class C misdemeanor instead of a felony child pornography charge. Those teen offenders, as well as their parents, may also have to participate in an education program. The proposed new law would also give teens the chance to apply to have the sexting charge expunged from their records. One of the good points of this proposed law is education. It requires school districts to provide information to students and parents including the legal and emotional impacts of sexting. If approved, this Texas statute would become effective in September 2011.
Sexting is simply a result of advances in technology enabling new forms of social interaction. Messages with sexual content have been exchanged over all forms of historical media. Newer technology allows for the recording and exchange of photographs and videos, which are intrinsically more explicit and have greater impact. But, one important risk to remember is that material can be very easily and widely propagated, over which the originator has absolutely no control. Once it is on the Internet, it is gone forever.