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New Texas Law Proposes Punishing Parents and Teens for Sexting

February 17, 2011

In case you missed it, this week we elaborated on the not so funny dangers associated with tech gadgetry. On February 7, just before Valentines day, Attorney General Greg Abbott and Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, filed a bill to make “sexting” illegal. Additionally, the proposed new law will require schools to conduct mobile literacy in classrooms on the ramifications of the new law. In a statement released to the press:

“Prior to this proposed bill prosecutors really only had two options for dealing with young people, teens who engaged in sexting,” Watson said. “They could either prosecute them under our very strict adult pornography laws or do nothing.”

So what’s the punishment for those caught in violation of sexting?

  1. If you are a teenager 18 years old or younger  caught “sexting” you could be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor (up to 1 year in jail)
  2. Parents or guardians of the youth could also face penalties
  3. A judge presiding over each case has the power to require both the parent and the teenager to complete and pay for educational classes on the crime committed.
  4. Teens who report that they received a sext-message within 48 hours could avoid punishment.

So how dangerous is sexting?

From a study conducted in 2009, teenagers sending or posting sexually suggestive messages:

  • 39% of all teenagers
  • 37% of teen girls
  • 40% of teen boys

Should parents be punished for their teen’s sexting? Should teenagers possibly face jail time for sending a sext-message?

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  • Ferg_e

    I think this is ridiculous. Yes, sexting is dangerous and can have huge repercussions. Parents need to be talking to their children about online safety, and the fact that anything sent via text can be forwarded very quickly. But sending otherwise good kids to jail for expirimenting with their sexuality and making bad choices is NOT the way to handle it.

  • TechTease

    It does seem odd to jump on making a new law before exploring other options to the problem at hand. In my experience, just because something becomes law/policy does not mean the problem is fixed. Murder is against the law but people still commit the awful crime. I also wonder how this play out in private schools? Will extend to the college years later on?

  • http://twitter.com/techrrriot techrrriot

    I think it’s interesting (and a little disheartening) that it’s taken our city this long to get a dialog going about the consequences of sexting. Point of reference: Law and Order: SVU aired an episode discussing sexting (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1248633/) in May of 2009. The topic’s been in the public eye (and in prime time media) for TWO YEARS without being discussed on a city-wide level.

    As usual, San Antonio’s late to the game, but hey, at least we’re actually thinking about the potential repercussions of teenagers doing stupid things. I don’t necessarily want kids going to jail for this kind of offense — it seems a lot like overkill. However, it makes quite a bit of sense to me to hold kids accountable for potentially life-changing decisions.

    Do I trust the State to be the ones educating on this topic? No. They’re not even close to the “ideal” mentors for children. But if parents fall behind, there should be a structure (without just pitching kids into jail) for educating on the ramifications of distributing intimate content.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FZVU6DDRCS6CWF4QOUZYBGYIGI Mistress Astelia

    so kids caught sexting will be then labeled as sex offenders? and their record will not let them hold any good job after that? real smart there. If I am not mistaken, teenagers have been getting pregnant since forever. The key here is teaching them about using a darn condom, want to really help? place condoms all over school, at least texting doesnt get anybody pregnant, its not using condoms that get people pregnant.
    How will others know you are sexting? they will invade your privacy and go thru all your text messages? if they are smart, they will delete the messages right away. ugh.

  • http://twitter.com/techrrriot techrrriot

    The point is that creating a law dealing specifically with teenage sexters provides an alternative to trying the kiddos as adults under current pornography laws (which, yes, would leave them with the permanent and indelible brand of “sex offender”).

    To answer your question: the way they’ll know you’re sexting is through due diligence — the grand old subpoena — and same way prosecutors get information on ANY electronic transmission. Deleting a message from your cell phone doesn’t remove the data from your carrier’s cache.

    P.S. Love the red herring with the pregnancy there.

  • Natasharenee

    My head is going to explode from all the stupid going on with texas republicans.

    This is a complete waste of time and money from the same political party that is constantly complaining about wasting time and money!

    Typical of republicans to create a problem to “fix” instead of fixng the ones we already have! Buget shortfall anyone?

    Why does the state continue to elect these hypocrite morons!

  • Aver1

    Please read the article again. Sen. Kirk Watson is a Democrat from Austin and co-author of this bill.

    I’m not defending Republicans, just getting the facts straight.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/turning-winds Yuri @ Turning Winds

    This issue is very serious and while it’s good that there are repercussions given to possible culprits, it should be thoroughly assessed if the length and type of punishment is really that fair. These teens who got involved with sexting do not deserve to be labeled as criminals although the punishment on requiring the culprit to complete and pay for educational classes (on the crime committed) may be acceptable enough. Providing detention is only deserving to those who are proven to have committed an extreme case involving sexting wherein a life already gets destroyed.
    Generally, problems like these are unlikely to occur if parents will do their best in educating their teens of the possibilities and dangers of sexting. Government policies and punishments like these should only come second. Just my two cents.

  • Adf

    Excellent reply.  Nicely put.