…at least if the House OKs the bill, anyway. The Texas Senate has just passed a bill that would make “sexting” a misdemeanor if teens under 18 are caught sending sexually explicit images of each other via text.
Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin is the brains behind the bill, and says he wrote it so kids wouldn’t have to be tried as adults under pornography laws.
“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 to prevent teens from being tried as adults and being forced to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives, they instead get charged with a misdeamenor and have to pay for and take classes with their parents educating them on the dangers of sending such images.
The bill also allows school districts to develop programs to educate their teens about the law and the harm that can be done after sending a racy picture of yourself or someone else via a cell phone.
This bill also allows those who simly receive the images to have an out. If they turn it over to authorities within 48 hours of receiving it, that acts as an affirmative defense against prosecution.
But here is my issue: No one, child or adult, has ever been prosecuted for sexting. While, yes, the danger still exists, do they really believe that students will out each other over sending a nudey pic over the phone? I don’t think so.
On the floor of the Senate, an amendment was adopted that would distinguish between teens who “promoted” the image, and those that possess it and then delete it within a reasonable amount of time.
But again, I don’t think the senators get how cell phones work these days. iPhones and all of the other new-fangled gadgets these kids have have so much memory, I’m sure these kids don’t even know where the “delete” button is. I’m pretty sure I’ve never deleted a single text on my phone. So what happens to the kid who gets it, and then forgets about it? Does he get prosecuted too?
So, its not that I disagree with the intent of this bill. Too many kids have ruined their lives sending a naked picture of themselves to the “love of their live” 17-year-old boyfriend, only for that person to send it to his friend, who then sends it to the rest of the school.
But I just don’t think the bill accounts for how teens actually behave, which leads me to question if any of the people writing or voting on this bill discussed it with the teens in their district. Maybe they did, but I think that this bill could create a big mess in a couple of years time if teachers start turning kids in that they find sending these things, or if students can use them against each other when they get broken up with.
Also, the bill defines explicite/sexual content based on section 43.25 of the Texas Penal Code. I read it, and while it’s definitely detailed, I don’t think it accounts for a lot of the things these teens are getting themselves into. It leaves open the possibility of lesser-sexual messages. I’m no expert in teen sexting, but I feel like the sexual deviancy of teens is often not as explicit as section 43.25. A girl taking a picture of herself in her bra wouldn’t fall under that code, but I’m sure hundreds of 16-year-old girls in their skivvies have gotten pictures of themselves sent to their entire 10th grade class.
So, let me channel my 16-year-old self to give my final comment on this bill: “This bill is like, totes not enough.”