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

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.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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