Can Teens Get In Legal Trouble For Sexting?
Today, young people and teenagers do more communicating online than they do in person
Parents today face a lot of challenges. Back in the day, parents had to worry about things like their children watching too much television or maybe pigging out on junk food in the middle of the night. The internet didn’t exist, and kids rode their bikes until the street lights turned on. Teenagers hung out at the mall or spent hours on the phone.
The twenty-first century is a lot different. Today, young people and teenagers do more communicating online than they do in person. It’s common for teens to maintain multiple social media accounts, and the majority of teens (73%) own a smartphone. For today’s teenagers, social media is simply part of everyday life. Because they have grown up with it, they don’t always know when online behavior crosses the line from innocent to illegal.
A portmanteau of “sex” and “texting,” sexting occurs when a person transmits an explicit photo or message to another via email or text. In most cases, sexting involves sending nude photos or suggestive images to someone else. According to Scientific American, sexting is more common than you might think. Research shows that about 50% of Americans admit their phones contain racy photos — and while 77% say they only sext with a significant other, 16% have sent explicit pictures to a stranger.
And the age group most likely to sext? It’s 18 to 24-year-olds. A whopping 70% of people in this demographic admit to sexting.
Sexting Laws in Texas
Under Texas law, it’s illegal for a person under age 18 to send a sexually explicit electronic image to another underage individual. However, an exception to the statute gives a minor a defense if they sent the image to someone they were in a relationship with and the parties were no more than two years apart in age.
Texas law generally treats teen sexting as a misdemeanor. However, a conviction will result in a criminal record. Teens may be able to have their criminal record expunged upon turning 18, but this is not guaranteed. Teens convicted under the statute also face a fine of up to $500 and a mandatory education class on the dangers of sexting (and mom or dad must attend, too).
It’s also important to understand that federal law can come into play in these cases. The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003 (PROTECT Act) makes it illegal to possess, distribute, receive, or produce obscene images of underage individuals engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Contact an Experienced Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer If Your Child Has Been Charged with an Internet Crime
Many teenagers view sexting as a harmless activity. However, sexting can be quite serious depending on the ages of the parties involved. If you’re the parent of a teen, talk to your child about the consequences of breaking the law.
Broden & Mickelsen, LLP
2600 State St Dallas, Texas 75204
Main Phone: (214) 720-9552