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Bill Would Make "Sexting" By Minors a Misdemeanor

A new proposal would allow teens caught sending sexually explicit images on their cell phones to avoid child porn charges.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and State Senator Kirk Watson of Austin are proposing an initiative to help curb "sexting" in Texas. Sexting is a relatively recent phenomenon where teenagers exchange sexually explicit text messages or images.

A study last year by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 4 percent of "cell-owning teens ages 12-17 say they have sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images or videos of themselves to someone else via text messaging."

Anyone caught with sexually explicit images of a minor on their phone could already face federal child porn charges. Attorney General Greg Abbott says the proposed law also aims to treat sexting among teens with less severity.

“A momentary action can lead to possible criminal prosecution that could subject them to being prosecuted for a felony violation and being required to register as a sex offender for the rest of their lives," Abbot said today during a news conference.  "The reason for that is because the taking and passing of these photographs and other sexually explicit information constitutes child pornography.”  

Abbott says the law hasn't caught up with yet with technology, and that the new law would allow teenagers to avoid jail time. If the Legislature agrees, the law would take effect next September.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.