Teen Sexting on the Rise, Despite Legal Consequences

Being a teenager is not easy. In addition to the pressures that come from increasing responsibilities at home and at school, teens are also dealing with surging hormones and learning how to navigate the complex world of romantic relationships.

The digital age has brought a whole host of new complications to teen relationships. For example, using cellphones to send sexually suggestive or explicit pictures — called “sexting” — has become popular in some circles. However, many teens don’t realize that sexting can have serious long-term consequences, including sex crimes charges and obligations like registering as sex offenders.

Teens Not Deterred by Possible Criminal Charges

A new study from researchers at the University of Utah revealed that 20 percent of high school students have used their cellphones to send a sexually explicit image of themselves to another person. Nearly 40 percent have received such an image. In addition, more than 25 percent of high school students have forwarded explicit cellphone photographs of another person to their friends and classmates.

Surprisingly, the threat of legal consequences does not appear to deter teenagers from sexting each other. Approximately one-third of the teenagers in the study who admitted to sending or forwarding explicit photographs were aware that sexting could have serious legal consequences. However, overall, the teens who were aware of the possible criminal repercussions of sexting were actually far more likely to have sexted than teens who were not aware of the consequences.

The study’s author says that the results may be indicative of a common teen logic fallacy – while teens understand that a behavior could theoretically be dangerous, they do not believe that bad things could ever happen to them.

Texas Sexting Penalties

In many states, sexting is a felony that can bring child pornography charges and lifetime sex offender registration requirements.

This used to be the case in Texas, but the state now takes a less punitive view. A bill passed in 2011 made teen sexting a misdemeanor. On a first offense, teens can be sentenced to participate in educational programming and may be required to pay a fine. Severe or repeat offenses, however, could still carry jail time.

Even with this change, Texas sexting charges should not be taken lightly. Teenagers charged with sexting offenses are encouraged to consult with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney and should never attempt to resolve the charges on their own.