Sex crimes encompass much more than nonconsensual or forced sex; they also include consensual acts that involve an underage individual. When an individual transmits a sexually explicit photo or video via a cellphone, it is known as sexting. When the sexually explicit photo or video involves an underage individual, it is illegal and that person can be charged with a sex crime. Sexting can also involve the posting of these images to Facebook or other social media websites.

These images are considered child pornography, even if they were taken by another minor. Most often, an individual suspected of illegally sextingwill be charged with solicitation of a minor. In Texas, the penalty for this conviction is two to 10 years in prison, along with registration as a sex offender. However, if the individual whose image was transmitted was under the age of 14, the charge is upgraded to an aggravated charge, which carries stiffer penalties.

What Can Parents Do?

As every parent knows all too well, teens are often unaware of the consequences of their actions until it’s too late. Since about 30 percent of teens have admitted to sexting, it’s important for parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of creating and sending sexually explicit photos or videos. Kids often think sexting is harmless, but it’s up to you to inform them this is definitely not the case. Remind your teen that once he or she sends a sexually explicit image, it is out of his or her control. The image could be sent to many other people or it may be posted publicly on a website. You should also remind your teen that he or she may be charged as a sex offender. Teens may not respond to rules you enforce in your home—such as no texting until homework is done or not bringing their phones to the dinner table—but when they understand sexting is an illegal act and not just something you are against in your home, they may take it more seriously.

Parents should also look for the warning signs that their child might be sexting. For example, if your child spends a lot of time on his or her phone at night, this could be a sign of sexting. If you walk into the room, see if your child puts his phone away or closes the screen on his computer. If so, he may be looking at inappropriate content or sexting with his peers. Parents always have the option of using monitoring software to review the content of their teens’ smartphones and computers. This will help parents identify when their kids are engaging in bad behaviors so you can stop them before they are charged with a serious crime.

Teens may not take sexting seriously, but the law does. Has your child been accused of illegal sexting in the Dallas or Plano areas? Call the Law Offices Of Jeffrey C. Grass at (972) 954-4441 and work with a criminal defense attorney who has extensive experience in handling sex crimes.