Sexting Bill Could Reduce Punishment for Teens

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Rep. Anthony Weiner's situation has many people talking about how far is too far when it comes to tweeting and texting.

But for many young people today, its easy to get caught up in the inappropriate behavior of sending nude pictures via text messaging, or "sexting."

For those underage, sexting can carry a felony charge because it is considered child pornography. But some states are now trying to change that.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Seth Grove said he believes felony charges are too harsh of a punishment for young people to have on their record for sexting.

"Felony offense for kids means no military service. It's on their record for the rest of their lives," he said.

He's now moving a bill through the Pennsylvania House in Harrisburg that would make teen sexting a misdemeanor.

"There's no way around arguing that it's not child pornography and the courts have upheld sexting as a form of child pornography," Grove said. "But the felony offense was mostly for individuals who are out there, who exploit and hurt children."

Some 21 states are considering bills to fine tune sexting punishments. Ten others have already passed youth sexting statutes in the last two years.

Christian therapist Janelle Hallman says kids often aren't aware of the damage they can do to themselves by sexting.

"It's really fragmenting us as human beings. We're giving pieces away," she explained.

"It's definitely growing. And [there's a] real concern for the young people," Hallman continued. "This is how they communicate and don't realize that there is danger, that there is really significance. This matters -- how we're connecting with people."

Grove does believe sexting must be kept illegal in order to battle its harmful effects and child pornography.

"We had a case in York County, Penn., where a sexting event at a high school ended up on a convicted child predator's computer," Grove said. "So once these pictures are sent, there's no controlling them, where they go."

In Grove's own district, one prominent sexting case involved two girls who sent nude photos of themselves to the soccer team. The pictures eventually made it to the Internet and went viral.

In addition to reducing the charge for underage sexting, some states are proposing that kids be sent to "educational reform programs."

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.