Bill would make sexting between SC teens illegal

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A bill in the South Carolina House of Representatives is looking to make it illegal for teens to pass around sexually explicit photos.

Rep. Joan Brady, the bill's primary author, hopes her bill will make the act of "sexting" illegal for children between the ages of 12 and 17.

"What seems like fun and innocent can really, really turn into a devastating life long legacy for the child," said Rep. Brady. "Before you know it, 500 of their classmates and the school have it. So the emotional implications of that are devastating."

Rep. Brady says sexting can turn a youthful indiscretion into a public and permanent part of a teen's life.

The focus of the bill is really third party distribution. If a teen gets caught passing on a graphic text, he or she could face up to a $100 fine. Rep. Brady says the point is to potentially avoid more serious consequences like child pornography charges.

"If they do make a mistake, we don't want to criminalize them and we certainly don't want to see young people on the sex registry for the rest of their lives," said Rep. Brady.

According to an Associated Press survey, 61 percent of young people ages 14 - 24 have been pressured to either send or receive nude photos on their cell phones. The stats are growing and that's why Rep. Brady says the state needs to intervene.

"The problem is, once the message is out there, it becomes public, so it's not one parent's responsibility or one parent has control, it's just gone out for everyone," said Rep. Brady.

However, Rep. Brady agrees that responsibility doesn't start or end with the state. That's important for Terri, a mother of three who doesn't want to buy her two teens phones because they don't need the distraction or the temptation.

"Children should be held accountable for things they do," said Terri. "They should know right from wrong and they should absolutely think about modesty. What they're doing to somebody else."

The bill still needs to go through a house subcommittee.

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