Oklahoma Lawmakers Seek Fair Punishment For 'Sexting' Teens
Havonnah Johnson, News 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's a case where the law has to keep up with technology. Oklahoma is one of the 21 states reviewing sexting laws. It is a hot button issue and parents here are pretty heated about the proposed legislation.
Bruce Johnson is one of the 7.5 million children under the age of 13 with a Facebook account. Experts estimate half of the kids online will receive a sexually explicit message.
Oklahoma lawmakers met at the capitol Monday to discuss the appropriate punishment for those whose texts are all about sex.
"The teenager could be a high level registered sex offender for the rest of their lives, but in all other regards a decent kid that made a mistake here," Senator Anthony Skyes said.
While Oklahoma's leaders craft legislation, Marsha Armstrong, Johnson's mother, watches every key stroke to make sure her 12 year old isn't engaging in criminal activity.
"He has been taught that is absolutely unacceptable and he would have to deal with the wrath of Martha and then the legal system," Armstrong said.
Oklahoma City police testified a dramatic spike of sexting cases in the last year. Lawmakers agree while a felony may be too harsh, the law needs to have enough bite to discourage minors from sending and receiving nude photos.
"It's a serious situation girls' lives are being ruined. They need to be made aware of the consequences whether the law is in place or not," Armstrong said.
A bill introduced by house democrats last year didn't get a hearing. Now the issue is being studied in between sessions.
Florida lawmakers recently eased penalties for sexting. A new law went into effect Saturday making the first offense punishable by eight hours of community service, the second offense is a misdemeanor, and the third is a felony.