Ohio sexting bill gets a first read before the House

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A bill that addresses "sext-ing", or the sending of sexually explicit material by minors or of a minor, got it's first read in front of the Ohio House Thursday.

It's an issue many parents might not want to address with their kids, but should.

Results from a survey conducted by the National Campaign To Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy just two years ago revealed that 33 percent of young adults polled said they had sent or posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves.

Twenty percent of teens 13 to 19 admitted to doing that. Until now, the only choice for prosecutors was to give teens caught sexting a pass, or to charge them with felony child pornography.

But this new bill in Ohio is meant to change that. State Representative Connie Pillich sponsored this new bill, which actually creates a new offense in the Ohio Revised Code actually called "sexting."

There are about 15 states that already have laws on the books regarding "sexting." Could Ohio be next?

Remember when all you had to do was teach your kid, don't talk to strangers, and that pretty much covered it in terms of dangers?

"They can recite the rule but in practice they don't really know who's a stranger," said Pillich. "They think anyone who wants to give them candy is a friend."

And now it's come to this.

"Sexting is the act of sending a nude picture of a minor," Pillich said. "Whether it's yourself or someone else, to another minor."

Or to anybody else for that matter she said. "The current laws we have on the books really did not adequately address this act that's done by minors."

Right now, a minor could be labeled as a felony sex offender and held to the same standards an adult.

"And you would have to be registered as a sex offender for the rest of your life," Pillich said.

Nothing would prohibit a Judge from trying a child as an adult if there were good reasons.

"We get to treat kids carefully," said Pillich. "Yet, we also, if we need to, can bring the hammer down on them as well."

Pillich said the purpose of the bill is to, not only deter kids from sexting, but also give appropriate punishment that will not ruin the rest of their young lives.

"Unfortunately even if a child transmits her own photo," Pillich said. "She doesn't know what the recipient's going to do with it. They might not be very nice people and we've seen a lot of bullying that comes back to the person in the image. If your photo goes anywhere, it's on the Internet forever."

Pillich suggests parents review their child's text messages and pictures on their phone nightly.

"Parents know what to do but they can't do it all," she said.

The bill gets a second reading this coming Tuesday, May 18th.

Pillich said she anticipates constitutional challenges on the grounds of free speech, but said the US Supreme Court has already defined how states can do this. She is hopeful the House will pass it and it will go on to the Senate, before they recess for Summer, some time in June.

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