What Is the Difference Between Teen Sexting and Child Pornography?

Minors will often send each other sexually explicit images. In Texas, this is treated similarly to some acts of child pornography. While there may be some available defenses, and the sentences are different, this is still illegal, and minors cannot sext when it involves sending certain explicit images.

In Texas, the prohibition is on someone under the age of 18 sending an image of someone under the age of 18 engaging in sexually explicit conduct. It is also illegal to possess such an image (although the recipient will not face charges if they immediately delete the picture). Here, the images of sexual conduct are what is prohibited. If they are simply sexually suggestive messages with no pictures involved, the result may be different.

The illegal pictures would include those with sexual conduct or sexually suggestive pictures. This could conceivably include nude pictures, depending on what the person depicted is doing. If you are accused of child pornography due to sexting, you should contact a Plano criminal defense attorney immediately.

There Are Exceptions to the Law

One might think that it is acceptable for two people in a consenting relationship to send pictures of themselves to each other. In fact, if the sender is sharing a picture of themselves with their partner, it is not a crime, so long as no minors outside the relationship are depicted. The prohibition is more about sending sexually suggestive pictures of other minors (for example, ex-partners).

While teen sexting is punished under Texas child pornography laws, the offense is different when an older adult sends these pictures to minors. This is another form of teen sexting that involves sending sexts to a teen. This is treated as a sex offense, and they must register as a sex offender if they are convicted once they are released from prison.

An adult sending images of someone under 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct to a minor could be considered distributing child pornography. When adults are possessing and sending these images, they can be prosecuted. While children can be punished for sending sexts to other children, the punishment is less serious because it does not involve child pornography.

This Is a Difficult Area of the Law to Grasp


The rules and distinctions between all of these categories are complex and difficult to understand. The rule of thumb for adults when either communicating with children or sending or possessing sexually suggestive images of children is don’t do it. When you are dealing with teens, there are gray areas and exceptions. If you or your child have been charged with a crime, it is vital to understand the distinctions and to learn whether your conduct may fall into an exception or is completely legal.

Let a Plano Sex Crimes Lawyer Assist You

If you or a loved one have been charged with a sex crime, you may face drastic legal consequences, both in terms of sentencing and the impact on your life. This is why you need a lawyer. For a free consultation about your case, call attorney J. Michael Price at (214) 765-8000 or reach out online.