Ohio lawmakers vote to ban sexting by anyone under 19, set up diversion program

The Ohio House voted 85-0 in favor of a bill that will prohibit anyone younger than 19 from ‘sexting’ — electronically sharing nude photos — and set up a second-chance program for first time offenses.

A first offense would be a misdemeanor, punishable by eight hours of community service, though judges would still have discretion to hand out a different sentence.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jeff Rezabek, R-Clayton, would require courts set up a sexting diversion school for some offenders, similar to those operated in Montgomery and Clark counties. The class would cover the consequences of sexting and how the material in cyberspace can be shared over and over again.

Related: Sexting and teens: Ohio looks to set up diversion program as problem grows

Sexting is the creation, sending, receiving or showing of sexually-oriented content via cell phone, email, social media or other online sources. It is legal among consenting adults but when minors are involved it can lead to criminal charges.

Studies show that one in four teens are involved in sexting while as many as half have seen inappropriate texts, according to the Ohio State Bar Association.

The practice is so rampant among teens that Montgomery County established a diversion program years ago.

It is a second chance for kids who make mistakes and provides an opportunity for them to learn the law and consequences of their behavior, said the mother of an Oakwood teen who went through the program.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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