MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Many teenagers leave nothing to the imagination anymore with the way they use their phones.

A new six-year study found 28 percent of high school students had sent nude photos of themselves by text message.

The study found that those who “sext” don’t necessarily go on to engage in riskier behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol before a sexual encounter, but it’s often a sign they’re about to get sexually active.

Dr. Kirsten Lind Seal teaches marriage and family therapy classes at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. She said parents shouldn’t panic if they find explicit images on their child’s phone.

“It’s actually a great opportunity to have a conversation with your kids,” Lind Seal said. “The most important thing with teenagers, honestly, is to just try and stay connected. When parents panic, they tend to do things like want to lock them in the basement for six weeks and not let them out.”

Things like “show me yours” or spin the bottle have long been around for curious teens. But those were almost always done in private.

“The difference,” said Lind Seal, “is that this is out all over everywhere and it’ll never go away. I mean look at the movie stars whose naked pictures are all over everywhere.”

Lind Seal said parents shouldn’t wait to have “the big talk.” She said it’s better to have a series of small talks when kids are young, keeping the information age-appropriate. As the children get older, they can go into more detail.

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