EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- New research finds the number of middle and high schoolers across the country sending and receiving sexually explicit images is rising.
In 2019, 14 percent of teenagers sent a sexually explicit image, while nearly a quarter of teens say they have received one.
"We've been tracking these things for quite a long time and we know it's not the epidemic that some people think, but it's still a problem that some people are sharing these images," said UWEC Professor of Criminal Justice Dr. Justin Patchin.
Patchin is one of the authors of "It is Time to Teach Safe Sexting".
He says while not everyone is sexting, the approach of not addressing it is not helping the issue.
"We know some kids are engaging in sexting and to not have a comprehensive, kind of creative conversation about these behaviors is doing a disservice to them," explained Patchin.
Similar to a sex education class, Patchin says the idea of teaching safe sexting could reduce the risks involved.
Some main points of focus are to only send a message to someone you fully trust and if you send a photo try not to put any identifying features in it.
"So instead of saying kids shouldn't do it and stopping there, we need to move beyond that to also discussing the ways that we can reduce harm associated with the behavior," said Patchin.
Some parents say it's their job to go over these types of things with their kids, while others don't want to believe their children are capable of doing this at all.
"To me the world with the technology and the internet has changed so much from when I was going to school and it's just a totally different world," said Fred Hable of Eau Claire.
Patchin says ideally no teenagers would be sexting, but since some are teaching them safe ways to do so is better than teaching them nothing at all.
For the research, the team collected data in both 2016 and 2019.
Some of the risks involved, according to Patchin, are legal implications, damage to reputations, extortion, among others.