Sexting is the new first base.
According to a study published in the journal Paediatrics, sexting is now the first step when it comes to sexual behaviour.
"Although additional research is needed, current data indicates that sexting may precede sexual intercourse in instance and cement the notion that sexting behaviour is a viable indicator or adolescent sexual activity," the report said.
The study, based on a previous 2012 study carried out over six years, set out to examine the "sequencing of sexting and sexual intercourse".
Researchers looked at data from years two and three of the earlier study, which included a sample of almost 1000 students, who were asked to record their history of sexual activity and sexting.
Sexting was defined as asking or being asked for a nude picture.
From there, researchers analysed the survery results.
"We examined whether teen sexting at baseline predicted sexual behaviour at 1-year follow-up and whether active sexting mediated the relationship between passive sexting and sexual behaviour," said the report.
According to the study's author, Jeff Temple, associate professor and psychologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said the results show sexting comes before "sexual behaviour in many cases".
"The theory behind that is sexting may act as a gateway or prelude to sexual behaviors or increases the acceptance of going to the next level," he told the Washington Post.
Additionally, researchers found "sexting was not temporally associated with risky sexual behaviours."
So why has sexting become the "gateway" to being sexually active?
It's common for teens to express themselves sexually, wrote the Quirky kid Clinic.
Teens "do not view semi naked and naked images as wrong or shameful, typically viewing these images as more of an expression of fun and flirtation."
In her article, 'Sexting' is how teens court in modern age, Jill Stark says "Sexting online and via mobile phone is so widespread experts are saying parents should accept it as a form of 'modern day courtship'".
While many parents view the changing rules as negative, Jeff Temple says obtaining this information is a positive.
"I think the really cool thing about this study in answering the question of what comes first is … this could hold the key to prevention programs."
In fact, he described the medium as a "call to arms to talk to your kids about sexual behaviour."
"This is kind of good news that sexting comes first. So if I catch them sexting, then maybe I have an opportunity to talk to them."