A new study released by the American Association of University women finds almost half of all middle and high school students in Jersey and across the country experienced some kind of sexual harassment over the past year.

Psychologist Dr. Steven Tobias says it's not really surprising that 48 percent of kids in 7th to 12th grade complained of being groped, inappropriately touched, teased, or sent lewd photos, because "we're dealing with raging hormones, we're dealing with emerging sexual feelings, an awareness of sexuality - it's on these kids minds, so that's what they're going to do…any kind of teasing or aggressive behavior will often be put in sexual terms because - to be honest with you, that's what they're thinking about."

He says they also have a lot of feelings of insecurity at this age, as they try to figure out who they are, and "you know when you want to feel powerful, you put other people down because that makes you feel good…also at this age you have immature social judgment -kids really aren't thinking things through, really aren't controlling their emotional impulses as well as they need to or hopefully as they will as adults."

At the same time, Dr. Tobias points out "there's a lot of sexual references in television and music, and so I think kids are also sort of repeating the things that they hear…and then you have technology…it makes it much easier both to be exposed to sexual themes- pornography - and also it makes it much easier to say hurtful and inappropriate things…I think kids will do inappropriate things over the internet because they can't see the reaction of the other person, they can't see actually how hurtful it is to the other person."

He also says even on network TV shows these days, the dialogue is filled with overt sexual references and jokes, and "if it gets a laugh - if it's something that's going to gain you acceptance from your peers -if other people are going to think it's funny, of course you're going to do it."

Dr Tobias adds "it's great there's a growing awareness of the dangers of bullying, and I think if this whole issue of sexual harassment can be included within this broader concept of bullying - and we can have a clear message to kids that it won't be tolerated, that anything that's hurtful to another - whether it's aggressive, whether it's exclusionary or whether it's sexual in nature really isn't going to be tolerated - I think that's an important message for kids to get."

The report is available online.