Sexual text messages and photos aren't only a trend among our nation's politicians, celebrities and high school students.The scandalous exchanges have become a rather common occurrence among children as young as 12, according to a study published this week in the journal Pediatrics.

The study focused on seventh-graders, particularly those with behavioral or emotional difficulties, but the concept of "sexting" isn't foreign to anyone in the 12-14 range. Morristown psychologist Dr. Steven Tobias, head of the Center for Child and Family Development, said he's not surprised at all by the findings.

"I think that we're becoming a very sexualized society," Tobias said. "Role models kids are exposed to, even at young ages, are highly sexualized. I mean, look at Miley Cyrus."

As kids are more and more exposed to the stimuli, he said, they become more interested in it and more likely to imitate it.

Meanwhile, with intimacy being an issue that many preteens and new teens aren't yet emotionally mature enough to deal with, they are increasingly choosing to express their feelings through cyberspace, rather than face-to-face.

Despite constant warnings about the consequences of sexting, many young people don't truly understand them, according to Tobias.

"Kids have the delusion of anonymity or privacy that, somehow, other people aren't going to see this; that this is a very private thing, and of course it isn't," Tobias said.

He said parents must play a role in stemming the problem by truly monitoring their kids' digital activities. If a child knows a parent will be randomly checking their devices, that child may think twice before doing something wrong.

"I think it's very important that parents do not respect a kid's privacy in this regard," said Tobias.