Teens pressured to have sex earlier

TEENAGERS are coming under increasing pressure to have sex at a younger age, only in many cases to regret it later, experts behind a new awareness campaign said yesterday.

The Crisis Pregnancy Agency launched its new campaign, called ‘b4udecide’ in Dublin, with literature to be sent to schools and youth clubs next year and a website already operational.

The campaign was devised following consultation with more than 200 teenagers and 40 organisations from around the country that deal with young people.

While CSO figures show the number of teenage pregnancies has fallen in the past five years, other research such as the Irish Survey of Sexual Health and Relationships in 2006 showed that almost 30% of males under 25 and 22% of females under 25 had their first sexual experience before they were 17.

Prof Hannah Magee of the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland said that even though many teenagers still used contraception when first having sex, one-in-10 were not.

She also said that having sex at such an early age was often something that the person was likely to regret once they get older, even if they avoid the perils of teenage pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.

“More of that group are saying: I should have waited longer,” she said.

Another study by the CPA showed that many young women, in particular, felt pressured to have sex: 31% of girls and 8% of boys stating that there was a level of peer pressure or direct or indirect coercion from their partner to have sex.

Orla McGowan from the CPA said young people were heavily influenced by their friends when it came to the age they first have sex, and also the influence of the media, such as soap operas and the problem pages of magazines.

She also said that parents can sometimes find it difficult to get their children to open up about the issue of sex, or have misconceptions about their children’s level of knowledge.

The CPA campaign allows parents to receive a free copy of the parents’ guide by texting Talk and their name and address to 50444, while material is also going to be made available in schools from next year.

The website at www.b4udecide.ie also carries information linked to the campaign and according to the CPA is a trusted point of information for teenagers and their parents.

Clíona Ní Chiosáin, an actress on TG4’s Aifric programme, said: “With more websites like this I think peer pressure can be practically eliminated.”

The CPA is being subsumed into the HSE in January and is still awaiting information regarding its budget for next year, but the organisation said the campaign launched yesterday will be unaffected by any funding changes.

* www.b4udecide.ie


Louisa Earls is a manager at Books Upstairs, D’Olier St, Dublin, which is owned by her father, Maurice Earls.Virus response writes a new chapter for Books Upstairs

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