Sexual health centre: Parents would be shocked at what their children know
DOCTORS in Truro are seeing "younger and younger" children for treatment or advice regarding sexual health.
Health professionals say it is essential for children to be able to get the right advice in the age of the internet where sexual imagery is everywhere and pressure to have sex is greater than ever.
Figures released by The Hub, the sexual health centre at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, show that for the past three years there have consistently been more than 100 14-year-old girls seeking treatment or advice on sexual health matters.
The Hub also saw 25 13-year-old girls in 2012. For boys the figures were lower, with six 13-year-olds and a dozen 14-year-olds being seen in 2012.
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Kathryn Eccleston, who manages the drop-in service at The Hub, said: "About half of the young people I see just want peace-of-mind check-ups and about half need treatment.
"We can't change the fact that young people are having sex younger than in the 1960s due to a number of reasons.
"People are being bombarded at a very young age with sexual imagery."
A study carried out by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety found 90 per cent of young people said they had viewed pornography.
Dr Eccleston said: "In any soap opera or film there are perfect women everywhere who are airbrushed and made to look unobtainable.
"Young women feel that pressure to conform and to look like this.
"It's even more worrying that pornography is being looked at much younger and it's complete fantasy and yet people feel pushed to live up to it."
All of the treatment and support offered by The Hub is confidential and parents are not contacted.
If any children aged 13 or under report their involvement in sexual activity their case may have to be referred to child protection officers.
Dr Eccleston said: "If they are under 16 we always advise them to talk to a parent or guardian and a lot come in with a parent or older sibling.
"We don't want them to be doing it behind mum and dad's back.
"If you ignore it they are gong to find information in a less reputable way.
"If you type sex into Google the top 5,000 results are ones you don't want to see – I think parents would be shocked at how much children know already."
The Hub sees approximately 1,000 people a month in total and Dr Eccleston said the majority of sexual health conditions could be resolved.