PARENTS in Cornwall are urged to talk to their children about sex and their sexual health.
The request, by doctors working at the sexual health hub at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, follows an increase in the numbers of youngsters coming to the facility who use internet pornography as their main point of information for sexual matters.
Dr Kathryn Eccleston, consultant at the hub, said: "We do very occasionally see some very young people in our clinics from the ages of 11 and 12. We'd urge parents to be open and honest with their children about the importance of sexual health and looking after themselves.
"We do get parents telling us that it doesn't apply to their children but the truth is it does and by not steering them in the right direction, parents could discover their children are finding out information in less appropriate or accurate ways.
"While parents may not like to think their children are sexually active, it is worth noting that the average age of first pornography viewing is now ten in the UK, so youngsters may not be active themselves but they are interested in learning more."
Even in Cornwall, staff at the hub say they are now seeing evidence of the impact of porn viewing on those using its services.
Dr Eccleston continued: "It would appear that a number of teenagers, particularly boys, are now using pornography as a guide to sex, believing it to show normal practice. We have seen an increase in the numbers having **** sex and an increase in the numbers of girls who have completely removed their pubic hair. With the prevalence of pornography, the idea that women are instantly turned on, are all hairless and that **** sex is the norm is meaning more young girls are feeling the pressure to conform to this. When you ask them why, they say their boyfriends expect it."
Despite this early introduction to pornography, the average age of first intercourse in the UK (and Cornwall) is 16 for both males and females.
During a recent Commons debate on the sexual exploitation of children Ann Coffey, the chairman of the all party parliamentary group on runaway and missing children, told MPs that internet pornography was "distorting teenage boys' views of sex".
Blaming the impact of internet pornography, she said: "There is a problem that teenage boys are accessing adult websites which gives them a distorted attitude."
Ms Coffey said that with often explicit pornography available to boys over the internet, there was growing evidence of girls at school experiencing sexual abuse at the hands of their peers.
Better teaching in the area would give youngsters the confidence to spot the signs. Parliament was told that sex education should be made a compulsory part of the school curriculum as part of the Government's efforts to stop the exploitation of children. She said the more children were taught about sex and relationships, the easier they would find it to speak out if they felt they were being abused.
Ms Coffey said: "To speak out, first children need to feel confident that what is happening to them is wrong and that is why sex and relationship education in schools is so important. They need to know, indeed they are entitled to know, about issues such as sexual consent, what sexual coercion and exploitation is and how to shape healthy relationships and respect for each other as well as alerting them to the signs that they are being sexually groomed. This will give them the confidence to reject inappropriate relationships."
Dr Eccleston would agree. She said: "With some of those who come to us, sometimes it's as basic as pointing out that males and females are different. I always try to remind the youngsters that sex should be enjoyable, consensual and safe. Men and women are very different and can have different sexual needs. Many don't seem to realise there are differences."
As well as the emotional damage which may be caused, there is also a risk to long term health not just from sexually transmitted diseases but also from possible **** injuries.
Clare Ferris, colorectal nurse specialist at RCHT, said: "There may be in an increased risk of infection if there is trauma to the **** mucosa during **** sex. If an infection such as HPV (an infection which causes **** and genital warts) gets into the damaged area there is an increased risk of **** cancer."
To discuss sexual health needs or obtain advice please contact the hub at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro on 01872 255044.