Irish girls are more likely than boys to have lost their virginity by their mid-teens, a survey finds.
A new report by UNICEF revealed troubling sex trends among Irish teenagers, according to the Irish Independent.
Twenty percent of girls and 19 percent of boys who had lost their virginity had sex at the age of 15 or younger.
The age at which teenagers first engaged in sexual activity varied by region, with Dubliners more likely to have lost their virginity at a young age. Drinking played a significant part in a teen's first experience of sex. Four out of 10 respondents had their first encounter while under the influence of alcohol.
"For a significant minority of teenagers, often it is too much too young. There is a danger of a loss of innocence," said psychologist Allison Keating, who works with adolescents at the bWell clinic in Dublin.
"We are seeing an increasing tendency for girls to go out with older boys."
She added: "I would be concerned that girls of 12, 13, and 14 are just not emotionally capable of dealing with sex. They are being robbed of a time of their life when they should still really be children. That brings a lot of pressure that they cannot cope with."
Keating blames the media for the over-sexualization of young girls.
"Young girls are now encouraged to be sexually aggressive and almost act like the predators in relationships. Singers like Rihanna desensitise kids to sex as young as 11.
"There is pressure on girls to dress provocatively at a younger age, while boys are encouraged to treat them like sex objects.
"Girls believe that they should be available, but there is a lack of genuine intimacy," said the behavioral expert.
The report also showed that teens are not talking to their parents about sex, but are increasingly getting their information from the internet and online pornography.
Eight out of 10 teenagers said they never talked to their parents about sex. However, 57 percent said they use the internet to learn about sex, with nearly 80 percent of the boys and 40 percent of the girls revealing that they had watched porn.
Twenty-one percent of teenagers said they used porn to teach them about sex, while 36 percent believed that pornography was educational and an accurate depiction of the sexual act.
Eighty-one percent of teenagers said they used contraception during their first sexual encounter.
"It is very much a mixed bag," said Keating. "Some teenagers are very well versed, but with others I am horrified by the ignorance."
On a positive note, recent figures from the Central Statistics Office did show a decline in the number of teenage pregnancies in Ireland. The number dropped from 3,087 in 2001 to 2,019 last year.