Sex, Porn and Teenagers

4th October 2010, 8 - 8.30 pm , Radio 4

"Shag bands" are thin coloured rubber bracelets, indicating how far the wearer will go sexually if the band is broken.

Purple for a kiss or yellow for a hug may seem comparatively harmless but some of the other colours such as black for full intercourse or blue for oral sex ring alarm bells.

A Wakefield MP recently campaigned to stop shops selling them after complaints from parents including a mother who innocently bought some for her 6-year old's party bag. Elsewhere schools have banned "shag bands" after finding pupils wearing them.

Part of playground culture, they're often worn innocently or in a show of bravado but there is a darker side where early sexual exploration strays into the easily accessible world of internet porn. Where children once passed notes, they now use their mobile phones to share explicit images and there's peer pressure through social networking sites.

Presenter Miranda Sawyer, herself a mother, investigates whether society and parents are aware of just what their children are getting up to and asks how concerned should we be about the sexualisation of children in media, advertising and fashion such as sale of padded bras for pre-pubescent girls or sexual references on T shirts for primary-aged kids.

Even though teenage pregnancy rates are falling, Britain still has the highest rate in Western Europe. As many as 1 in 4 teenagers have underage sex with anecdotal evidence of sexual experimentation including anal sex to avoid pregnancy. However sex education is improving in schools and access to contraception and STI screening has never been better.

But there are concerns that unlike the 'dirty mags' of their parent's day, teenagers now access porn which can be addictive, desensitising and threatening to healthy relationships in the future.

Producer: Sara Parker
A Juniper production for BBC Radio 4.