Underage teen sex on the rise: Social workers

Underage teen sex on the rise: Social workers

Teenagers here are becoming more sexually active - with more thinking that this is the norm, social workers say.

Figures from the State Courts also show there has been a steady increase in the number of cases of sex with a minor - that is, sex with a girl under 16, even if she consents.

Last year, there were 76 cases of the offence, down from 89 in 2013, but still an increase from 63 in 2012, and 36 in 2011.

At the Youth Court - which deals with children and youth under 16 years - there were four cases of youths charged last year with having sex with another minor, and five cases of assault with the intent of molest.

Social workers told The Straits Times that teens are referred to counsellors for behavioural problems, but during counselling sessions, they sometimes open up on their sexual experiences too.

Lena Teo, assistant director of counselling at the Children-at-Risk Empowerment Association (Care Singapore), said: "I've seen roughly 20 per cent more of underage sex cases over the years. Nowadays, teens are more tech-savvy and some lack parental control. They are more experimental because of curiosity and hormones raging at that age. It could also be peer pressure."

Lam Wai Mun, a senior counsellor at Touch Cyber Wellness said underage sex is common.

"Some in primary school are watching pornography, which is damaging because they form unhealthy perceptions," he said.

"Porn shows only the pleasure of the sexual act, but not intimacy and commitment. It's sex education in the wrong way.

"Young people are especially impressionable - we have seen cases where they give their intimate photos to paedophiles."

The younger generation is also more open to having sex at an early age, according to Trevor Xie, former director of Children's Wishing Well - a charity for underprivileged children and youth.

"They don't see losing their virginity as a loss. They see sexual experience as a gain," he said.

Experts said that parents play an important role to ensure that their children have the right values. Communication is key.

Gracia Goh, head of Singapore Children's Society youth centre in Jurong, advised parents to talk to their kids about sex and take note of inappropriate behaviour.

Parents should look for "teachable moments" when they can have discussions with their children about what they are watching or hearing, added Ms Goh.

If necessary, they can block access to websites with sexually explicit material.

Dr Adrian Wang, a psychiatrist in private practice, said: "Have a close and healthy relationship with your child, so that they'll feel comfortable asking you questions, and you'll know who their friends are and what they've been up to.


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