A text messaging scheme providing youngsters counselling on sex and how to access free condoms, has come under fire.
Earlier, it emerged that school children were texting agony aunts in order to get some advice on sex. Also, counsellors had advised hundreds of youngsters on contraception and pregnancy despite having no way of knowing their real ages.
The service sparked anger from campaigners who warned that it could backfire by encouraging promiscuity.
Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said that the text messaging schemes run the risk of further cheapening sex, undermining the age of consent, and exposing young people to the risk of pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and emotional pain.
"Text messaging schemes run the risk of further cheapening sex, undermining the age of consent, and exposing young people to the risk of pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and emotional pain, while depriving them of the support and guidance of their parents," the Daily Snack quoted him, as saying.
The texting scheme, which in still process, was established by council chiefs in Lincolnshire, but has now been adopted in other areas.
Through the system, youngsters are able to send queries to a Glasgow-based call centre manned by trained agony aunts who text back responses via a computer.
The counsellors have been given details of all sexual health and drop-in centres in any given area, including those operating the controversial 'condom card' scheme.
The so-called 'C-Cards' entitle boys to collect up to ten free condoms. Youngsters who text their postcode would receive details of their nearest centre operating the C-Card scheme.
The texting service is strictly confidential, which allows youngsters to seek advice on potentially life-changing issues without their parents' knowledge.
Also, the operators of the scheme admitted that they had no way of knowing the ages of the children texting. They also admitted 'there is a difference between the response you may give a 13-year-old in relation to a 17-year-old'.
If the advisers, feel that a problem requires a fuller answer than they are able to give in a text message, they are trained to send teenagers the national free phone, 'Sexwise number'.
Project organisers believe the 12-month pilot scheme has cut teenage pregnancy rates and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
But Wells said: "Initiatives that undermine parents by offering confidential advice on sexual matters to young people under the age of consent are invariably associated with more teenage sexual activity rather than less.
"It is not ignorance of contraception that has led to high teenage pregnancy rates and fuelled the current crisis in sexual health so much as a casual attitude towards sexual relationships," Wells added.
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