Children as young as ten are being pressured into sex, warns the ISPCC, who said more than 30,000 youngsters last year contacted Childline for help with sexual matters.
In one such instance, a ten-year-old girl called the child support service saying she felt pressured to give in and have sex with her boyfriend.
She was told by her friends to have sex or lose him, said Grainia Long, Chief Executive ISPCC.
“In this instance the child was really embarrassed and upset."
Speaking to the Sean O’Rouke show on RTÉ One, Ms Long said the ISPCC had seen a growing trend of younger children not just talking about but engaging in sexual activity.
“Peer pressure is still a serious issue… [This] 10-year-old girl contacted us because her boyfriend wanted to have sex with her.
“This young girl told us her friends said she should do it because she didn’t want to lose him.
“Four years ago, it would have been a 14-year-old asking us about this. Now, we’ve 10, 11, 12-year-olds asking these questions."
Of the 460,000 calls received by Childline last year, some 30,000 were sex related, Ms Long added.
“Children want to talk about sex – they’re constantly inquiring about it and they talk to [us] about it.
“And that’s fine – children should talk about sex. But we’re now worried because we’re seeing a trend amongst very young children towards highly sexualised behaviour.
“We’ve had some quite concerning cases.. for example, sexting has become a major issue.
“Technology is great tool but it has also presented us with new problems. We’ve been contacted by children as young as 12 who have taken intimate photos of themselves and sent them to others they’ve spoken to online.
“A child’s mother contact us looking for help after her child sent a boy she knew a photo like this.
“We met with the child and spoke to them, listen to them, and explained what could happened.
“In many cases, they don’t understand the implications of such actions.”
Ms Long said that recent studies had shown that 1/5 of Irish children had viewed sexual imagery online, and that this had lend to children copying what they had seen.
“ We had a caller who said a young family member had touched her daughter in a very inappropriate manner – we later learned that another adult was watching porn in the house and the children were also viewing it.
“It is really important that parents understand that they have a responsibilities.
“When you buy or share your technology with your children, it’s vital to understand the risk involve as well as the benefits.”
Any children or parent who needs support should freephone 1800 666666 or text 'talk' to 50101.