Girls might dress like tarts but it doesn't mean they act like them

How did that happen? A generation of young people, raised with sex and sexual imagery thrust upon them from childhood has emerged quite sensible about it all.

Parents must be thrilled -- surprised of course, but quietly pleased -- at today's news about the sex habits of young people.

Girls are waiting that bit longer to have sex for the first time; 18 is the average age up from 17 in 2003.

For boys, the average age has remained the same, a not-too-worrying 17.

And in a heartening indication that they're prepared for it rather than being overcome in a drunken stupor, 90pc used contraception from the outset.

It hardly squares with what we see of youngsters dressed up for a night out.

Or what we hear of their frightening capacity to down drink, thus, we assume, rendering themselves defenceless against every sexual predator out there.

Yes, we are talking mostly about girls here.

They're the ones who get pregnant, they're the ones parents are more likely to fret over, and they're the ones most likely to "be taken advantage of".

And they're the ones who now dress like junior hookers as soon as the Confirmation is out of the way.

This year, the style for the fashion-forward 13-year-old is the ultra-short shorts, or 'cheek peeks'.

They follow the micro-minis, the barely-there dresses, the underwear-as-outerwear and the make-up which would be considered over-the-top by a New York street walker.

The message from the clothes of the young teens would seem to be they're sexually out there.

The message from today's survey is they're a lot more together and sensible than we might give them credit for.

Yes, crisis pregnancies are still an issue for women. But what constitutes a crisis pregnancy now is a long way from when it meant being chucked out of the family home and possibly into a Magdalen laundry.

Now, a pregnancy is most likely to be classed as a crisis because it's unplanned, or because the woman thinks she's too young.

And it's sad that almost one in 10 pregnancies classified as a 'crisis' is so classed because the mother feels she can't afford to have a baby.

But it's good that parents uttering the immortal words, "you're not going out in that, are you?" can take comfort from knowing that for young girls fashion is about fun when you're a teen. And sometimes a short skirt is just a short skirt.