How to tell if a child’s sexual behaviour is appropriate for their age

We can help you understand whether a child’s sexual behaviour is expected for their age, or if it could harm them or other people.

Children pass through different stages of development as they grow. Each child is an individual and will develop in their own way. But there is a generally accepted range of behaviours linked to a child’s age and stage of development.

If you are worried about a child’s sexual behaviour, offline or online, it is best to trust your gut and get advice. Speak to the non-judgemental experienced advisors on our confidential helpline. You don’t have to give your real name or details that identify you, and can stay anonymous.

Call 0808 1000 900 for advice, support and information. If you’re not ready to speak to someone yet, you can use our live chat or secure email or look at the links below.

If you’re a professional working with children, Brook has information that can help you.

The traffic light system

We’ve used a traffic light system to help you work out if a behaviour is  

  • expected (green) 
  • inappropriate or problematic (amber) 
  • harmful (red)

Traffic light glowing green, amber and red

Green

These are natural and expected behaviours. This doesn’t mean that you would want these behaviours to continue, but they do provide an opportunity to talk, teach, and explain what’s appropriate.

Amber

These can be of concern and have the potential to be outside safe and healthy behaviours if they persist. They require a response from a protective adult, extra support and close monitoring.

Red

These are outside healthy and safe behaviours. These behaviours can signal a need for immediate protection and support from a childcare professional, for example, health visitor, GP or social worker.

Read our guide to understand the sexual behaviour of teenagers.


If you are worried about a child’s sexual behaviour, offline or online, it is best to trust your gut and get advice. Speak to the non-judgemental experienced advisors on our confidential helpline. You don’t have to give your real name or details that identify you, and can stay anonymous.

Call 0808 1000 900 for advice, support and information. If you’re not ready to speak to someone yet, you can use our live chat or secure email or look at the links below.

Back to top