Harmful Sexual Behaviour

Please note this procedure is currently being reviewed and rewritten.  It is envisaged a new procedure will be available early August 2020.  This webpage is also under review.

Harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) is defined by the National Children's Bureau as “Sexual behaviours expressed by children and young people under the age of 18 years old that are developmentally inappropriate, may be harmful towards self or others and/ or be abusive towards another child, young person or adult.”

CYSCP has produced a Children Who Sexually Harm procedure document for practitioners working with families locally.  

The purpose of all intervention is the protection of children. Many young people who sexually abuse others have themselves been harmed and this should always be considered. Sexual abuse by children is as harmful to victims as sexual abuse by adults so early identification and intervention are essential in the prevention of future sexual harm. 

Children who sexually harm other children should be held responsible for their behaviour whilst also being considered to be children in need of services themselves. Where possible parents/carers need to be involved in supporting children in dealing with this behaviour. 

A multi-disciplinary/agency approach is the most effective way of addressing concerns regarding a child’s harmful sexual behaviour. 


CYSCP provides online and face to face training for practitioners.


Useful Links


CYSCP pdf with useful links

Contextual Safeguarding Research Programme

NSPCCSexual Behaviour in children

Home Office Disrepect Nobody campaign

DfE Keeping children safe in education

Brook Traffic Light Tool

Harmful Sexual Behaviour

NSPCC resources for HSB

NSPCC HSB Framework

NICE Harmful Sexual Behaviour guidelines

Centre of Expertise on child sexual abuse research

Thinkuknow warning signs


Online Safety/Sexting

“‘TA-HSB’ refers to one or more children engaging in sexual discussions or acts - using the internet and / or any image-creating / sharing or communication device -which is considered inappropriate and / or harmful given their age or stage of development.” (Hollis & Belton, 2017)

Child Exploitation and Online Protection

Net Aware

Safe Internet - Your guide to staying safe online

NSPCC Sexting guidance

Useful Documents

Children and young people with harmful sexual behaviours Simon Hackett Research in Pratcice


 Belton, E. and Hollis, V. (2016) A review of the research on children and young people who display harmful sexual behaviour online: what is developmentally appropriate online sexual behaviour, do children and young people with online versus offline harmful sexual behaviours (HSB) differ, and is there an association between online and offline HSB? London: NSPCC


Hollis, V. and Belton, E. (2017) Children and young people who engage in technology-assisted harmful sexual behaviour; a study of their behaviours, backgrounds and characteristics. London: NSPCC


That Difficult Age: Developing a more effective response to risks in adolescence: Evidence Scope (2015) Hanson E, Holmes D https://www.rip.org.uk/resources/publications/evidence-scopes/that-difficult-age-developing-a-more-effective-response-to-risks-in-adolescence-evidence-scope-2015

“Everyone deserves to be happy and safe” A mixed methods study exploring how online and offline child sexual abuse impact young people and how professionals respond to it Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis Elly Hanson Helen Whittle Anthony Beec.h November 2017


Government guidance sexting in schools and colleges


Hackett, S, Branigan, P and Holmes, D (2019). Harmful sexual behaviour framework: an evidence-informed operational framework for children and young people displaying harmful sexual behaviours, second edition, London, NSPCC.


Harmful sexual behaviour in schools: a briefing on the findings, implications and resources for schools and multi-agency partners Jenny Lloyd, Joanne Walker and Vanessa Bradbury June 2020


Completing the Harmful sexual behaviour framework audit tool. A guide for designated safeguarding leads in health



Useful documents