The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently released its latest guidance on harmful sexual behaviors in children and young adults. The institute recognized that the display of inappropriate sexual behaviors by children and adolescents is becoming a prominent issue in the UK and it is crucial to tackle this problem.
These inappropriate sexual behaviors amongst children include using sexualized language, sexting, sharing sexual images or viewing pornography and they are on a consistent rise.
As children grow up they are often curious to know what lies beyond them. These children are inquisitive of exploring their body parts and knowing about the difference of a boy’s body from that of a girl’s. Such behaviors are completely normal. However, if this curiosity builds up to an extent that these children begin to indulge in inappropriate sexual behaviors, then this is the right time to be alarmed.
Brushing these issues under the carpet is a norm in the society we live in, but this will be of no use, or rather it will influence the healthy development of the growing young people.
Taking keen interest in sexual discussions or acts is also a common sight as we witness children growing up into adults. While the curiosity and behaviors surrounding sexuality start to decline soon after, evidence shows that some of these children walk down the dark pit and indulge in risky sexual behaviors like committing sexual offences.
Such children are likely to grow up as unstable individuals who are not in control of their sexual urges and become a potential threat to others. However, evidence shows that recognizing and dealing with these problems right at the beginning will help children fight off their confusing urges.
What Do These Recommendations Say?
According to the deputy chief executive of NICE, Gillian Leng, the proposed guidelines are about preparing teachers, social workers, nurses and others to identify harmful sexual behaviors and work across team boundaries to help these children.
These elaborated guidelines are significant in their deliverance as they urge for a joined up approach by universal health and education services, children’s social services, child health services and the voluntary sector to respond to the concerns regard the sexual behaviors of young people.
NICE wants these teams to synergize their efforts for the promotion of continuous care of the children or young persons in need. It is also stated that the transition period to an adult life is crucial and to help them through this smooth sailing, it is important for the child and adult health service providers to work together.
In addition to this, the report gives a special consideration to the communication and connection that build between the service provider and the young person. It recommends that the service provider should continue to work with an individual and the staff may not change during this time, so that the young person can easily trust and open up about their problems to them.
It was also said that Local Safeguarding Children Boards be used to develop local safeguarding policies and procedures to develop harmful sexual behavior operational frameworks. These frameworks will help assess children and young people with the problem to provide them with specialist harmful sexual behavior services. These collaborations will involve experts from the education sector, health sector, youth criminal justice and children’s social services.
These children will also be provided with mental health services and specialist referrals for individual problems. Some behavioral criteria have also been given by NICE for timely assessment of the problem. In addition to this, the Brooks Sexual Behaviors Traffic Light Tool will be used to identify a range of sexual behaviors which will be stratified in 3 levels between infancy and adulthood.
This traffic light system will indicate the seriousness of the behavior and corresponding problem (indication will be given as green, amber or red). This will in turn help right decisions about safeguarding children and young people with problem. This way the problems will be assessed and responded appropriately by the care provider and the healthy sexual development behaviors will be well distinguished from harmful behaviors.
Jon Brown, head of development and impact at National Society for the Prevention of Cruelly to Children (NSPCC) and a member of the guideline development told the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that the guideline contains three key messages which suggest that firstly, the young people and children should be treated as just that but not as mini sex offenders. Secondly, that the treatment pathway should cater to the individual needs and not run as “one size fits all” process, and lastly, he emphasized that these behavioral changes will only be effectively made if the family and support network understand the issue and help towards solving it.
When Do You Know Your Child’s Behavior Is Not Normal?
The role played by the family and peers in providing care is of integral value; if the behaviors are not identified by people close to the kids in need, then the getting help is often delayed or missed out.
As a child grows, he/she begins to learn about sex and sexual behavior and that is a part of normal individual development. However, there are often warning signs that can alarm a parent about their child’s behavior. If a pre-school child talks about sex acts, then you must know that your child has a problem. Similarly, if a 12-year-old kid masturbates in public, it is a clear indication of a sexual behavior problem.
If an adolescent begins to show forceful or aggressive sexual behavior, compulsive habits and sexual interest in adults or children of a different age group, or if reports of such behaviors come from school, then there is a high chance that your child has a sexual behavioral problem.
In addition, these children are likely to have poor performance at school. They are also found being part of fights, arguments and they also become prone to substance addiction at an early age.
Children who are victims of child abuse, bullying at school, anxiety or depression, have socioeconomic stressors, use technology and gadgetry excessively, who have conduct and behavior disorders and who have vulnerable relationship with their parents, have a higher risk of becoming prone to these inappropriate sexual behaviors.
With these guidelines, however, this serious issue is likely to be highlighted and dealt with in an improved manner.