Harmful sexual behaviour is harmful both to the child it is inflicted on and the child displaying it, and requires immediate attention and reaction from adults.
Harmful sexual behaviour can often be characterised as being excessive, secretive, violating, forceful, regressive or threatening.
Hackett (2014) gives the following definition:
Sexual behaviours expressed by children and young people under the age of eighteen years old that are developmentally inappropriate, may be harmful towards self or others, or be abusive towards another child, young person or adult.
There may be several causes as to why children display harmful sexual behaviour.
It can be the result of unfortunate sexual experimentation, or maybe a reaction caused by emotional, physical or sexual assault or neglect. Some display this behaviour after having been shown or seen a lot of pornography, or after adults have had sexual intercourse in front of them. Others are more impulsive in their actions, with no apparent instigator or premeditative planning. The problematic or harmful sexual behaviour is often only one of several issues (behavioural issues, psychological or neurological problems) the adolescent is dealing with, and must be understood as such; in context, rather than as “its own thing”. There are, however, a significant percentage of adolescents who are not otherwise troubled, and whose cognitive and social functions fall within the normal part of the spectrum.
Most children will not repeat the harmful sexual behaviour if they are given clear boundaries and have the potential consequences of such behaviour explained to them; how it affects both the violated party and themselves. Some adolescents will need further counselling in how to manage and master social interaction, sexual emotions, rejection by peers, and guilt/shame about having committed a sexual violation. Nurses, teachers and other health care personnel can also assist the children in these matters.
A few of those who commit sexual violations will continue displaying the behaviour, and need more comprehensive help and assistance from BUP (Division of Mental Health Care, Department of Children and Youth).
Children and young people live their lives both on and outside of social media
This means they could potentially display problematic sexualized behaviour on the internet.
Lewis (2018) says:
[Technology-assisted harmful sexual behaviour] is when a child or young person demonstrates sexual behavior online or through the use of technology that may be harmful to themselves or others, have a significant detrimental impact on their daily functioning, or leave them vulnerable for criminal prosecution.
Hollis and Belton (2017) give the following definition:
“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 og Bolton
As a main rule we must treat sexualized behaviour the same both on and off the internet. In addition there are internet-specific sexual behaviours for which consequences will have to be determined, for example photo- and video-sharing or threats written over chat.
Encourage children and young people to share their experiences. They should not deal with these things alone. Calling the police to discuss a case is also possible, by either calling 02800 or go to the nearest police station or sheriff’s office. Statens barnehus (Children’s Advocacy Center) also provides counsel.
See also Shareable for more extensive information.
Harmful sexual behaviour is harmful both to the child it is inflicted on and the child displaying it, and indicates a need for an immediate reaction from adults. This is mentioned under RED BEHAVIOUR in The Traffic Light. How do you respond to such behaviour?