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Using the Traffic Light Tool

The Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool lists examples of green, amber and red behaviours within four different age groups. These are examples only and must be considered in context.

The age categories deliberately overlap to demonstrate the fluidity and variable nature of development. These are indicative, and understanding may vary. The 13 to 17 age category may also be a useful guide for vulnerable young people, or young people with physical or learning disabilities, up to the age of 25.

All green, amber and red behaviours require some form of attention and response, but the type of intervention will vary according to the behaviour. Green behaviours may highlight opportunities to provide positive feedback and information that supports healthy sexuality. Amber and red behaviours may require observation, documentation, education, referral to other services, increased supervision, therapy, safeguarding assessment and/or a legal response.

Sexual development is influenced by many factors. When using the traffic light tool to categorise behaviour, it is necessary to consider the current social, cultural, legal, community and familial context. Read more about what these factors may mean.

You can also download a PDF of the guidance.

On identifying a behaviour

I have identified a green behaviour

Green behaviours reflect safe and healthy sexual development. They are:

  • Displayed between children or young people of similar age or developmental ability
  • Reflective of natural curiosity, experimentation, consensual activities and positive choices

Expressing sexuality through sexual behaviour is natural, healthy and a part of growing up. Green behaviours provide an opportunity to positively reinforce appropriate behaviour, and to provide further information and support.

All children and young people have the right to relationships and sex education which equips them with the information and skills they need to form healthy and positive sexual relationships and keep their traffic lights green.

I have identified an amber behaviour

Amber behaviours have the potential to be outside of safe and healthy development. They may be:

  • Unusual for that particular child or young person
  • Of potential concern due to age or developmental differences
  • Of potential concern due to activity type, frequency, duration or the context in which they occur

Amber behaviours signal the need to take notice and gather information to consider appropriate action.

Recognising that behaviour may be unhealthy is the first step in a process. If you are a professional working with young people and your organisation has internal guidance or safeguarding frameworks, please refer to these. You may be required, or feel it is necessary, to inform your safeguarding lead or another member of staff.

Amber behaviours cannot be ignored, and it is important to think through the options available to you. Consider why the behaviours may be being displayed, and, where possible, gather further information and continue to monitor behaviour.

I have identified a red behaviour

Red behaviours are outside of safe and healthy behaviour. They may be:

  • Excessive, secretive, compulsive, coercive, degrading or threatening
  • Involving significant age, developmental or power differences
  • Of concern due to the activity type, frequency, duration or the context in which they occur

Red behaviours indicate a need for immediate intervention and action, though it is important to consider actions carefully. When determining the appropriate action, identify the behaviour, consider the context and be guided by:

  • Relevant national legislation and guidance
  • Organisational policies, procedures and guidance
  • Human rights
  • The identified risks or needs of the young person
  • The potential or real risks to others

If you are a professional working with young people and your organisation has internal guidance or safeguarding frameworks, please refer to these to decide on the next steps to take. Your policy or procedure should guide you towards a designated safeguarding lead who can be notified and will provide support.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if the presenting behaviour is not in the normative list?

The normative lists provides examples of the types of behaviours that would sit within each colour category. If the presenting behaviour is not given as an example it may be useful to consider the following questions:

  • Is the behaviour consensual for all children or young people involved?
  • Is the behaviour reflective of natural curiosity or experimentation?
  • Does the behaviour involve children or young people of a similar age or developmental ability?
  • Is the behaviour unusual for that particular child or young person?
  • Is the behaviour excessive, coercive, degrading or threatening?
  • Is the behaviour occurring in a public or private space? How does this affect the colour categorisation?
  • Are other children or young people showing signs of alarm or distress as a result of the behaviour?

What should I do if I suspect a case of female genital mutilation/cutting?
Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision or female genital cutting, is defined by the World Health Organisation as being "all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reason".

FGM is illegal in this country and it is also illegal to take a child out of the country for FGM. FGM is always a safeguarding issue.

It has not been included in the normative lists as it is not a behaviour. However, if it is suspected that a child or young person may be at risk or has been subjected to FGM, this should be treated as a red indicator. Find out more information and advice about FGM.

I am not a professional working with young people. Where can I go for help?
If you are not a professional working within an organisation with internal procedures or frameworks, you may want to consider contacting a specialist organisation that can advise you. See below for useful links to trusted organsiations.

I don't work for an organisation with internal procedures or a safeguarding lead, where can I go for help?
If you are not a professional working within an organisation with internal procedures or frameworks, you may want to consider contacting a specialist organisation that can advise you. See below for useful links to trusted organsiations.
 
Is training available to support the use of the Brook Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool?
Brook provides a UK-wide training programme for professionals to support the use of this resource. If you are interested in this training for yourself or for your organisation please visit this page or email us
 
I would like to use the information contained in this website in an internal document or policy. Is this possible?
The information on this website is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any of the information it contains please email your request and full details to us so a member of staff can contact you.