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Thoughts vs actions – what do I need to know?

And if you’ve had a one-time sexual thought about a child, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sexually attracted to children. Remember, during adolescence, you’re changing fast and developing your sexual identity, and it’s normal for different sexual thoughts to pop into your head from time to time. 

But if you carry on having sexual thoughts about children younger than yourself, it’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust and get support. 

The most important thing to remember is that there’s a difference between thoughts and actions. 

Even when your sexual thoughts are about people your own age, it’s important to know the law on sexual actions. For example, it’s illegal to act on any sexual thoughts you have about children under 16. 

But the point of the law is not to punish young people for exploring sexual activities in a healthy and safe way. So the police will be more concerned about some cases than others. For example, if someone older is having sex with someone under 16, or if a person under 16 is being pressured into sex then the police will be more concerned.

See our page on sex and the law to learn more about what sexual behaviour is legal and what’s illegal. 

Sex and the law

Find out what the law says about sex and what this means for you.

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