Anyone who looks after a child or young person is responsible for making sure you are safe, healthy and well looked after.
The law says that:
- The child’s welfare comes first
- All children have a right to be protected from abuse, neglect and exploitation
- Parents should normally be responsible for bringing up their children.
It is against the law to punish children or young people in a way that:
- Is too harsh
- Involves too much force
- Harms them.
An adult shouldn’t punish you by hitting you or beating you. It is against the law to punish children and young people in a dangerous way such as:
- Shaking them
- Hitting them on the head
- Using something to punish them such as a shoe, a cane or a belt.
There is no legal age limit for leaving a child or young person alone at home. But the people who look after you shouldn’t leave you alone if it puts you in danger or if you suffer neglect because you are alone.
Being left alone can be worrying. The people who look after you should talk to you first before they leave you alone and check you are okay with being left on your own.
The advice from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is that:
- Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
- Children under the age of about 12 aren’t usually grown up enough to be left alone for a long time
- Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight.
- Things to remember
- If you are being left alone, the person who looks after you should:
- Leave a phone number where you can reach them
- Leave list of people you can contact if you can’t reach your parents or carer.
Keep yourself safe – for example, don’t open the door to strangers and don’t play with matches or candles.
Saturday and part time jobs
Young people cannot work during school hours and can only work for 1 hour before school begins. Young people are not allowed to work in industrial places, such as factories and building sites, or do any work that is likely to harm their health, wellbeing or education.
- Young people under the age of 13 are not allowed to work at all
- Young people between 13 and 16 are not allowed to work before 7am or after 7pm
- Young people between 13 and 16 are not allowed to work more than 2 hours a day on any day, except Saturdays
- Young people who are over 13 but under 15 are allowed to work for up to 5 hours on a Saturday
- Young people who are 15 or over are allowed to work for up to 8 hours on a Saturday.
Sex and young people
Sex is normal in loving relationships between couples above the age of consent. The age of consent is how old a person has to be to legally decide to have sex.
If you are thinking about having sex you need to know that:
- The age of consent for boys and girls is 16
- It’s against the law to have sex with someone who is under 16
- It’s against the law for two people who are under 16 to have sex with each other
- If two young people, one under 16 and one under 13, have sex, then it’s the older one who has committed an offence
- Anyone who has sex with a child under the age of 13 years old can be sent to prison for life
- Anyone who tries to have sex, or has sex with someone over 13 but under 16 can be sent to prison for up to 10 years.
No one should force you or put pressure on you to have sex. If you are having sex with someone who is over 16 and you are under 16, it is the person you are having sex with who is in the wrong, not you. You will not get into trouble if you tell someone.
If someone has sex with you without your permission and they know you haven’t given your permission, then this is rape. Rape is a serious crime.
Sex should be part of a relationship with someone you love and trust. If someone is putting you under pressure to have sex and you don’t want to then they are not respecting your wishes.
You don’t have to stay with anyone who is making you do something that you don’t want to do.
You don’t have to stay in a relationship where you feel uncomfortable or where your partner doesn’t respect you. In fact, these are very good reasons to get out of the relationship!
Help and advice about sex at the Sandyford Institute
The Sandyford Institute runs sexual health services just for young people. Appointments are set aside for young people so you’re not likely to meet any adults you might be worried about seeing.
The services are called The Place. The Place offers treatment, counselling, support and advice on every area of sexual health and relationships.
The Place provides:
- Advice and information.
- Contraception and emergency contraception – including free condoms
- Testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections
- Pregnancy testing
- Advice and counselling about pregnancy choices
- Quick access to terminations if that is your choice.
- You can use The Place and its services if you are under or over 16.
Female genital mutilation, female circumcision or female genital cutting (FGM)
It is against the law to do Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting in Scotland. It is also against the law to take someone who normally lives in Scotland to another country to have FGM done to them.
For more information about FGM go to: