An “alarming” increase in the number of children treated on social media sites has led to a call for tighter regulations.
Figures from Avon and Somerset Constabulary show that 300 crimes of sexual communication with a child under the age of 18 have been recorded in the past 18 months.
Girls aged 12 to 15 were the most likely to be targeted by groomers, and victims included children as young as five.
The number of children treated via Instagram has tripled in just 18 months.
Between April 2017 and April 2018, 10% of victims were prepared via Instagram, compared to 28% between April and September last year.
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NSPCC calls on social media to do more to protect children.
NSPCC South West Director Sharon Copsey said: âIt is alarming how many young people are being cared for online, and it is clear that social media needs to do more to protect children in their digital world.
âMany children and young people don’t understand that they have been treated or that what has happened is abuse, so it is common for victims of online care not to tell anyone what is happening to them. .
âIt is important that parents have regular and open conversations with their children about their online business. By having these discussions, children know they can talk to their parents if they are worried about something they have seen or heard online.
âOur school department holds ‘Talk, stay safe’ meetings at primary schools in the Avon and Somerset area to help children learn about the different types of abuse, recognize the signs and identify an adult. trust who they can talk to if they have a worry or concern. “
The government is to release a white paper setting out new laws to tackle online harm.
The NSPCC urges ministers to pass legal regulations to enforce a legal obligation to protect children on social media, with heavy fines for business failure.
Peter Wanless, Chief Executive Officer of NSPCC, said: âThese numbers are overwhelming proof that children’s safety cannot be left to social media.
“We can’t wait for the next tragedy before tech companies are forced to act.”
Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or childline.org.uk