Ten teenagers from across Cornwall and Devon have been caught with indecent images of children. They are among more than 600 people in the southwest questioned by police over the last three years.
The NSPCC says that it is a number that has almost doubled during this time.
A Freedom of Information request revealed that in the area, there were a total of 144 indecent images offences recorded in 2013, rising to 179 in 2014 and then 281 in 2015.
The charity is now calling for police to be given greater resources to tackle the growing threat, highlighting the responsibility of the UK’s digital industry in tackling the issue.
Jon Brown, who is the NSPCC lead on tackling sexual abuse, is also urging parents to talk to their kids about the risks of sharing naked selfies.
He said: “Devices are improving month on month – smart phones and other devices as well – and that means that whilst it brings huge benefits, it also brings risks – as well in terms of the ease with which images, including illegal images of children, can be shared.
“Whether that’s through nude selfies and sexting between young people or whether it’s through adult sex offenders and paedophiles sharing sexual images of children as well – so as ever with the internet, huge benefits will also bring some risks.”
Devon and Cornwall Police says it’s working hard to educate about the consequences – but they need parents to cooperate.
Detective Superintendent Keith Perkin said: “There’s a responsibility for parents and carers here that they need to understand that this is a criminal offence and that they also need to understand what their children are doing on the internet or how they’re using their smart phones.
“As a child, sending a naked image to anyone – whether that’s a boyfriend or a girlfriend – is a criminal offence.
“You could end up with a criminal record and you could end up on the Sex Offenders Register – but another consequence of that is that image could end up anywhere on the internet and you could be allowing yourself to be unwittingly exploited.”
Across the UK, the total number of recorded crimes for the possession, distribution and production of indecent images of children rose from 4,530 in 2013 to 10,818 in 2015.
During that time period in which the defendant’s age was recorded, 2,031 were aged under 18.
Sharon Copsey, Head of Service for the NSPCC in South West England, said: “We want to see companies who operate online prioritise this issue by committing significant expertise and resources to preventing the publication and distribution of these images.
“Social network providers and other technology platforms must realise that they are the key enablers of online child sexual abuse and make a serious commitment to tackling it.”