A record 30,925 offenses involving obscene pictures of children driven by the use of social media were reported to the police last year. Paedophiles are also using virtual reality headsets to view child abuse images, crime records suggest, with social media accounting for more than one in three cases.
The NSPCC said Snapchat is the site used most to share images. The app was involved in 43 percent of cases where platform data was provided by the police.
VR headsets were noted eight times, indicating a new trend – the first time the devices have been mentioned.
A social media or gaming site was recorded in 9,888 cases including Snapchat (4,293), Facebook (1,361), Instagram (1,363) and WhatsApp (547).
The technology lets paedophiles share images more easily.
The NSPCC wants changes to the Online Safety Bill to create a child safety advocate to represent the interests of youngsters. It also wants social media bosses made criminally liable if they are exposed to preventable abuse.
Chief executive Sir Peter Wanless called the data “the tip of the iceberg. We hear from young people who feel powerless and let down as online sexual abuse risks become normalised.”
Police recorded 27,661 offenses in 2020/21; 23,108 in 2019/20 and 21,355 in 2018/19. Jacqueline Beauchere, Snapchat’s head of safety, said: “Snap has dedicated teams around the world working closely with police, experts and industry partners.
“If we proactively detect or are made aware of any sexual content exploiting minors, we immediately remove it, delete the account and report the offender.”