Thousands of children reported over indecent images

Hands holding a mobile phone Image copyright PA

More than 2,000 children were reported to police in three years over indecent images, the NSPCC says.

The children's charity submitted a Freedom of Information request spanning 2013-15 to police across the UK.

This showed 2,031 under-18s were reported for crimes linked to the possession, distribution, or production of indecent images of children.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said children had to be educated about staying safe both offline and online.

The law states that making or sharing indecent photographs of anyone aged under the age of 18 could be classed as an offence - but there have been calls for recording rules to be adapted so children are not routinely criminalised.

The NSPCC sent the 45 police forces across the UK an FOI in May, and found the total offences of this nature recorded, regardless of age, were 4,530 in 2013, 6,303 in 2014, and 10,818 in 2015.

Not all police forces provided age breakdowns, but for those which did, there were 11,697 investigations where the age of the defendant was recorded and 2,031 were under the age of 18.

Image 'explosion'

The charity also said that, of the 1,000 parents and carers from across the UK who took part in a recent online survey, only half of parents knew that children taking nude selfies were committing a crime.

Mr Wanless said recent advances in digital technology has fuelled an "explosion in the production and consumption of child sexual abuse images" that increasingly involves live video streaming.

He added: "As well as pursuing and deterring adults who make and distribute these we must educate children about how to keep themselves safe online and offline and how to get help as soon as grooming or abuse happens.

"And every child who is the victim of exploitation and abuse should get the support they need to rebuild their lives."

And he said that the internet industry must prioritise this issue by working with the public and voluntary sector.

In September, the BBC learned that a boy who sent a naked photograph of himself to a girl at school had the crime of making and distributing indecent images recorded against him by police.

The boy, aged 14, who was not arrested or charged, could have his name stored on a police database for 10 years.

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