The number of recorded online grooming sexual offences has risen by a third, the NSPCC has warned.
There were at least 4,373 offences of sexual communication with a child recorded in the year to April 2019 compared with 3,217 in the previous year, according to Freedom of Information requests to police forces in England and Wales.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said: "It's now clearer than ever that government has no time to lose in getting tough on these tech firms.
"Despite the huge amount of pressure that social networks have come under to put basic protections in place, children are being groomed and abused on their platforms every single day. These figures are yet more evidence that social networks simply won't act unless they are forced to by law. The government needs to stand firm and bring in regulation without delay," he added.
The statistics showed that:
- Where age was provided, 1 in 5 victims were aged just 11 or younger.
- The number of recorded instances of the use of Instagram was more than double that of the previous year.
- In the last two years, Facebook-owned apps (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp) and Snapchat were used in more than 70% of the instances where police recorded and provided the communication method.
The leading children's charity is calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to prioritise online safety and bring in laws that deliver a change in protection against abuse.
The NSPCC's Wild West Web urges the government to stand up for children and introduce tough regulation for social networks, specifically:
- an independent regulator who can put in place mandatory child safety rules for social networks
- safe accounts for children
- detailed reporting on how social networks are keeping children safe.
The offence of sexual communication with a child came into force on April 3 2017 following the charity's Flaw in the Law campaign.