Children as young as five are increasingly “perpetrating sexual abuse” because of what they are seeing on social media, charities have warned.
Increasing numbers of primary-school pupils are exhibiting “harmful sexual behaviour” as a result of the web – with others groomed in their bedrooms in live broadcasts, they said.
The charity Barnardo’s in the UK said children were increasingly becoming perpetrators, as well as victims, touching others’ private parts or forcing them to watch pornography.
Their evidence to British MPs also highlights growing evidence of an explosion of “live grooming”, with parents oblivious that children were sharing explicit content.
Experts said middle-class parents had no idea that their children were being coerced into stripping for strangers, in scenes which were live-streamed globally, and harvested by paedophilic websites.
The evidence to the Commons Science and Technology Committee calls for stricter regulation of such sites, with live moderation of media which can broadcast live and other measures to prevent children broadcasting material online.
Barnardo’s said three-quarters of referrals for child sex abuse were now internet-related, a rise from 20pc in three years.
Emily Cherry, the charity’s assistant director of policy and public affairs, said young children were increasingly becoming perpetrators as well as victims.
“Children are perpetrating sexual abuse against other children, which is an increasing concern for us,” Ms Cherry told MPs.
“We are seeing children come through the doors at a younger and younger age, below the age of criminal responsibility.
“We are seeing children as young as five and an increase in the number of children aged eight to 10 coming through our doors for this.
“They are telling us that they are on social media sites. The technology-assisted side of harmful sexual behaviour is definitely growing.”
Ms Cherry called for far more robust age verification to stop children getting on to sites where they could interact with potential groomers, and live moderators of sites like Periscope, Facebook.live, Musical.ly and Live.ly which stream content in real time.