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Sex offenders are grooming children on Instagram more than on any other online platform, a charity has found.
Police in England and Wales recorded 1,944 incidents of sexual communication with children in the six months to September 2018, the NSPCC said. Within this, Instagram was used in 32% of the 1,317 cases where a method was recorded, Facebook in 23% and Snapchat in 14%. Instagram and Facebook said they "aggressively" fought grooming, while Snapchat said it was "unacceptable".
Following pressure from campaigners, sexual communication with a childbecame an offence in April 2017. In the 18 months that followed, more than 5,000 online grooming offences were recorded by police, according to the data gathered by the NSPCC.
How can I keep my kids safe online?
The charity said the figures did not "fully reflect the scale of the issue", as many crimes went undetected or unreported. Where the police logged age and gender, seven out of 10 victims were girls aged 12 to 15. One in five was aged 11 or under. The youngest victim was five years old.
The NSPCC said 39 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales responded to Freedom of Information requests, with only Surrey, Sussex, Northampton and City of London police failing to provide data. The children's charity is calling for new laws to force social media firms to do more to protect children.
Ahead of the government publishing a delayed white paper on online harm, the charity is pushing for statutory regulation to enforce a legal duty of care to children on social networks, with a penalty of substantial fines if they fail.