A Burton charity has spoken about the impact of online content on children’s behaviour after a TV investigation revealed that almost 30,000 reports of children sexually assaulting other youngsters had been made to police in the last four years.
The investigation was carried out by BBC investigative show Panorama. The total included 2,625 alleged attacks on school premises, the show revealed.
The data, which was released by 38 of the 43 police forces across England and Wales, shows reports of so-called "peer on peer" abuse rose from 4,603 in 2013 to 7,866 last year - an increase of 71 per cent. Shockingly, almost three-quarters of cases reported to 36 forces between April 2013 and May 2017 resulted in no further action.
The investigation found 2,625 reported sexual offences, including 225 alleged rapes, carried out by under-18s on other children happened on school premises, including primary school playgrounds, across 31 force areas while figures showed reports of sexual offences by children aged 10 and under had more than doubled from 204 in 2013-14 to 456 in 2016-17.
Some children who were interviewed anonymously by reporters on the current affairs programme told how they felt bullied, let down and isolated after reporting abuse.
Liza Freeman is head of young people’s services at Sarac, which is based in Burton and helps victims of rape and sexual abuse.
Mrs Freeman said more and more young people were spending time watching inappropriate online content which, could be having an impact on the rise in crime.
She said: "Over the years we have seen children and young people spending more and more time engaging in their online activities which unless monitored, can unfortunately lead to the exposure of inappropriate material, including pornography and the sharing of indecent sexual images.
"This can have huge implications on how a child or young person may react and behave, especially if they do not understand the material being viewed, with this sort of exposure giving distorted messages about what is appropriate sexual behaviour.
"Sarac is keen to challenge these distorted messages by providing educational sessions in schools containing age appropriate information from Year 7.
"With internet access readily available to our children and young people parents can help reduce risks by monitoring their child's internet use, using parent controls and restrictions."
Government guidance tells teachers they have a legal duty to report allegations of sexual assaults on children by adults but Panorama claims there is no such duty when a child is accused of sexual assault, with schools advised to follow their own child protection procedures.
An investigation by the Press Association earlier this year revealed that children as young as five had been excluded from school for sexual misconduct.
The data released by local authorities showed hundreds of school pupils had been permanently or temporarily kicked out of the classroom in the past four years after being involved in sexual acts, including watching pornography and sharing indecent images.