In what seems to be “a disturbing trend,” many children below the age of 15 are now found to be distributing sexually explicit pictures and videos online, according to a recent Internet Watch Foundation study.
The research by the online safety group, together with Microsoft, found that of the 4,000 collected images and videos in the three months in autumn, 667 images and videos - or 17.5 per cent - featured children below 15 years old, with 286 were believed to be under 10.
On top of that, 93 per cent of the content featured girls.
Of these collected videos, the study cites a seven-year-old girl who was exposing herself, and in a separate video, a 10-year old girl was communicating to a person on the internet as she strips naked.
Comments in the posted video said that such videos are part of ‘sextortion’ where the children were blackmailed based on the sexual content that the other person has.
The study also highlighted that it was a “particular concern” that the children in the videos did not attempt to conceal their faces or their real names.
While sexting has been known to focus on the use of mobile devices, the study’s findings showed that 85.9 per cent of the content was created via webcam.
The NSPCC's head of child online safety, Claire Lilley, said: “The truly worrying problem is the number of very young children who are being coerced into providing material which is almost certainly finishing up in the hands of sex offenders.
"It’s apparent some are being ‘directed’ to do things they find extremely distressing by strangers sitting at the other end of a webcam who will then no doubt pass on the material."
"This is a horrifying situation for the young victims who will be scared and bewildered by what is happening."