MORE than 200 cases of online grooming have been reported in Hampshire in the past 18 months, according to statistics.
Figures compiled by the NSPCC, in collaboration with police forces in England and Wales, show a 200 per cent increase in the use of the social media site Instagram by groomers.
In Hampshire, police say that Instagram was used in 26 of the 224 offences it recorded in the past 18 months.
The statistics show that in the latest six-month period, girls aged 12-15 were most likely to be targeted by groomers and victims included children as young as five years old.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: ‘These figures are overwhelming evidence that keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks. We cannot wait for the next tragedy before tech companies are made to act.
‘It is hugely concerning to see the sharp spike in grooming offences on Instagram, and it is vital that the platform designs basic protection more carefully into the service it offers young people.’’
The news comes ahead of the government Online Harms white paper, which the NSPCC is campaigning to enforce a legal duty of care to children on social networks.
This, the charity says, is a ‘crucial’ step to take.