Nearly 2000 offences involving the possession of indecent images have been reported by police in Scotland over the last three years, more than any other police force in the UK.
A Freedom of Information request from the NSPCC showed that in Scotland there were a total of 1,904 indecent images offences over the last three years, and a rise of 17 per cent from 2014 to 2015.
Figures also show The Metropolitan Police recorded 1,461 cases over the same period of time while the total figure for the UK stands at 21,651.
This comes after Operation Latisse; Police Scotland’s first national operation to tackle online child sexual abuse which only a few months ago saw 30 million indecent images seized and 77 people charged.
The NSPCC is calling for police to continue to prioritise this growing threat and has highlighted the digital industry has a responsibility to work to tackle the issue.
Joanna Barrett, policy and public affairs manager for NSPCC Scotland, said: “These figures clearly show there is a growing problem of people viewing child abuse material and more needs to be done.
“We want to see companies who operate online to prioritise this issue by committing significant resources to preventing the publication and distribution of these images.
“Social network providers and other technology platforms must realise they are the key enablers of online child sexual abuse and make a serious commitment to tackling it.”
The NSPCC is also concerned that children reported to police for indecent images offences may include youngsters who have shared naked ‘selfies’ and so the charity is urging parents to talk to children about the risks.
The NSPCC recently published research which showed that only half of parents knew that children taking and sending naked pictures of themselves was illegal, whilst two out of five parents feared their children might be involved in ‘sexting’ but had not spoken to them about the risks.
Joanna Barrett added: “Children need to be taught about the dangers of sending sexual pictures of themselves so they don’t find themselves at risk of harm and abuse.
“Young people who are caught ‘sexting’ put themselves at risk of sexual exploitation, grooming and cyber bullying, whilst they could also face the prospect of a criminal record if they are reported to police.
“That’s why we have recently issued advice and guidance to parents about how to talk to their children about sexting, as well as what to do if they have been sharing sexual images of themselves.”
NSPCC Scotland is calling on the Scottish government to take the lead in protecting children from harm online, such as grooming, cyber bullying, sexting, and viewing child abuse images.
The charity has advocated compulsory age-appropriate healthy relationships education for school children in Scotland, which should include issues of online safety.