The number of alleged sex offences committed by children against other youngsters has increased by 78 percent in just three years, an investigation has found.
Figures obtained by children’s charity Barnardo’s show that 9,290 cases were reported to police in England and Wales in 2016.
Child protection experts have warned that young people need better education about sexual relationships, the Press Association reported.
Between 2013 and 2016, there were 35,452 reports to police about child on child sexual abuse - more than 20 a day.
The figures relate to instances where the alleged perpetrator and victim are both aged under 18.
Barnardo’s warned last year that these type of sexual offences are set to become “the next scandal in our society” if they are not dealt with “head on”.
Chief executive Javed Khan said: “These results are another wake up call to the extent of the problem.
“We’re deeply concerned more children may be sexually harming other children.”
Simon Bailey, National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Child Protection, said the sharp rise could be attributed in part to better awareness and “greater victim confidence”.
“We also have to look at the possibility that more abuse is being perpetrated and if technology is facilitating this.
“These figures highlight the importance of building resilience in young people and educating them about sexual relationships. This can’t be left to chance.”
Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani called on the government to work with schools, local authorities, police and voluntary organisations to tackle the issue.
She added: “In this smartphone age, parents must also play a vigilant role in protecting their children from harmful sexual behaviour and from harmful sexual images that cause damage they are too young to understand.”
A government spokesman said: “Child sexual abuse is a horrendous crime and this government is committed to preventing children and young people from becoming both victims and perpetrators.
“Our ongoing ‘Disrespect NoBody’ campaign is helping young people understand what a healthy relationship looks like and to re-think their views on controlling, violent and abusive behaviour.”