More than 150 Scottish children called Childline worried about online sexual abuse last year, and helpline organisers believe the true figure could be much higher.
Childline workers held 151 counselling sessions relating to online sexual abuse with young people who said they were calling from Scotland, but the caller’s country of origin was not recorded in 890 of the 3,716 calls on the issue across the UK last year.
Nationwide, the number of calls from children concerned about online sexual abuse rose by 24 per cent in the last year, with one in eight callers (459) specifically concerned about grooming, a 21 per cent increase.
The online abuse category covers issues including grooming, sexual harassment and communications, pressure to engage in or view explicit material online and sexual extortion.
Charity NSPCC, which runs the helpline, believes the growing use of apps and webcams is leading to more children becoming potential victims of grooming for sex and warns online chats can be a “playground for paedophiles”.
To help combat the problem, Childline is launching a new campaign – Listen To Your Selfie – aimed at helping young people recognise the signs of grooming and unhealthy relationships, both online and offline.
The campaign, funded by BBC Children in Need, features two films where selfies come to life and question a situation.
The Game focuses on a same-sex online grooming scenario and The Party highlights peer-to-peer sexual pressure and grooming.
Matt Forde, NSPCC Scotland national head of service, said: “Most of us talk to people online and it’s a great way to stay connected and make new friends.
“But it can be a playground for paedophiles, exposing young people to groomers who trawl social networks and online game forums exploiting any vulnerabilities they may find. Young people may not understand what is right or wrong in a relationship, or what to do if something makes them feel uncomfortable, online or offline.
“Listen to your Selfie is aimed at helping young people recognise signs they are being manipulated, controlled or exploited so they feel empowered to make their own decisions or choices.”
Childline founder Esther Rantzen said the internet has brought many positive changes.
“But it has also brought dangers and online grooming is a real risk,” she added.