According to Scottish Government statistics, sex crimes in the category that includes internet offences rose by 50 per cent between 2013-14 and 2016-17.
The overall number of sex offences, which includes crimes such as rape and sexual assault, rose 5 per cent to 10,822 in 2016-17 – the highest number since records began in 1971.
Among the “other sexual crimes” category, of which internet offences are part, 59 per cent of victims were under the age of 16. The age of the perpetrators was more evenly distributed, with a median age of 29.
The Scottish Government has announced an expert group to help tackle the issue.
Analysis shows the growth has been driven by large increases in the crimes of “communicating indecently” (up from 605 to 1,166) and “causing to view sexual activity or images” (from 229 to 1,030), with these categories now accounting for 20 per cent of all sexual crimes.
Justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “The sexual crimes research makes clear that more work is required to understand why particularly young males are behaving in this way, and to prevent sexual offending.
“While we have taken considerable steps in this area, such as our recent ‘intimate images’ campaign, the national action plan on internet safety and our Equally Safe strategy, I am bringing together an expert group to identify further steps needed to better-tackle and ultimately prevent such offending.”
Commenting on the fact sexual crime has reached its highest level since 1971, Scottish Labour’s justice spokeswoman Claire Baker MSP said: “The rise in violent and sexual crime is deeply concerning and the SNP must not be complacent in tackling these issues.
“Sexual crime has continually been on the rise and while that can be attributed in some part to increasing confidence in victims coming forward, there are also more attacks being carried out.”