300 million children face sexual abuse online each year, new research suggests

More than 300 million children a year are victims of online sexual abuse and exploitation, new research estimating the global scale of the crisis suggests.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found one in eight, or 12.6%, of the world's children have been victims of non-consensual talking, sharing and exposure to sexual images and video in the past year.

This amounts to about 302 million young people.

In addition, 12.5% of children globally - 300 million - are estimated to have been subject in the past year to online solicitation, such as unwanted sexual talk, including sexual act requests.

Offences can also take the form of "sextortion", where predators demand money from victims to keep images private.

Surveys found 7% of British men, or 1.8 million, admitted online offending against children at some point, according to the university's Childlight initiative's new global index, Into The Light.

That's the equivalent of filling Wembley Stadium 20 times over.

"This is on a staggering scale that in the UK alone equates to forming a line of male offenders that could stretch all the way from Glasgow to London," Childlight chief executive Paul Stanfield said.

"Child abuse material is so prevalent that files are on average reported to watchdog and policing organisations once every second.

"This is a global health pandemic that has remained hidden for far too long. It occurs in every country, it's growing exponentially, and it requires a global response.

"We need to act urgently and treat it as a public health issue that can be prevented. Children can't wait."

The Childlight initiative also found one in nine men in the US, which is almost 14 million, admitted online offending against children, while 7.5% of men in Australia said the same.

The research also found many men admitted they would seek to commit physical sexual offences against children if they thought it would be kept secret.

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Debi Fry, a professor of international child protection at the university, said the issue affects children "in every classroom, in every school, in every country".

She added: "These aren't harmless images, they are deeply damaging, and the abuse continues with every view and the failure of taking down this abusive content."