RECORDED grooming crimes in Dorset more than doubled in the past year – and social media apps are being used by paedophiles in the majority of cases.

Shock figures acquired by the NSPCC reveals there were 84 recorded offences of sexual communication with a child in the year to April 2019. In the previous year there were 37 offences.

Overall in the last two years in Dorset, Facebook-owned apps such as Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat were used in 70 per cent of the child grooming cases where police recorded communication method.

Instagram was used in almost half of them.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said: "It’s now clearer than ever that government has no time to lose in getting tough on these tech firms.

"Despite the huge amount of pressure that social networks have come under to put basic protections in place, children are being groomed and abused on their platforms every single day.

"These figures are yet more evidence that social networks simply won’t act unless they are forced to by law.

"The government needs to stand firm and bring in regulation without delay."

There was an increase nationwide, with 4,373 offences being reported in England and Wales in the year to April 2019 – up from 3,217 the pervious year. The figures also showed that one in five victims were aged 11 or younger.

The figures were obtained through a series of Freedom of Information requests to 43 police forces in England and Wales by the NSPCC. The offence of grooming came into force on April 3, 2017.

Government has suggested it could publish the Online Harms Bill early next year, which would bring in independent regulation of social media sites and enact stronger penalties on those that fail to protect children.

One parent of a grooming victim, who is now working with the NSPCC to highlight the issue, said: "It was such a violation and he was so persistent. He knew she was 12, but he kept bombarding her with texts and explicit videos and images. My daughter didn’t even understand what she was looking at.

"Our children should be safe in their bedrooms, but they’re not. They should be safe from messages from strangers if their accounts are on private, but they’re not."

The NSPCC is promoting its Wild West Web campaign, which calls for greater social media regulation.

It recommends using artificial intelligence software to detect suspicious behaviour, sharing data with other platforms and turning off friend suggestion algorithms for children as measures to crack down on online grooming.

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