Parents must do more to protect their children from the growing number of paedophiles grooming victims purely for online sexual abuse, experts have warned.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) said an increasing number of abusers were "not motivated" by physical contact with children. Of the 1,145 reports of online grooming last year, only 7 per cent related to attempts to meet a child in person, a 5 per cent drop from 2011.
Ceop's chief executive, Peter Davies, said: "On a daily basis we see the devastation caused to young people's lives by online grooming." For a growing number of paedophiles, he said, online abuse was "an end in itself".
The Ceop warning follows the conviction in December of two Kuwaiti brothers who targeted 110 children worldwide, including 78 in the UK, manipulating them into performing sex acts online.
Sixty per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds now own a smartphone, and that the number has increased by a fifth in the past year.
Claire Lilley, a policy adviser at the NSPCC, said: "The internet is part and parcel of young lives. We cannot put the genie back in the bottle, but we can talk to young people and educate them on staying safe online."