YOUNGSTERS are being blackmailed daily into performing vile sexual acts for the sick pleasure of their peers or older paedophiles, a regional Childline boss has said.

The round-the-clock helpline carried out on average12 counselling sessions every day last year with children who had been sexually exploited.

A new annual report revealed Childline delivered had 4,500 support sessions in 2018/19 with victims of sexual grooming - an increase of 16 per cent on the previous year. The youngest child was just nine years old.

The NSPCC’s head of service for the south west Sharon Copsey said: “Sadly, we are hearing from young people every day who are being manipulated or blackmailed into carrying out sexual acts. For many this impacts on their mental health and leaves them feeling isolated from the people closest to them. Some turn to self-harm, alcohol or substance misuse as ways of coping with their experiences.

“Everyone must be prepared to confront this problem, from government right through to schools, parents, professionals, and us at Childline."

A third of children who approached Childline about sexual abuse said they had been groomed online. One girl, 18, spoke out about her experience of online abuse: “Some older guys started chatting to me and I sent nude pictures and videos of myself to them. I got compliments and didn’t know how to say no. Most of them knew I was just 13 and some of them threatened to post the pictures online if I didn’t send more. I feel sick just thinking about it."

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