Since 2009 the number of people using social media sites to commit a sex related crime has gone up from 139 to a massive 614 each year and worryingly the number of reported rapes has risen from 22 to 117 each year.
It is being claimed that an increasing number of paedophiles are also using social media networks to target children with over half of the victims of offences online (except for rapes) being under the age of 16.
A British police officer told the British newspaper the Daily Mirror that social media networks are a prime hunting ground for sexual predators who use the information found online to identify and then groom vulnerable women.
The police officer said:We know that some sex offenders will wander the streets looking for vulnerable people late at night.
“But there is absolutely no reason to think they won’t spend time online doing exactly the same thing.”
The figures about the number of sexual crimes committed online came from 25 different police forces around England and Wales and of all of these offences most occurred on Facebook.
Current terms and conditions from Facebook do not allow anyone under the age of 13 to have their own account on the site and anyone under 18 using Facebook are given protection about the details that they can post onto Facebook. However it is widely known that there are many children under the age of 13 who use Facebook, many with their parents consent.
There is also no real way to stop anyone under the age of 13 from using Facebook as anyone can put in a fake date of birth or use a fake name when setting up an account.
One of the worst cases of social networking leading to sexual related crimes happened in 201 when 17 year old Ashleigh Hall was lured to her death after meting a stranger online.
Ashleigh believed that she had been engaging with a 16 year old boy but in reality it was a 36 year old man Peter Chapman who she had been speaking with. She went to meet her friend and ended up being murdered in a secluded area of County Durham.
The mother of Ashleigh, Andrea, said: “Tell your kids to be careful on the internet. Don’t meet someone without telling your family where you are going.
“Don’t trust anyone and don’t put your children on Facebook or other sites if they are underage. We have learned a terrible lesson.”