CHILDREN were targeted 9,543 times last year by offenders over the internet, figures reveal as the NSPCC renews calls for the Government to protect children on Safer Internet Day.

These cyber-related crimes made up 16 per cent of the total number of child sexual offences recorded by police in England and Wales between September 2017 and 2018, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

How easy it is for predators to groom children on social media sites and apps is why the NSPCC's Wild West Web campaign is calling for an independent regulator with the power to investigate and fine social networks if they fall short in protecting children.

Sarah Laffling, the charity's community fundraising manager for Essex offers tips for parents about how to talk to their children about online safety while calling on the Government to do more to protect young people online.

She said: "The internet is a fantastic place for children and young people to socialise, explore their interests, and learn. The NSPCC just wants the Government to ensure they can do this in a safe environment.

"Parents can also be part of this by having regular conversations with their children about being safe online and spotting the signs of inappropriate behaviour or content.

"Parents and children should explore sites and apps together, talk about things they might see online which make them feel uncomfortable, talk about what is, and is not, OK to share online, and reassure them that you won't overreact - you're just looking out for them."

But it is not just online abuse that is concerning - there can be other risks associated with the internet such as cyber bullying, feeling unhappy about body image and being exposed to adult or inappropriate content when gaming.

The charity warns apps like Instagram are hosting graphic material which glorifies self-harm and suicide that "should never appear on these sites".

Sarah added: "The fact they can be easily found by children a simple click away is inexcusable."

The Government is due to publish new laws this month to protect children and other vulnerable groups online.

Its Online Harms White Paper could go a long way to force tech companies to act on the concerns of parents, child protection charities and the police, the charity says.

To help parents explore the websites, apps and games their child uses, the NSPCC and O2 have created Net Aware, which looks at the safety of the sites children use most, as well as giving guidance on age suitability, parental controls and blocking.

Net Aware is available at or as an app via iOS or Android.

For more information about the NSPCC’s #WildWestWeb campaign and to sign the petition, click here.