ONE in 20 schoolchildren in the east of England has received a nude or semi-nude image from an adult, a NSPCC survey has found.

A survey of 1,196 children in the region asked about online risks revealed in Essex, 60 offences of sexual communication with a child were recorded in the first year of the new offence.

The statistics form part of the largest UK survey of this nature by the NSPCC and London Grid for Learning, featuring nearly 40,000 respondents, aged seven to 16.

The NSPCC's Wild West Web campaign is calling on the Government to create an independent regulator for social networks, to force platforms to proactively detect groomers using their sites.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: "Grooming can no longer be shrugged off as secondary to other online crimes.

"It's happening now, it's happening to very young children, it's happening so frequently it's becoming normalised, and it's not only coming from adult strangers, but also from known adults.

"Social networks have become a gateway for child abuse."

NSPCC freedom of information requests revealed there had been more than 3,000 offences recorded in England and Wales within the first year of a new crime of sexual communication with a child.

Where police recorded what platforms were used by groomers, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat were used in 70 per cent of cases.

One girl, aged between nine and ten, reported a stranger asked her to send a nude via a gaming website.

When she deleted the game and went on to another site, the same person asked to have sex with her.

Children also said the problem was not limited to strangers with some being sent photos by adults they know.

A teenage boy said: "My coach sent me a video of Santa stripping naked."

Others reported that sexting, the exchange of sexual images, is becoming normal.

Mr Wanless said: "The NSPCC has launched a petition calling on digital secretary Jeremy Wright and home secretary Sajid Javid to put an end to the Wild West Web.

"We need tough regulation of social networks to make sure there are fundamental protections for children in place whatever sites they’re using.”

Sign the petition here.