The number of child sexual offences committed on the internet in the Cleveland Police area almost trebled last year.
Figures from the NSPCC show there were 145 incidents in 2016-17, up from 55 the previous 12 months, a rise of 163%.
Last year 5,653 sex crimes committed against children as young as three nationally had an online element.
A Cleveland Police spokesperson said: “The increase in the number of online child sexual offences could be due to an increase in reporting, because of a public interest around high profile historical cases, and advances in technology, allowing officers to identify a high number of perpetrators and bring them to justice.
“Cleveland Police is committed to working with partner agencies and other specialist support services to tackle online child sexual offences.”
A total of 39 forces across England and Wales reported cyber-related sex crimes against under-18s that included rape, grooming, and sexual assault.
Cleveland Police is committed to working with partner agencies and other specialist support services to tackle online child sexual offences.Spokesperson
Durham Constabulary recorded 190 instances in 2016-17. Figures for the previous year are not available.
A spokesperson said: “We are committed to tackling all forms of sexual offences, including those that are committed over the internet. We work in partnership with a number of agencies to support victims and to hold those who commit these abhorrent crimes to account.”
This is the second year police have been required to record - ‘cyber flag’ - any crime that involved the internet.
The latest figures show police are recording an average of 15 internet-related sex crimes against children a day.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “These figures confirm our fears that offenders are exploiting the internet to target children for their own dark deeds. Children also tell our service they are being targeted online by adults who pose as children and try to meet them, or persuade them to perform sexual acts on webcams, before blackmailing them. This can leave some feeling worthless, depressed, and suicidal.”