Children as young as ten are sharing explicit images over social media and on mobile phones, according to Freedom of Information requests.
A BBC investigation found a sharp increase in the number of schools reporting cases of ‘sexting’ to police.
Dorset Police dealt with 66 incidents of sexting in the past year, nearly twice as many as the previous year.
Some of the cases Dorset Safe Schools and Communities Team dealt with included ten-year-olds sharing inappropriate pictures of themselves or their peers.
Thames Valley Police force pressed charges twice last year over teenagers aged 15 and 13 sharing explicit images.
The BBC sent Freedom of Information requests to secondary schools and police forces across Hampshire, Berkshire, Dorset, Sussex, Surrey and Wiltshire.
PC Mark Howell from Dorset Police explained that young people often do not know the consequences of sending explicit images to each other.
“We are seeing cases where they’re being sent as a form of ‘flirting’ and almost very early on in part of someone’s conversation, which is really worrying because they’re not understanding the potential risks around that, especially when they’re sending it to someone that they don’t really know that well.
“Those images once they’re received are quite often then sent on to somebody else or they’re shared with other people or quite often they’re used as a way of trying to obtain further images from that young person in order so that they can then pass further images on, or simply to try and use that image as a form of blackmail to try and obtain more images of that young person.”
An NSPCC survey last year suggested that 60 per cent of teenagers had been asked to take sexual images or videos of themselves, and 40 per cent had created such content.