Online child sexual abuse reports to police have seen a 6.6% increase in five years with almost 2,000 cases reported in the last year.
A total of 1,928 child sexual abuse crimes were recorded in Scotland between April 2022 and March 2023.
The figure represents a 6.6% increase on the five-year mean.
In the same period, police carried out 709 investigations in which indecent images of children and/or child sexual abuse material was recovered.
The incidents resulted in a total of 486 arrests and the protection of approximately 776 children.
Investigations are carried out by the online CSA enforcement teams with help from partners including the independent charity Stop It Now! Scotland.
The charity supports people worried about their own or someone else’s sexual thoughts and behaviours towards children.
The group is running a social media campaign from Monday calling on anyone concerned about their online behaviour regarding children to seek confidential and anonymous help now.
Data from Stop It Now! Scotland’s latest data shows that 10,303 people in Scotland sought help via its online self-help resource or confidential helpline in 2022-23 – three times the number who sought help in 2020-21.
Detective chief superintendent Sam Faulds, head of Public Protection and Police Scotland’s National Child Abuse Investigation Unit (NCAIU), said: “Behind every image of abuse shared online is a child. These images are viewed and shared thousands, if not potentially millions of times around the world. This is a horrific trade in trauma and misery.
“Grooming, indecent communications and sharing indecent images are all serious criminal offences, with serious consequences for the perpetrators.
“We continue to build our cyber capability and expertise to identify child victims. Offenders need to understand they will be identified, arrested and will face the consequences of their actions: not just a conviction but the potential loss of family, reputation and livelihood.
“Abusers are responsible for their criminal behaviour, it’s up to them to take action and get help. Our partner Stop It Now, offers that help. Make the call, get help and stop the unacceptable abuse of children.”
Stuart Allardyce, director of Stop It Now, Scotland, said: “This inarguably shows that anyone on a pathway to offending, or at the early stages of offending will seek out anonymous and confidential support. It also shows that there are a lot of individuals who are aware that what they are doing is wrong, they feel shameful about it and are motivated to change.”
He added: “Prevention is at the heart of our approach to child protection. Viewing sexual images of under-18s causes huge harm to the children in them.
“We help those who are worried about their behaviour express their concerns, provide practical support, and challenge, that helps keep children safe. It is possible to stop and to stay stopped with our help, and we know from overwhelming evidence that it is easier for people to change their behaviour through support than trying to change on their own.
“We also know that people who engage in this behaviour need support with their mental health, compulsive behaviours and feel trapped in a cycle of behaviour.
“Many individuals who are arrested for this type of offence tell us they wish they had known there was anonymous support, which is non-judgemental, to help them stop viewing illegal images or engaging in illegal conversations online.”
Anyone with concerns about child sexual abuse can call the Stop It Now! Scotland team on 0131 556 3535 (open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday) or call the UK helpline on 0808 1000 900 (open 9am to 9pm Monday-Thursday and 9am to 5pm Friday).
Callers do not need to give identifying information, so can remain anonymous. Online self-help is also available for people worried about their online sexual behaviour towards children.