TEENAGE sexting is at “endemic” level in Scotland, and parents do not realise what is going on with their kids, an MSP has claimed.

Schoolchildren can be mocked, hurt and possibly even placed on the sex offenders’ register for sending naked pictures to someone they trust which then find their way on to the web.

MSPs in Holyrood will today share stories of constituents, to mark Safer Internet Day.

North East MSP Gillian Martin, who has organised the debate, has an 11-year old constituent who discovered intimate photographs taken for a boyfriend being shared by older boys.

Martin said: “Social media allows young people to share images and messages in an instant with one another with no time to think about its impact.

“We must educate teenagers because to so many this is not seen as a big deal and many parents don’t realise what is going on.”

She added: “I would encourage all parents on Safer Internet Day to sit down and talk with their children and make sure they know what is and isn’t safe to put online.”

The law means it is an offence to possess, send, make, take, distribute or show indecent photos of a person under the age of 18.

That means that the child who takes the photo commits an offence, even if the picture is of themselves, as does whoever receives it.

If that image ends up on the internet, either as an act of revenge porn after a relationship has broken up, or because the person receiving it has shared it with friends, it is potentially there forever.

Last year, the Crown Office revealed that the number of children reported to prosecutors for sexual offences had risen from 350 in 2011/12 to 422 in 2015/16 – a 21 per cent rise.

There was also a 34 per cent rise in the number of children being reported as the perpetrators of sexual offences where the victim was another child.

Last year, Nicola Sturgeon said she found those figures “extremely concerning”.

“This is first and foremost, and fundamentally, a community issue – and it often takes a community approach to deal with such issues effectively.

“Not all sexual offending shown in the statistics will be offences committed on the internet, but we know that the internet can often be an unsafe place for young people.

“All MSPs can play our part in our communities in raising awareness and helping to educate parents about the steps that they can take to keep their children safe online.”

Children’s charity NSPCC have previously said they believe young people are often ignorant of what the law covers.

Joanna Barrett, NSPCC Scotland’s public affairs manager, said: “How much do young people know about sexting – that it’s a crime, and prosecutable?

“Education in sexual health and relationships is patchy across Scotland, and education about sexting needs to be part of what is provided.”

The Scottish Government published details in August last year of a review of the way personal and social education is taught in schools.

Films made by students from North East Scotland College as part of a pilot project to promote online safety will be shown after the debate and be shared on the DigiAye section of the Young Scot website.

A recent report by thinktank Demos suggested one-fifth of reported images taken in 2015 were “self-generated”, with around 16 per cent of young people aged 11-16 having reported sending sexual images.

The UK government’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre say they are notified of a serious incident on average about once a day, with reports coming from schools, parents or pupils.

One secondary headteacher recently wrote on his blog: “All schools have had to deal with the fallout from this at some point or other.”