Virtual reality has been included eight times by police in crime reports featuring lewd images of children (Photo: Amazon)

Pedophiles are beginning to use virtual reality headsets to view child abuse footage, crime records show.

The children’s charity NSPCC has received data from police forces in England and Wales, including details of social media sites or types of technology mentioned in reported crimes.

Police recorded 30,925 offenses involving lewd images of children last year, the highest number ever recorded by troops in England and Wales.

Of these, a social media or gaming site was recorded in 9,888 cases, with Snapchat being the least secure with 4,293 incidents.

Of the cases, 1,361 were on Facebook, 1,363 on Instagram, and 547 on WhatsApp.

Virtual reality has been included by police in crime reports eight times, the first time this technology has been specifically mentioned, according to the NSPCC.

Pedophiles begin using virtual reality headsets to view child abuse footage, crime files show (Photo: Unsplash)

The NSPCC is calling for changes to the Online Safety Act to create a Child Safety Advocate to represent the best interests of children and families.

She also wants legislative changes to lead to senior managers of social media sites being held criminally responsible if children are exposed to avoidable abuse.

“These new figures are incredibly alarming, but represent just the tip of the iceberg of what children are experiencing online,” said Sir Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC.

“We hear from young people who feel powerless and abandoned as online sexual abuse threatens to become the norm for a generation of children.”

“It would be inexcusable if five years from now we are still catching up with the ubiquitous abuse that has permeated social media,” said Wanless.