The number of cybercrimes reported across Northern Ireland has jumped by more than 2,000 in just two years, according to police.
Offences or inappropriate behaviour on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter increased from 71 during 2010 to more than 2,100 last year, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.
Superintendent Yvonne Davidson said: “Across Northern Ireland reported crimes relating to Facebook and Twitter have increased significantly over the past few years.”
The figures were revealed at the launch of a new awareness-raising initiative aimed at highlighting the dangers of online grooming, cyberbullying and so-called “sexting”.
Ms Davidson added: “With teenagers spending an increasing amount of time online we identified young people as particularly at risk from cybercrime. The ease of access to social media and other networks provided by smartphone technology means that children are now rarely, if ever, offline.
“As a consequence cyberbullying, cyberstalking, online grooming and harassment are day-to-day realities faced by many young people. As parents and as a society we must face up to this and equip our children with the right tools and skills to negotiate the online world safely and to recognise any danger signs when they occur.”
Police have been working alongside community safety partnerships to raise awareness of the issues and a new play is being taken into schools across Newtownards, Castlereagh, North Down and Down in a bid to tackle online crime.
The play, Escape v2.0: The City by the Saltmine Trust Theatre Company is being shown to teenagers at Dundonald High School on the outskirts of Belfast first.
The performance will be followed by a conference on exploitation and trafficking.
Ms Davidson added: “These are important issues for us to address not only as a police service but as a society.
“The more aware and informed we are around all of these issues, the more able we are to identify potential problems, identify risk factors and ultimately protect ourselves and younger generations from those who would seek to exploit innocent victims for their own wicked ends.”
The PSNI awareness raising campaign comes on the back of a major investigation into child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland.
A total of 22 suspected victims, aged between 13 and 18 years old, have been identified and more than 30 people arrested so far.