More than 35 offences have been committed in Dorset since a new anti-grooming law came into force.

The offence of Sexual Communication with a Child was introduced in April last year following a campaign by children’s charity the NSPCC.

In the first 12 months a total of 3,171 crimes were recorded across the country, with 37 of those recorded in Dorset.

Police have revealed which methods groomers used in 2,097 instances.

Records show that of the incidents in Dorset, Facebook was used in nearly 30 per cent of those cases, while Snapchat and Instagram were each used in around a fifth of offences.

Where police have disclosed the gender and age of the victim, girls aged 12-15 were recorded as being the victim in 62 per cent of cases, while under-11s were recorded as the victim in nearly a quarter of cases.

Contact offences such as rape and sexual assault were among those recorded in connection with grooming offences.

One victim was sent sent sexual messages from men ten years older than her on Facebook when she was aged just 14.

The girl, who lives in Wales, was groomed to send semi-naked pictures to them.

She said: “At the beginning it was messages like ‘Hey, how are you? But as the weeks went on, they started sending messages that were more and more sexual.

“It was so subtle, that’s why it is so easy for an online chat to slip into being so wrong.

“Looking back at it now, it’s scary to think that I sent semi-naked pictures to older guys. It could have gone a lot further.”

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “These numbers are far higher than we had predicted, and every single sexual message from an adult to a child can have a huge impact for years to come.

“Social networks have been self-regulated for a decade and it’s absolutely clear that children have been harmed as a result.

“I urge digital secretary Matt Hancock to follow through on his promise and introduce safety rules backed up in law and enforced by an independent regulator with fining powers.

“Social networks must be forced to design extra protections for children to detect grooming to prevent abuse from escalating.”

Detective Inspector Andy Bell of the Public Protection Unit, said: “The Force has continued to strengthen its response and resource capability to deal with sexual offences against children, with more officers in dedicated teams such as Child Sexual Exploitation, Child Abuse Investigation Team and Paedophile Online Investigation Team.

"Officers and staff receive specific training to ensure an awareness and understanding of these often complex crimes, which affect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities."