A NATIONAL children's charity is calling on the government to tackle the growing problem of online child abuse.

The NSPCC is calling on people to email their MP urging them to back a new Bill that paves the way for a proper independent watchdog to regulate online harms against children.

The plea came after a Darlington man was given a suspended sentence at Teesside Crown Court for attempting to groom a young girl, who was in fact an adult woman.

A group of paedophile hunters tracked down Ian David Smith to the warehouse he worked in after he sent a picture of his genitals to a girl he believed to be 12-years-old.

Smith, of Station Road, Middleton St George, near Darlington, pleaded guilty to three charges; possessing indecent images of children, distributing indecent images of children and engaging in sexual communication with a child.

A spokesperson for the charity called on people to get their local MP involved in calling for a crackdown on online platforms used to share child abuse images or for people to groom young children.

They said: “This is yet another disturbing reminder of the way predators seek out potential young victims using online platforms.

“The onus is on the Government to act swiftly and bring in a regulator which will force big tech to do much more to protect children online – with tough sanctions if they fail to deliver.”

Other cases dealt with in the same court this year alone include Ian Whiting who was caught with thousands of indecent images when the internet provider address he was ‘piggy-backing’ on was used to access illegal content.

The 33-year-old, now of Bedlington but formerly of Coulby Newham, Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to three charges of making indecent images with 14 of the most serious category A images, 36 category B and 7,405 images in category C. He also pleaded guilty a charge of possessing 16 extreme pornography images.

Whiting was sentenced to eight months in custody for the most serious of offence – making the Category A images – but suspended it for two years.

Stewart Tivendale, of The Crescent, Middlesbrough, downloaded child sex abuse videos and pictures within 24 hours of being released from prison.

The 24-year-old was sentenced for an extended period of five years as he had already served three years in custody for his previous offences in 2018.