child abuse
Over 8,000 under 18s have been accused of sexual offences against children over the last two yearsGetty

Thousands of children under the age of 18 have been accused of sexual offences against other minors in the past two years, new figures from the NSPCC show.

More than 8,000 under 18s were accused of sexual assaults, rape and the publication of obscene images.

The charity contacted 42 police forces across England and Wales with a Freedom of Information request, asking for the number of children and teenagers accused, the youngest victim and the youngest accused. Of the police forces contacted, four did not respond.

The report revealed the youngest child accused was aged just six, while the youngest victim had not yet reached their first birthday.

In total, 8,077 children were accused of sexual offences, 3,868 from 2012 to 2013 and 4,209 in the last year.

A 10-year-old boy from the Dyfed-Powys area was the youngest in Wales to be reported for sexual offences against another child during the last two years. He was reported for sexual activity involving a five-year-old girl and received a caution, BBC News reported.

The NSPCC said with offences involving very young children "we have to question the environment in which they are growing up".

Some of the most common crimes were boys offending against girls they knew.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC said that viewing pornography was now 'part of life' for many children who copy what they see.

"It's deeply concerning that thousands of children are reported as committing sexual offences including serious assaults and rape," Wanless told the Telegraph.

"Easy access to hard core, degrading and often violent videos on the internet is warping young people's views of what is normal or acceptable behaviour. It is also feeding into 'sexting' where teenagers are creating and distributing their own videos and images that are illegal and have led to prison sentences," he added.

"And for very young children, such as those of primary school age or younger, we have to question the environment in which they are growing up that has led to them behaving in this way."

The charity is urging parents to keep youngest children safe by teaching them the "Underwear Rule" where youngsters are taught that the area covered by their underwear should never be touched by anyone else.

The NSPCC advise that older children should be taught about consent and ensuring they know they can speak out if anything makes them uncomfortable.