CHILDREN as young as 12 are sharing of indecent images on Snapchat in East Ayrshire.

It has been revealed that youngsters are committing crimes on social media within the community.

They are being warned that they might be slapped with a criminal record if caught ‘which could follow them for life’.

One alleged crime saw 25 youngsters aged between 12 and 15 acting inappropriately with a victim on the app.

Police have been dealing with the case in the East Ayrshire area, which took place in recent months.

Snapchat is a social media platform for putting up photographs and is widely used by teens.

Nearly half, 45 per cent, of all sex crimes in the area took place online between April 1 and July 31 this year.

Chief Superintendent Mark Hargreaves warned images could stay on the Internet forever as he presented a crime report to councillors.

The Ayrshire divisional commander said: “Young people may not realise what they are doing is an offence.”

He told the East Ayrshire Council Police and Fire and Rescue Committee it is important to educate children about the dangers of sharing explicit images of themselves and others on social media.

Committee chair Councillor Tom Cook said: “We need to get the message across to young people about the risks of going online and putting photographs up.

“They could end up with a criminal record.

“We have to take every opportunity possible to raise awareness.

“Young people may think it is a fun and a joke.

“But it could lead to a criminal conviction, which would affect them for the rest of their lives.”

He said it could impact someone’s career in the future.

The meeting heard campus cops are telling school pupils about the dangers to clamp down on the problem.

There were 73 sexual crimes recorded between the start of April and end of July in East Ayrshire – down from 14 per cent.

Vigilante online stings are also included in the figures.

Paedophile hunters posing as children online catch perverts in the act oftrying to meet supposed under age victims.

CS Hargreaves, pictured, said: “We can’t encourage vigilantes.

“We would encourage the vigilantes to report it to the police rather than turn up at people’s houses.”

A crime report presented to councillors raised the issue of social media fuelling sexual crimes.”

The report said: “Like hate cr ime social media is a contributory factor and education is ongoing particularly within schools by campus officers in the area.”