HUNDREDS of children are seeking crisis counselling every month after having sexually explicit images of them or their friends sent out via the internet or mobile phone.
Figures from the Kids Helpline reveal children as young as 10 are increasingly turning to the free counselling service to cope with the trend.
The group's data suggests that between January and March this year about 500 counselling sessions were offered to children who called with ''sexting-related concerns''.
A survey by the organisation also found that of about 1500 children, about 40 per cent admitted to being involved in sexting behaviour. Experts admit the survey is just the tip of the iceberg.
John Dalgleish, the strategy and research manager of BoysTown, which runs Kids Helpline, said: ''For some young people, [sexting] is having a very significant impact on their emotional wellbeing. We need to look at better ways of diverting them from that behaviour, and educating and supporting them in relation to the risks involved.''
Laws designed to target adults who sexually exploit children also apply to interactions between young people, such as the sending of explicit images using a phone or the internet.
In a submission to a Victorian parliamentary inquiry, the Victorian child safety commissioner, Bernie Geary, said the laws were poorly suited to addressing issues arising from sexting and should be changed.
He said the distribution of child pornography or child abuse material was ''repugnant and should be subject to significant criminal sanctions''. But he said that conduct should be distinguished from ''the consensual and private exchanges of images of young people''.