Channel 4 News investigates an increasingly sexualised generation of British teenagers - and how young people looking at explicit images may be unwittingly committing a crime.

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Warning: This report contains explicit material.

Exclusive research by Channel 4 News and the NSPCC found that highly sexualised behaviour is no longer the extreme but a norm of teenage life. But with technology driving a new sexual revolution - children are just one click away from the wrong side of the law.

There has been an alarming increase in children being arrested for sexual offences committed on the internet. We know boys are looking at indecent images of their peers. The problem is, many of them do not realise this is against the law.

While two consenting 16-year-olds can legally have sexual intercourse, if they send each other naked pictures, this is child pornography and they could be charged. With this sort of behaviour becoming part of everyday life among young people, it exposes a whole generation to

Shaun's story

"Shaun" (we have changed his name) was a regular teenage boy exploring his sexuality, looking online at pornographic images like so many boys his age. But when the police came knocking it seemed he'd gone too far.

"I was arrested for downloading indecent images of children. I was coming to terms with my sexuality, and no one seemed approachable in real life. And I think everything just drifted online and it built up and up and I didn't realise that some people might not be as genuine as I thought and that's when I got introduced to this kind of stuff…

Everybody's case is different and while there are some people out there who might be monsters... lots of people have just made mistakes. "Shaun"

"You don't think, oh I could get caught, I could get in trouble, you don't think these are images of abuse, you don't think anything, that kind of thing doesn't cross your mind, it is kind of, a separate world kind of thing on the internet and real life concerns don't really cross your mind because you think that behind your computer that you'll be fine."

In July this year Shaun was charged with possession of indecent images of other young people and placed on the Sex Offender Register for 10 years. He was suspended from school and will have to tell any employer of his criminal past.

Read more: Q and A on sex, porn, teenagers and the law

Shaun told us: "I would be stereotyped now as someone who would snatch a child off the street or something. People forget I am actually a child myself.

"I think it is just understanding that everybody's case is different and that whilst there are some people out there who might be monsters, that actually lots of people that have just made mistakes that needed help but had nowhere to turn to for help."

To deal with this emerging issue the police called on the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a charity that has spent 20 years working with adult sex offenders.

But for the last 12 months it has turned its attention to young people in trouble with the law. Shaun was referred to the project. The charity worked with both him and his mum to help to get him to moderate his behaviour.

Are sex texts and porn a part of everyday life for Britain's children? Click for more video, information and advice from our #GenerationSex investigation

Donald Findlater, director of research and development, Lucy Faithfull Foundation told Channel 4 News: "We have developed a new project in response to a request from the police who are concerned about children going online increasingly committing illegal behaviours, but also to parents who are concerned about how to appropriately respond to their children's online behaviours but also schools being concerned about illegal activities by their young people.

"What should be done? So we've taken those concerns together, tried to bring a response to make sure that children, who've committed illegal acts online, get an effective response, to understand why they did it, what was harmful about it, how they can live a future, law-abiding life."

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Paul West, Former Acpo (Association of Chief Police Officers) lead on the management of sex offenders added: "We are very, very conscious that if a young person becomes criminalised, they have a criminal record, if they are placed on the Sex Offender Register, that becomes a huge millstone around their neck in terms of future lives, employability.

"But equally, we can't simply have people committing offences and not being subject to the law. The law has been put in place to protect children and that is what we are all keen to do, clearly. But it has also been put in place in a different era, a different age."

Findlater adds: "We have allowed this problem to arise. Someone needs to take stock of what is going on. That dialogue needs to take place and I think, at the moment, in too many households, it's not taking place, in too many schools, too many children are not being helped to work out what relationships should be about and where sex, in a way, belongs in relationships.

"It just feels like everything is out of control at the moment and some one needs to take some control over what is happening."