Boys and young men are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than previously thought, according to a major new study.
Of 9,042 victims of sexual exploitation supported by children's charity Barnardo's since 2008, one in three - or 2,986 - were male, the NatCen Social Research and University College London found.
Calling for "urgent" action, the charity said front-line professionals should not stereotype abuse victims as girls, and also suggested schools should make it clear to children that boys are also vulnerable to abuse.
Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said: "At the moment society is miserably and unacceptably failing sexually-exploited boys and young men."
"The tell-tale signs are being missed because of a lack of awareness and stereotypes about the nature of this form of abuse."
NatCen said professionals they interviewed reported those dealing with children can be less protective of boys than girls, meaning opportunities to protect boys, or recognise when they are being exploited, are missed.
Parliament must "recognise extreme emotional abuse" and give child protection services greater power by legislating against it, a senior member of the NSPCC said.
John Cameron, head of child protection operations, said the so-called "cinderella law" was not about punishing parents who did not buy their children "the latest gadgets or trainers":
The Government has indicated they are set to outlaw extreme emotional cruelty and this is a positive step forward and the publicity around this and highly publicised cases such as Daniel Pelka may have contributed to the sharp increase in calls.
We must recognise extreme emotional abuse for what it is - a crime - and those who carry it out should be prosecuted.
This isn't about prosecuting parents who don't buy their children the latest gadgets or trainers, this is about parents who consistently deny their children love and affection.
The number of cases of emotion abuse by a parent or guardian to a child in their care reported to a charity helpline has surged by nearly 50% in the last year.
According to the NSPCC, more than 8,000 people called their helpline with concerns a child may be suffering from emotional neglect and abuse over the last twelve months.
Some 5,354 of these cases so serious they were referred to local authorities, the children's charity said.
The figures come as the government considers a change to the law to tackle the emotional neglect and abuse of children.
The so-called Cinderella Law would update the 1933 criminal offence of child cruelty to include emotional neglect and abuse as well as physical abuse.
Children's charity Barnado's and Microsoft have released an app to help children learn how to spot the signs of sexual exploitation.Read the full story ›
A charity helping vulnerable and neglected children has welcomed proposals for a new 'Cinderella Law', which would make emotional cruelty to children a criminal offence.
Helen Donohoe of Action for Children told ITV News the move was welcome as the UK's law in this area is currently "way behind the rest of the world".
Greater awareness, integration of care services and improved training will help combat emotional abuse suffered by children, a Conservative MP has told Daybreak.
Robert Buckland said "it was not just the criminal law that needs to change" if children who are starved of love and affection are to be helped by social services.
Changes to the child neglect laws that will make “emotional cruelty” a crime for the first time, alongside physical or sexual abuse have been praised by charity leaders.
Action for Children's chief executive Sir Tony Hawkhead said: "This is a monumental step forward for thousands of children who we know suffer from emotional abuse and countless others whose desperate situations have yet to come to light.
"I've met children who have been scapegoated in their families, constantly humiliated and made to feel unloved. The impact is devastating and can lead to life-long mental health problems and, in some cases, suicide.
Adults who commit acts of emotional cruelty against children in their care will face the same threat of jail as those guilty of physical neglect, under new laws being considered by ministers.
The Government will introduce the change to child neglect laws in the Queen's Speech in June, the Daily Telegraph said.
The move follows a campaign to change the law in England and Wales, led by charity Action for Children and MPs from all three main parties in Westminster.
A cross-party body has called for more funding to tackle the rapid spread of images of child abuse online, and warned that current efforts may prove "woefully insufficient."
The Commons committee welcomed the commitment by the Internet Watch Foundation to embark on proactive searching for abuse, but warned there were "concerns" about current levels of funding and capacity.
Concerned that seven additional staff might prove woefully insufficient to achieve substantial progress towards what must be an important intermediate goal: the eradication of child abuse images from the open internet.
It said there was:
A clear need to ensure that the police have adequate resources to track down and arrest online paedophiles in sufficient numbers to act as a meaningful deterrent to others.
If necessary, additional funding should be provided to recruit and train a sufficiently large number of police officers adequate to the task.
Tory MP John Whittingdale has called on internet companies to do more to protect children from viewing images of child abuse and porn online.
In a warning that current efforts to eradicate images of child abuse may prove "woefully inadequate" he said:
We do not think there needs to be more regulation, and certainly not to stifle all the positive purposes and uses of the internet, but those who profit from the internet must demonstrate the utmost commitment to protecting children and should be prosecuted and penalised if they don't.
Facebook and Twitter, for example, are aware of the extent to which their services are accessed by younger children, thanks to age verification processes that are at best flimsy.
We expect them to pay greater attention to factoring this into the services provided, the content allowed and the access to both.
The same applies to other social media companies in a similar position. Bullying that takes place in the playground can merge seamlessly with bullying on smart phones and tablets.