Abusers pose as children online and talk their victims into sharing sexual images, which they then threaten to send to the child’s family and friends.
The Ceop has said 424 children around the world had reported being abused in this way, 184 of whom were British.
Seven of the victims ended up killing themselves, including one 17-year-old from the UK.
Deputy chief executive Andy Baker said the abuse can escalate horrifyingly quickly.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it can take just four minutes “to go from, ‘Hi, do you want to get naked?’, to self-harming”.
Another seven victims seriously self-harmed as a result of their experience – all but one from the UK.
Mr Baker has described it as a small but dark part of the Internet that desperately needs to be tackled.
The tragic case of Daniel Perry recently made headlines after the teen took his own life to escape blackmailers demanding thousands of pounds.
The abusers threatened to show Daniels friends and family the video conversations he’d thought he’d been having with a girl from the U.S.
Other victims were told their images and conversations would be shared unless they performed more extreme sexual acts.
The abusers tend to be computer-savvy males between the ages of 20 and 44. While some act alone, others act as part of an organised network of abusers. Many of them are looking for control, money and power as well as sexual gratification.
The victims are just young girls and boys who unwittingly fall into the paedophiles’ traps when they think they’re talking to people of the same age group. Adolescents are by nature curious and explorative, making them easy targets for online abusers. Some of the victims have been as young as eight.
Now investigators insist children and parents must be made more aware of the risks. A seemingly innocent conversation with a stranger over the Internet can turn into something infinitely more serious in a matter of minutes.