A survey has revealed that one in ten children who illegally download files from the internet have been exposed to sexually explicit or offensive material.
A poll by online parenting organisation Netmums also revealed that more than one in three mothers (39%) are unsure how to tell whether websites are legal or not, and nearly two in three (60%) do not understand the term "file-sharing".
It also discovered that more than one in four (29%) do not know where to direct their children to find legal entertainment on the internet, which is a particular cause for concern as a Netmums spokeswoman revealed that children are stumbling across the inappropriate content when downloading films, television programmes and music from illegal sites.
The statistics prompted Coronation Street star Kym Marsh to launch a new guide on internet safety in an attempt to protect children against the dangers of illegal downloading.
Ms Marsh, a mother of two, said: "I find it incredibly hard to keep up with what my two teenagers are doing online so can definitely see the value of a new guide for muddled mums like myself who are concerned about safety issues.
"When young people use legitimate sites to access music or TV content, it supports the many people who work in the UK entertainment industry."
Called Music, Film, TV and the Internet and launched in partnership with internet safety charity Childnet International, the guide informs parents, teachers and young people about how to stay safe and legal when downloading and accessing music, films and television programmes.
The scheme provides information on the safety and security risks of downloading entertainment illegally, such as exposure to computer viruses, receiving offensive material and theft of personal or financial information.
It also encourages parents and teachers to discuss with children the ethical implications of illegal file-sharing, such as the danger that artists will not be rewarded fairly for their work.