Hundreds of children under the age of 10 are being subject to stop and search by police, despite being under the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales, according to a parliamentary report.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children found that over the last five years 1,136 stop and searches were carried out on under 10s over 22 police forces.
Over the same period, more than one million stop and searches were carried out on children and young people under the age of 18 across 26 forces - accounting for between 13% and 26% of all stop and searches done by the forces.
The report said the data it collected suggested that stop and search was used "disproportionately" on black and ethnic minority children and young people.
It found that of the 43 forces which provided data for the inquiry, 20 had no separate custody facilities for children and young people - which may mean they could be held alongside adults, potentially exposing them to harm and distress.
The all-party group chair, Baroness Massey of Darwen, said: "We were surprised to find that despite the fact so many children are being stopped and searched by the police there is no practice guidance to inform how to deal with children, particularly those who are young or vulnerable.
"Many of these children will be in need of care and protection, possibly fleeing from sexual predators or gang violence.
"The police need to make sure that they don't see children as small adults and do more to ensure they always adopt an age appropriate response to every child."
Enver Solomon, of the National Children's Bureau which runs the secretariat for the all party group, said the findings showed the need for a new approach by police when dealing with young people.
"Any child who comes into contact with the police should always be treated differently from an adult," he said.
"For children who are at risk of exploitation, abuse or violence it is particularly important that the police know what steps to take to protect them and put their welfare first."