The schoolgirls, from the northern Italian city of Ventimiglia, told investigators they had been inspired to become prostitutes by a high-profile case involving minors working as prostitutes in Rome.
“From the TV I found out that the girls had used advertisements on the internet to earn lots of money,” one of the girls told investigators, according to Corriere della Sera.
The girls, who are best friends, then posted an advert on the dating site Bakekaincontri, pricing their services at between €30 and €50 according to Italian news agency AGI.
“We were astonished when we saw that so many people were seeking us out,” one of the girls was quoted as saying.
“We told these people when we were free – but only during the afternoon, because of school.”
The girls admitted to meeting several men for sex, as well as sending nude photos via the messaging service WhatsApp.
“We would send photos and they would recharge our phones,” they were quoted as saying.
They would then spend the money on makeup and clothes.
“I wanted economic independence, even though my father and mother have never let me want for anything,” one of the girls said.
Police began their investigation after a client reported the girls to the police. He claimed to have fled after discovering the ages of the girls, refusing to let them get into his car.
On another occasion the girls were asked to leave a hotel after staff realized they were minors from the ID they left at reception.
Five of the girls’ alleged clients – aged between 30 and 40 – are now being investigated by police and their homes searched for child pornography.
The men stand accused of aiding and abetting the prostitution of minors and child pornography online, Corriere della Sera reported.
Drugs were discovered in the home of one of the men, leading to his arrest.
Police are also examining the computers and mobile phones of the girls to determine the identities and number of clients.
According to the paper, the girls’ parents were unaware of their daughters’ activities.
Last November, data from the Italian arm of Ecpat, the international child protection agency revealed that up to 11,000 children are forced into prostitution in Italy.
Another survey published that month found that students are prostituting themselves to classmates in 14.4 percent of Italian high schools.