The most recent data collection covered the period from July to September 2017 inclusive and saw 9,695 contacts which all related to online issues. This was a reduction on the previous reporting period (11,573) but reflects the summer holiday period when some helplines also reduce their opening hours. Pupils are away from school and, for some, this means that they are also away from some of the challenges that they might face online.
Contacts to helplines during the reporting period were categorised as follows:
Once again, cyberbullying remains the issue which helplines are dealing with most often with around 14 per cent of calls relating to this. One particular app, Sarahah, was cited in cyberbullying cases by a number of helplines. This is an anonymous app that was originally set up as a business tool, based on the concept that workers can use it to leave anonymous feedback/constructive criticism for their colleagues and senior managers. The ability to be able to do this anonymously means that some users feel they can be quite honest, or even fairly brutal, in what they say. Unfortunately, this has been picked up by a number of young people (often in schools) who have used it to say unpleasant things about their peers and teachers. For further information, see the Guide to online services entry on Sarahah on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal.
Privacy concerns are categorised in two ways: abuse of privacy and how to protect privacy. The combined number of contacts for both types of concern surpass the number of contacts related to cyberbullying and demonstrate there is real concern around privacy and how to manage it online. It could be argued that some of the calls concerning abuse of privacy could also be classed as cyberbullying; helplines rely on the judgment of counsellors to decide how to categorise individual calls. Some helplines commented on the complex nature of both privacy settings and terms and conditions which were too complicated for (young) people to understand and engage with.
Most callers use the phone to make contact, although 43 per cent are using online communications technology to ask for help. Contacts via chat services account for 24 per cent of all contacts whereas in the previous reporting period only 5 per cent of contacts were made in this way.
Other key findings include:
- The Irish helpline noted that there has been an increase in calls from pre-teens who have been looking at adult pornography. This is something which has been discussed in the past and there is a general consensus that this is becoming more of an issue, largely due to the ease with which young people are able to access this type of content. A session at the recent Safer Internet Forum (SIF) discussed whether age should determine how we experience the internet and there is clearly much work to be done on this issue.
- The Czech helpline highlighted growing concerns around young people becoming addicted to online gambling. Information from the Czech government has identified that around 17 per cent of young people (under the age of 17) are addicted to online gambling and that this number has increased rapidly over recent months. This has implications for both awareness centres and helplines alike.
Find out more about the work of the Insafe network of helplines, including national contact details, at www.betterinternetforkids.eu/helpline-statistics.