Latest helpline trends: Quarter 2, 2020

The Insafe network of helplines collects data about the types of calls received and this is analysed every three months to look at trends, and new and emerging issues. The most recent data collection covers the period from April to June 2020 inclusive and of course, for many countries, much of this period was spent in lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic situation. 

2020-09-25 BIK Team awareness, helplines parents and carers, research, policy and decision makers, teachers, educators and professionals

During this reporting period, the helpline network received over 19,000 contacts which were related to online issues. This represents a 25 per cent increase on the previous reporting period (January - March 2020) and a 70 per cent increase on the same reporting period in 2019. Clearly, COVID-19 has had an impact on the work of the helpline network and the rise in the numbers of contacts reflects the anxieties that people have felt during lockdown, as well as the increased use of technology, social media and online services.

The number of calls from males remained fairly constant with 41 per cent coming from this group (a reduction of only one percentage point from the previous reporting period). 60 per cent of contacts were made by the 12 to 18-year-old group, although it is worth noting that 14 per cent of calls came from the youngest users (aged 5-11). Once again, this indicates that as children get connected at an earlier and earlier age (and perhaps particularly during the lockdown period where access to online services and technology has gone up), they are more likely to run into difficulties and need support.

The most common way to contact a helpline is still by phone. The previous reporting period (January - March 2020) found that only 37 per cent of contacts were made this way – a significant reduction from the last quarter of 2019 (52 per cent) but between April and June 2020 this has risen again to 57 per cent. Helpline counsellors have suggested that as lockdown started to lift in some countries towards the end of this reporting period, young people will have been able to leave their houses and find a safe place to make a call and get in touch. Contacts via chat rose by six percentage points to 20 per cent of all contacts.

As usual, the main reason for contacting helplines is cyberbullying with over 16 per cent of all calls relating to this. Percentages of calls concerning other issues have remained largely unchanged from previous reporting periods, with only some slight fluctuations.

Although the distribution of percentages across categories of reports tend not to vary much from one reporting period to another and it is easy to spot trends, the actual numbers of contacts about each issue do change. There was a 29 per cent rise in the number of actual contacts related to sexting and a 15 per cent rise in those about sextortion. Love, relationships and sexuality saw a 53 per cent increase in the number of actual contacts, and there was a 194 per cent increase in the number of actual contacts relating to data privacy. This potentially relates to concerns around privacy on social media platforms given the increased use of this type of service during lockdown, and helplines reported that they were receiving a lot of contacts asking for help with privacy settings and securing of accounts.

Chart showing the main reasons for showing the helplines from the Insafe network

© Better Internet for Kids

Helpline statistics can be accessed in detail at www.betterinternetforkids.eu/helpline-statistics where country comparisons can also be made.

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