Latest helpline trends: Quarter 1, 2021

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 helpline data covers the period from January to March 2021 and, once again, there has been an increase in the number of contacts made to the helplines. The current reporting period saw almost 17,400 contacts: an increase of almost nine per cent on the previous quarter.

Date 2021-06-30 Author BIK Team Section helplines Audience media specialist, organisations and industry, research, policy and decision makers

Several helplines spoke about the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 and contacts wanting to speak about the impact that this continues to have on their daily lives and those of their family and friends.

Data collected over time shows a steady increase from the start of 2019 to the present day – an increase of almost forty per cent. The group which makes most use of helpline services is teenagers with 60 per cent of contacts from those in the 12-18 age group. Contacts from parents have spiked at various times since the onset of COVID but also show an increase overall, with 20 per cent of contacts from this stakeholder group in the latest reporting period. Calls from teachers and social workers reduced slightly during this quarter with helplines suggesting that as schools and other services start to reopen, these professionals are concentrating on their face-to-face activities with children and young people. The calls from parents have been increasingly about mental health concerns and screentime; this may well be reflected in the contacts from other professionals later in the year if and when these issues manifest themselves in schools and other settings.

Historically, helplines receive more contacts from females, accounting for 62 per cent of contacts during this reporting period. Only one helpline had more contacts from males than females.

COVID has had an impact on the way that people contact helplines with a sharp decline in those using phones (which is usually the most common means of getting in touch). The current data shows that the method of contacting helplines has returned to the situation that was being seen before COVID-19 which possibly reflects the lifting of lockdowns and the gradual opening up of society. Chat, online forms and email continue to be important channels to reach out to helplines, accounting for over forty per cent of all contacts. 51 per cent of contacts were made by phone. 

Helplines record contacts against 16 different categories and, as usual, the main reason for contacting a helpline is cyberbullying with almost 17 per cent of contacts relating to this. It was noted that, in some countries, there have been campaigns targeted at children and young people to encourage them to speak out about sexual harassment and sexual abuse. In countries where this has happened, there has been a corresponding increase in reports about these issues. Despite this, there has been a fall of one percentage point during the current quarter in contacts relating to sextortion and the actual number of reports has also fallen. The data will need to be monitored closely in subsequent reporting periods, especially as many helplines report that sextortion is still a significant issue.

Graph representing reasons for contacting helplines Jan-Mar 2021. Main reasons are cyberbullying and love/relationshios/sexuality (online). © Better Internet for Kids

Figure 1: Reasons for contacting helplines between January and March 2021 (© Better Internet for Kids)


Reasons for contacting Insafe helplinesPercentage of contacts
Advertising/commercialism0.91 per cent
Hate speech1.08 per cent
Grooming1.93 per cent
Sexual harassment2.97 per cent
Gaming4.02 per cent
Sextortion4.19 per cent
Excessive use4.84 per cent
Technical settings5.68 per cent
Sexting5.91 per cent
e-Crime5.97 per cent
Online reputation6.05 per cent
Data privacy7.29 per cent
Media literacy/education9.40 per cent
Potentially harmful content10.07 per cent
Love/relationships/sexuality (online)12.19 per cent
Cyberbullying17.49 per cent


Helpline statistics can be accessed in detail at where country comparisons can also be made.

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