Latest helpline trends: Quarter 1, 2022

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. 

Date 2022-06-24 Author BIK Team Section awareness, helplines, industry, news Topic cyberbullying, e-crime, media literacy/education, potentially harmful content Audience media specialist, organisations and industry, research, policy and decision makers
A group of three children looking at a smartphone and smiling

The most recent helpline data covers the period from January to March 2022. There were just under 19,000 contacts made to the network and numbers were very similar to the last quarter of 2021. There is an overall upward trend in the numbers of people who are reaching out to helplines, and this has been the case for the last three years – contacts have increased by 52 percentage points since the same period in 2019.  

A key topic of concern for many children and young people during this period has been the conflict in Ukraine. Many are seeing graphic images of what is happening on the ground in Ukraine via their social media platforms and are struggling to deal with this. At a recent training meeting, the Insafe network of Safer Internet Centres in Europe heard from colleagues who operate the helpline in Ukraine who told of how social media is being used to scare and frighten children and young people, telling them that they and members of their family could be captured and tortured. Such posts are widespread and are causing real concern for children and their families. The network has already developed a range of materials that can be used to help to provide support.  

Helplines also continue to recognise the impact that COVID-19 has had on children and young people, and many of the calls from parents and teachers relate to concerns around mental health and wellbeing that have been exacerbated as a result of the pandemic. 

The main users of the helplines are teens (aged 12 to 18), and this group represents around half of all contacts made. The other key groups are teachers and parents with around 20 per cent of contacts coming from each group.  

40 per cent of contacts came from individuals identifying as male and this mirrors previous reporting periods. Most helplines, however, receive more calls from those identifying as female and this is in line with much of the research that suggests girls are more likely than boys to be victims of online harms.  

Helplines record calls against 16 different categories and the percentage of contacts relating to each category do not tend to vary a great deal from one reporting period to another, although the numbers of contacts do and there is an upward trend in most categories.  

Cyberbullying continues to be the issue which helplines receive the most contacts about. Almost 14 per cent of contacts were about this issue and it is something which helplines and awareness centres are working tirelessly to address. The recently published BIK+ strategy also highlighted cyberbullying, recognising that globally, more than a third of young people have reported being a victim of cyberbullying. The new strategy outlines specific measures to support victims. 

Love, relationships and sexuality is another category which many young people need support with. This accounts for almost 12 per cent of calls, while potentially harmful content has around 10 per cent. Issues and concerns related to sexting, sextortion and sexual harassment are high with around 17 per cent of contacts focusing on these categories. Again, Safer Internet Centres are doing a lot of work to address these areas.  

Reasons for contacting helplines Jan-Mar 2022 (line graph). Among the most common reasons are cyberbullying, love/relationships/sexuality (online), potentially harmful content, media literacy/education, online reputation, data privacy, e-crime, sexting, gaming and more. Credits: BIK

Reasons for contacting Insafe helplines Percentage of contacts 
Advertising/commercialism  1.10 per cent
Hate speech  1.11 per cent
Grooming1.69 per cent
Excessive use2.56 per cent
Sexual harassment3.67 per cent
Technical settings3.99 per cent
Sextortion5.51 per cent
Gaming6.31 per cent
Sexting6.62 per cent
e-Crime6.64 per cent
Data privacy7.10 per cent
Online reputation7.56 per cent
Media literacy/education8.14 per cent
Potentially harmful content9.62 per cent
Love/relationships/sexuality (online)11.39 per cent
Cyberbullying13.54 per cent


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