Latest helpline trends: Quarter 4, 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 October to December 2021. This reporting period saw over 19,000 contacts made to the helpline network (a considerable rise on the previous reporting period) and continued the overall upward trend in numbers of people reaching out to helplines. There were over 67,000 contacts made to Insafe helplines during 2021 – the busiest year ever, which underlines the importance of the services they offer. 

Date 2022-03-30 Author BIK Team Section awareness, helplines, industry, news, policy Topic cyberbullying, media literacy/education, potentially harmful content Audience media specialist, organisations and industry, research, policy and decision makers
Young boy checking his mobile phone on a blue lights background

The primary users of the Insafe helplines continue to be teens (aged 12 to 18), with this group accounting for over 50 per cent of all contacts during this reporting period. The numbers of younger users (aged 5 to 11) have been steadily increasing, as have the numbers of parents who make contact. Around one-quarter of contacts came from parents, reflecting the concerns that many parents have around the content that their children can be exposed to when they are online. 

Forty-two per cent of contacts were from those identifying as male – this is an increase of four percentage points on the previous quarter. Helplines work hard to reach out to all stakeholder groups, but boys and young men repeatedly talk about the barriers they feel exist to prevent them from reporting. 

Helplines record contacts against 16 different categories and, as usual, the main reason for contacting a helpline is cyberbullying, with over 15 per cent of contacts relating to this. Additionally, helplines are receiving lots of calls about sexting, sextortion and sexual harassment – between Quarter 3 and Quarter 4 in 2021, there was a significant increase in the number of calls received about sexting (98 per cent) and sextortion (49 per cent). There has been a lot of heightened awareness about these issues recently, and the helplines have spent time discussing the challenges that young people are facing and the barriers they face when reporting. 

It is also important to note that contacts which were categorised as “potentially harmful content” rose by 29 per cent between 2020 and 2021. This category is defined as [content] Including terrorism, online prostitution, drugs, eating disorders, self-harm etc. Including calls related to sites promoting suicide and explaining ways to commit suicide. Young people have spent a lot more time online as a result of the pandemic and they appear to be encountering more problematic content as a result.

Collaboration and cooperation with industry and, in particular, with social media providers remains crucial, and the helpline network has strong and valued relationships with key players including Facebook, Instagram, Google/YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat, as well as several others. These relationships enable the fast removal of inappropriate content where regular reporting routes have not been as effective as they should have been.  

Graph representing the main reasons for contacting helplines in Q4 (October-December) 2021. The main reason was cyberbullying, followed by love/relationships/sexuality (online), potentially harmful content, media literacy/education, e-Crime, online reputation, data privacy, sexting, sextortion, gaming, technical settings, sexual harassment, grooming, excessive use, hate speech, advertising/commercialism. Credits: BIK Team.

Reasons for contacting Insafe helplines Percentage of contacts 
Advertising/commercialism 1.36 per cent 
Hate speech 2.07 per cent 
Grooming 2.74 per cent 
Excessive use 2.35 per cent 
Sexual harassment 3.39 per cent 
Technical settings 3.39 per cent 
Gaming4.66 per cent 
Sextortion5.71 per cent 
Sexting5.76 per cent 
Data privacy 6.57 per cent 
Online reputation 7.24 per cent 
e-Crime 7.95 per cent 
Media literacy/education 8.08 per cent 
Potentially harmful content 11.37 per cent 
Love/relationships/sexuality (online) 12 per cent 
Cyberbullying15.35 per cent 


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