Helplines are in an ideal position to identify new and emerging risks in relation to internet safety. Through their close interactions with young people, they hear at first hand problems that young people experience online. Collecting this information and using it to develop effective safety responses is now a central part of what helplines do. The report summarizes the most prominent current and emerging risks reported by helplines. It also documents the challenges that staff and volunteers encounter in implementing the helpline service. Recommendations for service enhancements are made focusing on better data collection, knowledge exchange, publicity and embedding of monitoring and evaluation activities.
Helplines have been a vital component of the effort to make the internet a safer and better place since the very first initiatives commenced under the European Union’s Safer Internet Programmed.
Internet helplines were first conceived as part of a wider strategy of developing an integrated network comprising hotlines to report and identify illegal content and helplines that would support internet users with problems they may encounter online. The idea of a helpline builds on a concept well established in other fields of social care and describes a service that provides listening and emotional support as well as information to assist users with issues they may encounter in their lives. The academic literature on the subject deals primarily with the different forms of support provision and approaches to gauging their effectiveness.