Americans may be interested to know that there are Internet-related helplines in 31 European countries, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. Europe’s helplines are run by Safer Internet Centres (in 27 of the EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway, Russia and Serbia), which make up the Brussels-based INSAFE network established by the European Commission early in this decade. ICanHelpline.org is modeled after the UK’s Professionals Online Safety Helpline because POSH’s work is, for the most part, designed to serve Britain’s schools and law enforcement.
Last year, European Schoolnet, the Brussels-based network of European ministries of education that coordinates the work of INSAFE, published the first report on Europe’s Internet helplines, “INSAFE Helplines: Operations, effectiveness and emerging issues for internet safety helplines.” The study was done by Europe’s well-known research network EU Kids Online, based at the London School of Economics.
The report found that there are four main kinds of Internet helplines in Europe: general helplines that were established well before Internet use took off and provide help and care on a wide variety of issues including mental healthcare, later adding support for online problems; Internet safety helplines set up within countries’ Safety Internet Centres where staff do “Internet safety awareness-raising” work as well as provide help; Internet safety-only helplines that focus solely on online issues and work with the Centres but are usually operated by separate organizations; and Internet helplines for specific constituencies such as the UK’s POSH and the Netherlands’s helpline focused purely on online child sexual exploitation (the role played in this country by NCMEC, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which which iCanHelpline.org is a registered online service provider for when schools are dealing with sexting cases.
The report’s authors found that, just as here in the United States, cyberbullying remains the most common reason for contacting a helpline (INSAFE publishes helpline data quarterly, the latest report here).