How and why children seek help in non-face-to-face settings

Publication date 2022

A review of the research literature through an intersectional lens 

Children and young people are seeking help in non-face-to-face settings, such as online or via telephone, in increasing numbers (Best, P. et al, 20161; Leech, T. et al, 20192; James, 20203).

We commissioned Listen Up, an organisation that specialises in embedding intersectionality and systemic thinking in child protection practice, policy and research, to explore how, when and why children and young people seek help in non-face-to-face or remote settings and the possible factors that may influence this.

This review:

  • brings together evidence from 32 journal articles, industry publications and reports
  • considers the extent to which a child or young person’s identity, including the intersections of ethnicity, gender, sexuality and disability and other characteristics, feature in remote help-seeking
  • includes case studies and reflective questions for individuals and organisations to consider how their services can better support the needs of children and young people.

Authors: Jahnine Davis and Nicholas Marsh
Published: January 2022


Best, P. et al (2016) Social work and social media: online help seeking and the mental well-being of adolescent males. British Journal of Social Work, 46(1), pp.257–276.
Leech, T. et al (2019) eMental health service use among Australian youth: a cross-sectional survey framed by Andersen’s model. Australian Health Review, 44, pp.891–897.
James, K. (2020) Remote mental health interventions for young people: a rapid review of the evidence (PDF). [Accessed 6 June 2021].
Download When children seek help in non-face-to-face settings: what do we know?
Download the report (PDF)

Key findings

Some children and young people prefer receiving support online or via telephone

Although children and young people may prefer to retain some face-to-face contact with their support services, some prefer receiving support non-face-to-face.

Some children particularly prefer to take their first help-seeking steps in a non-face-to-face setting. At this point in the help-seeking journey, online or telephone support services can be appealing for several reasons, including:

  • the availability of services
  • the accessibility as and when they are needed
  • and allowing children to engage, disengage and re-engage with support on their terms.

There is a lack of evidence on the experiences of minoritised and marginalised children and young people

The research found that outside of the basic demographic data of age and gender, there is little known about the children and young people accessing support in non-face-to-face settings, including their ethnicity, sexuality, disability or faith.

The lack of research on the experiences of minoritised and marginalised children – in particular children from minority ethnic backgrounds and children with disabilities – requires urgent attention from researchers, services and organisations.

Download When children seek help in non-face-to-face settings: what do we know?
Download the report (PDF)


Please cite as: Davis, J. and Marsh, N. (2021) When children seek help in non-face-to-face settings: what do we know? a review of the literature. London: NSPCC.

Contact us

Our team of information specialists are on hand to find the answers to your questions.