An Empirical Investigation of Factors Affecting Perceived Quality and Well-Being of Children Using an Online Child Helpline van Dolen, Willemijn; Weinberg, Charles B.
Child helplines provide free, accessible, and confidential support for children suffering from issues such as violence and abuse. Helplines lack the barriers often associated with the use of many other health services; and for many children, the helpline is the first point of contact with any kind of child protection and an important venue to go to in times of socio-economic distress. For instance, more children attempt to call the helpline in times of high unemployment, and relatively more of those conversations are about violence. Empirical evidence is scarce regarding how to implement online chat communication to improve quality and the child’s well-being. In this study, we focus on the impact of chat duration, number of words, and the type of support. The results show that for children seeking emotional support, a longer chat negatively influences the immediate well-being and the counsellor needs to listen (i.e., not type), as relatively more child words result in higher evaluations. We conclude that for emotional support, the counsellor should be prepared to listen carefully, but also manage the duration. However, for children chatting for instrumental support, the counsellor needs to type more to create positive perceptions of quality. Since the impact of chat share is different for children seeking emotional support (negative) versus instrumental support (positive), counsellors need to be sensitive to early indicators of the reason for the chat.
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