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Confidentiality

Confidentiality means not telling anyone else about what you’ve said. We always want to keep your contact with ChildLine confidential, which means you can feel safe talking to us, knowing that no one else will find out.

Is ChildLine confidential?

Yes. ChildLine is a private and confidential service.
This means that whatever you say stays between you and ChildLine.

We would only need to say or do something if:

  • You ask us to
  • We believe your life or someone else’s life is in danger
  • You are being hurt by someone in a position of trust who has access to other children like a teacher or police officer
  • You tell us that you are seriously harming another person

We will only tell someone if we feel it's an emergency and we will try to talk to you about this first - giving you as much control as possible. We understand the sort of situations you might be in.

Breaking a young person’s confidentiality is not something that ChildLine does easily. We will always think about this carefully so if there is anything you can do to help us know you are safe, then please contact us as soon as possible. We are here to support you.

  • Is ChildLine’s confidentiality different from school?

    Yes, ChildLine’s confidentiality is different from school. There are a lot of things that your teacher couldn’t keep confidential that ChildLine can. That means you can feel safe to talk about anything you need to.

    Some children and young people tell us that their teacher suggested that they call ChildLine because of this.

  • Do I have to tell you my name?

    You can tell us as much or as little as you want to. Sometimes a ChildLine counsellor will ask you if you want to give a first name, but it’s up to you if you want to do this.

    You can always make up a name if you don’t want to give us your real name. We would ask you to use the same name if you do get in touch with us again so that we know it’s you.

    When you go online, you will be asked to choose a username and a nickname, and it’s up to you what you decide to call yourself. To keep your account secure, don't tell anyone else your username, nickname or password.

    If you want us to get in touch with someone to tell them about what is happening to you, we will need to know your full name and some other information about you. For example, this could be if you wanted to tell a police officer, social worker or teacher.

  • What happens if I do tell you my name?

    Just because we do know your name, it doesn’t mean that we would tell someone else about what is happening for you, even if we know your surname. You can feel safe to tell us as much as you want. If you think you might like to phone us back, sometimes it can be helpful if you tell us your first name (or the name you want us to call you) so that it is easier for us to find notes about what you’ve said in your calls.

  • What happens if I want ChildLine to tell someone about what's happening to me?

    If you want someone else to know about what is happening to you, like a police officer, teacher or social worker, you can talk to a ChildLine counsellor about what you would like to do next. We would need to know more information about you, so would ask you questions like your full name and address, your date of birth and the name of your school. Depending of what you've told us, we might need to ask you one of these questions or maybe more. If you need time to think about whether or not you want us to tell someone else, just let us know. You can always get in touch with ChildLine again another time.

  • Do you know my phone number or email address?

    No, we don’t know this information unless you choose to tell us it. If you want us to talk to someone else about what is happening, like the police or social services, we will probably ask you to give us your phone number so they can contact you.

    There may be times when we are very worried about your safety or someone else's safety and we need to tell someone about what is happening. If this is the case, there is a way that we can request your phone number or IP address (a number unique to your computer) which means that we can get help to you. We have strict guidelines about when we can do this and we would always try and talk to you first, before we pass this information on.

  • Will my call to ChildLine be on the phone bill, and can I call free on my mobile?

    ChildLine is a 0800 number, so calls are free and don't show up on a BT or cable phone bill. Calls to ChildLine on 0800 1111 are currently free from all of these networks: 3, BT Mobile, Fresh, O2, Orange, T Mobile, Virgin and Vodafone. We have been told that calls will not appear on any of these bills.

    The telephone number will still appear in your list of dialled calls on your mobile as a 0800 1111.  If you don't want people to see the number in your list of dialled calls, you should delete this from your called number list.

  • Can anyone see that I’ve used my home computer to get in touch with ChildLine?

    No one will be able to read any messages you’ve sent to ChildLine or received from a ChildLine counsellor as long as you keep your password private. It is possible for someone to see the history of the sites you have visited on your computer, but not if you have deleted your history. If you want to delete this history see cover your tracks for advice about how to do this.

  • Who at ChildLine knows what I’ve talked about?

    Your contact with ChildLine is confidential between you and ChildLine. We keep notes about what you have told us that no one outside ChildLine will see. The notes are there to help us understand your situation better if you contact us again and don’t want to explain everything.

    There are lots of different ChildLine bases in the country, and you may speak to a counsellor in any one of these places. We make sure that other ChildLine bases can see your notes if they need to, so you don’t need to go through everything again. ChildLine supervisors may listen in to your phone call, or supervise your 1-2-1 chat to make sure that we can help you in the best way.

  • Do you record phone calls to ChildLine?

    When you phone ChildLine, we don’t audio record what you say. We do keep written notes about your call, online chat or email. This means that you don’t have to go through everything again if you decide to phone back. These notes stay safe at ChildLine.

  • How do you decide to break confidentiality?

    Breaking confidentiality can be a very difficult dilemma for the counsellors. There are lots of things they have to think about to work out whether they have to pass your details on to someone else or not. It may be that at the beginning of your contact with us you explain how you are feeling but as the chat develops it becomes clearer that you are likely to act on these feelings. Things change over the conversation and it is only then that they discuss this with a supervisor and make the decision whether to break confidentiality or not.

    Counsellors have to look at your whole conversation, how unsafe you sound and how likely it is you will be in danger when you finish talking to them. That’s why a counsellor might tell you it will be confidential at the beginning but then as you tell them more that shows that you are in danger, they can’t keep that promise anymore.

    We will always try to let you know if we need to break confidentiality. We want to help you in the best way and support you with what you are going through.

  • What happens when you need to tell someone or break confidentiality?

    Some things that might happen:

    - Your details are passed to people who will be able to get help to you. For example, calling an ambulance for emergency help.
    - We may ask the police to come and check, or do something to make sure that you are safe. For example, if you have run away and are lost by yourself, we may need to ask the police for help.
    - If you’ve told us that someone younger than yourself is in danger, we may need to get them help. Sometimes the only way of doing that will be to contact you and ask you for more details. It may be the police that help us with this.
    - We might tell Social services to arrange to speak to you and see how they can help you. They would want to protect you and other young people. 

    You might feel like it’s your fault and that you or other people might get into trouble. We understand that it can be really hard to talk about certain things and to share what you’re going through.

    Remember that ChildLine cares about you and we want to make sure that you feel safe. We will always try to support you and listen to what you think will help you.

  • Does ChildLine break confidentiality if you are having suicidal thoughts?

    Childline will only break confidentiality for young people who are having suicidal thoughts if we believe that it is likely that you will act on these thoughts. This may not always mean you will act on them today; it could be that you have told us that you will do this in the future. If we believe that you plan to do what you are telling us then we will pass this on.

    If you are able to show us that although you are feeling suicidal, you are not seriously considering or planning suicide as an option at this time, ChildLine will not break confidentiality.

    It’s not enough just to tell us you are not going to do it if everything else you have said shows that actually you are really in danger. You need to help us genuinely understand whether you are at risk or not. You can do this by being as clear as you can about your feelings and plans throughout the conversation.

    Find out more about coping with suicidal feelings or talk to a counsellor for support.

  • I’ve got another question about confidentiality

    You can ask us anything you want about confidentiality to help you to feel safe and comfortable talking to us. The counsellors are there to listen to you and support you with whatever you are going through.

Confidentiality 

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