Childline has recorded a sizeable increase in demand for its online services.

Details of its operations are included in the annual report of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Childline is on course to answer its seven millionth telephone call this year, according to the ISPCC's report for 2017.

It shows that overall the number of calls, texts and online contacts answered by Childline in 2017 was nearly 382,000 - a slight decrease compared to the previous year.

However, Childline's online and text options alone recorded a 33% increase in the number of children and young people choosing to make contact using these technologies.

Over 11,000 new users registered for Childline's online service for the first time in 2017.

Issues relating to personal life, abuse and relationships were most frequently raised by those who contacted the helpline.

The report shows 72% of phonecalls to the service in 2017 came from boys and 26% came from girls.

ISPCC Chief Executive Grainia Long said: "The increase recorded this year in the number of contacts to our online service options is indicative of the changing nature of children's behaviour - as more and more children use online services, we need to ensure that we are meeting their needs."

The Special Rapporteur on Child Protection says the key issues that children are raising when they contact Childline are around the abuse of drugs, alcohol and domestic violence.

Dr Geoffrey Shannon said he believes the biggest challenge facing Irish society is the adverse consequences for the welfare of many children posed by alcohol abuse.

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Shannon said that alcohol abuse by parents has a damaging effect on the ability to parent consistently and the importance of the public health alcohol bill "cannot be understated".

He said that domestic violence was an issue that jumped out of this year's ISPCC report.

Dr Shannon called for child specific services to be put in place, saying that Childline cannot be a substitute for "robust State services".

He said the increase in the number of online contacts to the ISPCC show that children have a very different method of communicating their problems.

The number of children using online services highlighted the need for the appointment of a Digital Safety Commissioner as soon as possible, Dr Shannon added.