Nearly two-thirds of people would hesitate to help a child appeared to be lost, due to concern that their intentions could be questioned, a survey for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said on Wednesday.
The research said 64 percent of adults would be worried about being wrongly accused or misunderstood if they helped a young person who seemed lost.
In addition, 62 percent said they would be concerned about reporting concerns if a neighbour's child seemed neglected or abused.
Respondents said they would be afraid of making an error or creating problems for the family without reason.
"We need everyone to understand that taking action is always the right thing to do - whether it's a lost child in the street or an abusive neighbour," said NSPCC helpline director Peter Watt.
He urged people to call the NSPCC helpline if they are unsure.
"Our trained and experienced counsellors will know what to do and can take the burden off you. It may save a child or help a family get the support they need to improve and stay together happily and safely. And no one will ever know you made the call."