If there was an invisible, protective cloak to throw over your child as they go about establishing their place in the world, what parent wouldn’t want one?
In Iceland it seems they have found one and it is the effect of Planet Youth. A programme designed to reduce risk factors and bolster protective forces in young people’s lives, it has been credited with turning around one of Europe’s worst teenage drink and drugs problems, as outlined in The Irish Times last year.
Now they’re attributing Icelandic successes on the world stage in sport and the arts in recent years to how, in a country with a population of just 360,000, all children and teenagers are given opportunities to flourish through after-school activities.
Surveys back in 1998, among Icelanders aged 15-16 years, showed that 42 per cent had been drunk in the past 30 days; 23 per cent were smoking every day; and 17 per cent had tried cannabis. By 2019, those figures had plummeted to 6 per cent in the first and third categories, and just 1 per cent of them were smoking.