By Ljilja Cvekic
Belgrade, June 21 (Serbia Today) – Serbia’s youth care more about brand clothes and mobile phones than about books and sports, are prone to binge drinking and depression and feel alienated and powerless. A survey by the Belgrade Institute for Psychology showed that a third of teenagers get drunk on a regular basis and 39 percent do not do any sports at all.
Some 85 percent have a computer at home and use mainly it for games, chats, and downloading films and music, a third never read or only when it is necessary and almost half would never go to theatres or museums.
“All that is offered to them as a role model are those who have money. Young people need positive examples of young talented scientists, artists, writers or sportsmen,” Serbia’s Deputy Youth Minister Snezana Klasnja told Serbia Today in an interview on Friday.
“What we want to do is to bring back a value to knowledge, work, and creativity, to make them understand that they are the ones who should take their lives into their own hands.”
According to the survey, conducted in 2008, teenagers spend the most money on going out, mobile phones and clothes. They shun newspapers in favor of television, but the majority never watches the news or political shows and is not interested in politics. They read mainly teenage publications or gossip and celebrity magazines, and hang out in cafes and discos, going out at around 10 p.m. and coming home between 2 and 3 in the morning.
Sociologists say that the values and dreams of young people have changed drastically in the last twenty years, partly reflecting the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia, a decade of war and a hard landing into winner-takes-all capitalism. Teen values shifted from idealism, friendship, rebellion and rock-and-roll to the pursuit of money, glamour, kitsch and turbo-folk music, personified in stars such as folk singer Svetlana Raznatovic, widow of a notorious warlord and known more for her revealing outfits and plastic surgery than her voice.
“Parents need to be educated, as well as teachers. It is too late to start teaching an adolescent about choices and right values; they have to learn these things in early childhood,” said Jovanka Lazarevic, a math teacher. “In Serbia, it’s not allowed to be different. Maybe young people would succeed much more if the society would encourage differences.”
As four decades of socialist policies unraveled in the early 1990’s, teenagers lost the traditional free-of-charge entertainment options, local clubs where they could organize for themselves dance parties and social events, school yards where they could hang out playing soccer or basketball just for fun. Schools are now renting their gyms and yards to private clubs, in which students have to pay to play sports.
Drinking is another problem widely spread among young people. Almost 70 percent of polled teenagers said they have got drunk first time when they were between 14 and 16 years old and more than 32 percent get drunk on regular basis.
About a third of high school students smoke, a fifth have a sleeping problem, and the same number deals only with difficulty with depression and solitude. The survey showed also that neither teenagers nor their parents are aware of danger the Internet might present and 19 percent of them said they had been sexually propositioned by strangers over the Internet, and three percent responded to such offers.
Trying to tackle the mounting issues, Serbia has unveiled a National Youth Strategy that aims to involve young people and youth organizations across the land “on a scale previously unseen as part of any policy development in recent memory”.
Young people who are now 20 years old, were three years old when the first hostilities broke out on the territory of former Yugoslavia, they were four when sanctions were imposed on the country, seven at the time the Dayton Treaty, ending Bosnia war, was signed, eleven when Serbia was bombed over the Kosovo war and fifteen when the prime minister (Zoran Djindjic) was assassinated, reads the introductory note to the Strategy paper adopted last year.
Funds for youth have been allocated for the first time in the 2009 budget, and 85 local communities in Serbia opened youth centers since the beginning of the year, where young people can meet, play, organize chess tournaments or creative workshops and libraries.
“Young people in Europe are much more active and ready to fight for their rights,” Klasnja said.
“A survey conducted by the Centre for Democracy and Free Elections, CESID, showed that still 70 percent of youth in Serbia have a conservative stance in the sense that they need to have an authority, they need a leader. They have yet to learn to become an active part of society and to initiate themselves changes and activities.”