Nearly two thousand young people in Estonia contributed to the development of the new EU Youth Strategy, highlighting the need for the community to focus more on equal treatment, the consequences of actions on the Internet, and the mental health of youth.
According to the Head of Youth Department of the Ministry of Education and Research Reelika Ojakivi, it is good to see that the youth actively participate in the development of the new European Youth Strategy. “We are making future plans with the youth rather than just for them and that’s why we asked their opinion on what they deem as the most pressing problems in the society,” said Ojakivi.
The period of the current EU Youth Strategy expires at the end of this year and the European Commission is preparing a new strategy - the draft should be available this summer. Important topics that served as input for preparatory consultations on the new strategy were mapped at the European Youth Conference held in Tallinn last October. The youth were consulted in all Member States during the period from last October to February this year.
In Estonia, consultations were led by the Estonian National Youth Council (ENYC) which conducted an on-line survey, group chats and discussions across Estonia. In Estonia, 1,735 young people aged 13-30 expressed their opinion on various issues.
Vice Chairman of the Board of ENYC Mikk Tarros noted that opinions received during the consultations provide useful input for designing the future youth policy in Europe and in Estonia. “In the light of proposals made by the youth, I believe that decision-makers are moving towards change, especially as regards the future labour market, mental health and inequality,” said Tarros.
Estonian youth responding to the Internet survey have experienced unequal treatment mostly due their age, looks, gender and socio-economic situation. 81% of respondents find that inequality is an essential topic for the Estonian society and more than half of respondents find that inequality is not sufficiently addressed yet. According to respondents, youth living in urban and rural areas do not have equal opportunities. The youth believe that infrastructure investments and development of recreational activities in rural areas should reduce inequality.
The survey also addressed the youth’s information consumption and awareness of dangers related to the information society. Nearly a half of respondents (47%) have experienced negative attitudes towards them on the Internet, including in the social media. The youth argued that reducing negative behaviour calls for more preventive work and making people think about the consequences of their actions on the web.
The youth’s main information channel is social media (89%) whereas newspapers and news portals are considered the most reliable channels - 33% and 32%, respectively. The youth participating in the survey find the main factors behind the reliability of information are the verifiability of its accuracy and references to sources. The youth believe that it would be easier for them to find reliable information if schools would focus more on promoting information criticism.
More than half (78%) of respondents have experienced stress and tension in daily life. To mitigate stress and tension, the youth engage in their favourite activities and hobbies but many of them are not very good at managing their stress. The lack of skills required to take care of their mental health could put youth at a disadvantage in the society. Hence, the youth find that further measures should be taken to help them take care of their mental health.
The Estonian youth were consulted on a total of seven topics: equal opportunities, information society, mental health, future work and skills, European Union, living and natural environment, and youth involvement.