The introduction of a radical program created by American Psychology Professor Harvey Milkman has been the driving force for change within this small nation. What it did was to develop a social movement around ‘natural highs’ such as physical activities in a cohesive way.
The youth in Iceland have had a remarkable turnaround in the past two decades. They have gone from having the worst record for European teens in terms of substance abuse in 1998 to the cleanest-living teens currently. In 1998, it was found 42% of 15-16 year olds had been drunk in the past month and 23% had smoked cigarettes every day. Fast forward to 2016, the rates have dropped sharply to 5% and 3% respectively.
The program has the following features:
1. All 13-16 year olds were given a 10pm curfew in winter and midnight curfew in summer. This way no child could complain that their friends were still out.
2. Parents signed pledges to ensure greater family time and curfews were kept.
3. $500/year is provided to parents to spend on after-school activities to keep kids occupied.
4. Yearly surveys on 14-16 year olds provided evidence to measure program effectiveness and make changes as necessary.
5. Political backing and financial support was the final pillar to ensure success.
So successful has the program been that the program is now running in 35 cities across Europe! The all-community model has mobilised everyone to take responsibility for youth, and that goes doubly for the youth themselves.