What the survey asked

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Survey questions focused on what 9- to 17-year-olds in East Asia and the Pacific know about children's rights, HIV/AIDS and other related issues, as well as their perceptions and opinions on family life, school and society in general.

The results show that children and adolescents in the region are generally optimistic about the future. About 80 per cent of respondents believe their lives will be better than that of their parents, while some 74 per cent think life in their communities will be better in the future.

HIV/AIDS

Many children appear unprepared for the rapidly growing threat of HIV/AIDS in the region, where some 2.4 million people are already infected with the disease and where it is projected that the level of new infections will increase dramatically over the coming years.

Asked about their level of knowledge of HIV/AIDS, 60 per cent of those between 9 to 13 and 25 per cent in the 14 to 17 age group say they know "absolutely nothing" or "only the name." In addition, 70 per cent of those between 9 to 13, and 35 per cent between 14 to 17 years old say they are ignorant about sexual relationships.

Other questions related to HIV/AIDS were asked only of the older group. Sixty-eight per cent of the respondents correctly identify unprotected sexual intercourse as a major route of HIV/AIDS transmission, but only 41 per cent say they know what a condom is.

Countries with the highest number of children and adolescents saying "absolutely nothing" or "only know the name" in regard to knowledge of HIV/AIDS were East Timor (98%), Lao PDR (68%), Indonesia and Philippines (62%), Mongolia (54%), China (48%) and the Republic of Korea (47%). But even in countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia, the number of respondents lacking basic knowledge on HIV/AIDS ranges from 23 per cent to 36 per cent.

Rights

Another major focus of the survey was young people's knowledge of rights and their perception of whether those rights are being respected. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by all of the region's countries, governments are required to use all the means at their disposal to uphold the rights and safeguard the well-being of children.

The survey found that although 61 per cent of the respondents say children have rights like adults, only one in five claims to know "a lot" about those rights. The 39 per cent of respondents who answer "no" or "do not know" to the question of whether children have rights represent 117 million children and adolescents across the region.

In addition, more than 20 per cent of the respondents believe their rights to information, freedom to express ideas and opinions and not to be hurt or mistreated are not respected in their countries. Asked to identify their rights, the right to education was named by 51 per cent of respondents, the right to freedom of expression by 32 per cent and the right not to be hurt or mistreated by 21 per cent.

A little over 50 per cent of those surveyed report being happy "most of the time," while 47 per cent say they are happy ''sometimes. The large majority of respondents report good relationships with their parents and say the main values and principles they are taught at home - to respect others, tell the truth, help others and not to steal - are applied in their daily lives. However, 41 per cent of respondents say that when a decision that concerns them is made at home, their own opinions and feelings are not adequately taken into consideration.

More than half of the children and adolescents say there is "screaming" in their homes, while 14 per cent report that there is often "hitting." Some 23 per cent say when they misbehave their parents beat them.

One in 10 respondents report having been the victim of a robbery, while 29 per cent say it is "sometimes unsafe" or "always unsafe" at night in their community, neighbourhood or city. Nearly 40 per cent of the respondents report that they have friends who have smoked cigarettes, and that 20 per cent of these friends have become "addicted" to smoking. About one quarter of respondents say they have friends who have tried alcohol, about 7 per cent of whom are addicted. In addition, 6 per cent say they have witnessed friends using illegal drugs, while 4 per cent have seen friends sniffing glue or other chemicals.

A little over half of those surveyed believe that some children in their country are treated differently or are not well accepted compared with other children, while 24 per cent say they themselves are treated differently or not well accepted.

This information is provided as a contribution to discussion on important issues affecting children. UNICEF Regional offices conducted the polls, analysis and interpretations of the findings. For more information, please contact the regional poll contact person directly.

About the survey
Feelings of well-being and outlook on life
Children and their rights
Information, knowledge and life skills
Threats to the well-being of children
Participation, communication and decision-making
Values, aspirations and expectations