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Adolescents and youth

Child protection

© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-1301/Romenzi
Syrian Arab Republic: Despite the ongoing conflict, boys play on the streets of Aleppo.

As adolescents develop, they are increasingly influenced by their peers and by adults other than their parents. They begin to explore their sexuality and to test themselves intellectually, creatively and socially through sports and other recreational activities.

A right to feel supported and safe

Young people's ideas are constantly being shaped and influenced by their environment. When adolescents have opportunities to learn and express themselves without fear, they are more likely to be engaged with their parents, peers and communities. They gain self-esteem and become positive role models.

National and local laws must also promote and support adolescents' rights and young people should participate in the development and monitoring of these laws. Adolescents who are denied opportunities for growth and feel trapped by circumstances may come into conflict with the law. How society responds to a young lawbreaker can make or break a young person's future.

"Punishment does not purify; if anything it only hardens children," said Mahatma Gandhi. Increasingly, communities are recognizing that incarcerating young people in facilities designed to punish rather than rehabilitate, can create embittered adults who lack the skills to be productive and responsible citizens when they are released.

Many of the key threats to children from violence, abuse and exploitation are at their height during adolescence. Many are subject to difficult social and economic conditions, and often find themselves in conflict with criminal justice systems. Threats to their protection are further exacerbated by gender discrimination and exclusion.

Adolescent girls are vulnerable to many protection abuses and often endure years of servitude and domestic violence. However attention must also be given to adolescent boys as they also endure abuses; being forcibly recruited as child combatants or required to perform the most physically demanding forms of labor.

Providing adolescents with a protective environment through youth friendly essential services and encouraging participation of young people, families and communities, committed governments and enforced legislation is a key action in order to keep them safe from violence, exploitation and abuse.

UNICEF Child Protection stories about adolescents

A community takes measures to protect girls from harmful practices- Ethiopia

A young rape victim regains self-confidence with UNICEF support - Côte d’Ivoire

Olga’s story: Violence against children devastates lives - Guatemala

'Mini-reporters’ help launch anti-violence campaign - El Salvador



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