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Southwest Finland town trials Icelandic teen curfew model

Laitila officials recommend that children in grades 1-6 should be home by 7.30pm on weeknights, while their older peers should not be out later than 9.00pm.

Image: Yle

The town of Laitila in southwest Finland, with just over 10,000 residents, has introduced an unofficial curfew for school-age children.

Municipal officials recommend that children in grades 1 -6 should be home by 7.30pm, while their older peers should not be out later than 9.00pm.

The guidelines allow kids to stay out later on weekends - up to 8.30pm for lower school students and up to 11.00pm for their seniors.

Laitila's head of education, Tuomas Kankaanpää, told the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that the town can only issue a recommendation on the matter, since a strict curfew would be unlawful and would also be a human rights violation.

According to Kankaanpää, the push for an informal curfew began with the municipality's youth wellbeing group, which comprises representatives of social services, educational institutions, police and children's hobby groups as well as local students.

Model echoes Icelandic success story

The homecoming deadlines were based on an online survey distrïbuted to parents and guardians, while the city's youth council also had a say in the matter. Kankaanpää said that so far he has only heard positive comments about the measure.

The new recommendation resembles a nationwide youth curfew that has been in place in Iceland since 1997, and under which children under the age of 16 must get home by 10.00pm during the winter, and by midnight during summer.

For under-12s the winter and summer time curfews are 8.00pm and 10.00pm respectively, with summer defined as beginning 1 May and ending on 1 September. However the restriction is relaxed for young people getting home late because of sports or other extra-curricular activities, or who are in the company of their parents. The so-called Icelandic model has been credited with helping to reduce teen alcohol and drug abuse (siirryt toiseen palveluun) in that country.

Curfew bids in other Finnish cities

According to HS, similar moves have been afoot in other Finnish cities. For example in 2004, police in Hyvinkää said they could contact the parents of under 15-year-olds found out and about after 11.00pm.

At the same time curfew recommendations for teens were issued in places such as Seinäjoki, Pori, Eurajoki, Rovaniemi, Laukaa, Hämeenkoski and Lammi. Vantaa municipal leaders also raised the issue in 2004, citing an increase in unlawful behaviour by young people as well as a rise in cases of kids taken out of the home and into care.

However the motion was defeated as the city stressed parents' responsibility for their children and the inability of police to enforce a possible curfew.

Yle's Swedish language service spoke with a Porvoo youth parliament member, 18-year-old Pipsa Kaikkonen, who said that the Icelandic model isn't a good fit for Finland.

"The Icelandic model is probably well-intentioned, but I feel that many young people would at least think that it is restrictive and violates their rights and freedom," she noted.

Kaikkonen said that there hasn't been an active discussion on the issue in Porvoo, which lies 50 kilometres east of Helsinki. And she added that the idea of what constitutes a sensible curfew varies among young people.

"It probably depends on the peer group and there is also group pressure. If your friend gets to be outside then you also want to stay out longer."