Free spaces for children and adolescents are important for teaching self-efficacy, interacting with peers, and being creative of their own volition, without pressure. Free spaces are defined as spaces not governed by any government or society regulations, where growing up is controlled or standardised as little as possible. The ability to make their own decisions regarding the complex options in such spaces empowers children and adolescents. Suitable locations and time frames are required depending on how these free spaces are to be used.
An increase in purpose-driven focuses, time constraints and assimilation for children and adolescents has meant less and less of a priority is being given to spaces designed for leisure and recreation. Many children and adolescents are critical of the fast speed and condensed nature of school curricula, and the lack of time and space available to do as they please. Decisions on the children’s and adolescents’ time management are not always made by the children and adolescents themselves; they are instead primarily made by parents and the schools.
The State Report lists many cultural options available to young people in their free time, and the diversity of options is highly appreciated; yet the report fails to properly see leisure services from the perspective of recreation and an ability to participate in society. Young people feel pressured to make the most of the recreational activities to improve their qualifications. According to the ‘Health Behaviour in School-aged Children’ study, the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that around 30 percent of children and adolescents in developed countries feel exhausted. The figures show that Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child does not adequately provide for the right to leisure, play and recreation.
The expansion of full-day schooling at primary schools across Germany poses the risk of the children merely being supervised, or of extended lessons in the afternoon. Instead of these approaches, free, non-compulsory afternoon options with social youth workers must be developed to promote inclusion, self-determined involvement, and recreation.
The right to secure, attractive free spaces based on self-management is not a given; it must be enabled through mandatory municipal structures and frameworks. Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child includes the right to privacy in relation to intervention and access by others, as well as the right to not be forced to participate.
- The National Coalition Germany recommends that the UN Committee call on the German federal government to
- 120. More intensively involve young people in decision-making processes regarding the use of public spaces;
- 121. More intensively integrate the needs and perspectives of children and adolescents when developing full-day schools. This requires more flexible solutions, public services, and the option of not being obliged to participate every day. Full-day schooling is also possible outside school grounds at public youth-support facilities, and must provide enough time and space for self-management in general.