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7.2 Personal and social development, leisure, sport and information

These needs are partially provided for within the education system. The Ministry of Culture is responsible for public libraries, museums and state theatres. Although its main focus is on sporting achievement, the Ministry of Youth and Sports provides sports facilities and youth camps, which to some extent target young people from poor backgrounds or in poor areas. Other opportunities and facilities for adolescents and young people in Turkey to take part in free-time activities – separately from, or together with, adults - are provided by registered youth clubs, municipalities, voluntary organisations and the private sector.

In practice, the most common leisure-time activities of adolescents and young people in Turkey appear to be watching TV, listening to music (including radio), and chatting with friends - whether in cafes and shopping malls or on the Internet. The amount of time which young people spend reading, attending cultural performances, exhibitions and events or engaging in physical activities is noticeably lower, and surprisingly high proportions of young people may not take part in these activities at all.

Participation in cultural activities outside the home in the preceding month (population aged 15-24) (%)






Not participated


Not participated

Going to the cinema





Going to the theatre, ballet, opera etc





Going to a live music event





Visiting museums and art galleries





Going to a library





Sporting activities





Source: (Turkstat: Youth in Statistics, 2011, p.135 – derived from 2006 Time Use Survey data).

According to the WHO European Health Behaviour of School Children (HBSC) survey for 2009-10, two-thirds of fifteen year-olds watch more than two hours of television per day on weekdays, including DVDs and videos, which is slightly above the European average. Watching television (mostly Turkish soap operas, followed by news, sports and other types of programmes) also emerged as young people’s most common free time activity according to the reported initial results of a research project on “Turkey’s Youth Profile” conducted by the think-tank SETA among 15-29 year-olds in conjunction with the Ministry of Youth and Sports in 2012. Watching television scored 56.8% and was followed by reading books, magazines or newspapers (40.8%), using social media (37.2%), taking part in sports (29.6%), going to the theatre/cinema and concerts (15.6%), and spending time with friends in cafes, tea-shops and similar places (13.4%).

In the 2007 Turkey Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health Survey conducted by the Population Association and UNFPA among young people aged 15-24, 75% of young people named going to shopping malls as one of their favourite leisure time activities. Going to the cinema (20%), going to concerts (around 24%) and playing a musical instrument (around 15%) - all activities with a higher potential for improving physical and mental capabilities - were far less common. Shopping malls appear to be places which adolescents – and especially their families – find safe and secure, and where it is possible to come together without spending too much money.

Participation in sports is a minority activity and mostly restricted to men. According to the reported initial results of the 2012 SETA survey, 41% of the young population never take parts in sports. Participation varies considerably with geography, gender, age, marital status and level of education. Football is easily the most popular sport. The 2009-10 HBSC Survey indicated that only 9% of girls and 18% of boys aged 15 in Turkey engage in at least one hour of medium-to-vigorous physical activity daily as recommended by the medical profession.

The available surveys cover only some activities and age groups, and are not repeated regularly. More data is needed on the extent to which young men and women of different age groups, social backgrounds and places of residence take part in various cultural, sporting, leisure and social activities. Analysis is also needed to identify the factors which affect the participation or non-participation of young people in beneficial free-time activities of their own choosing. These are likely to include: costs (ticket prices, entry fees, travel expenses, costs of equipment and training, etc.); pressure to study or long hours spent working; cultural expectations or constraints (particularly for girls); disability, and the limited or uneven provision of events, venues, facilities, equipment or services.

With respect to socialisation, it is clear that young people of higher socioeconomic status, particularly boys, enjoy better opportunities. The HBSC survey showed that among 15 year-olds in Turkey those of higher socioeconomic status spend significantly more time out with friends and also have more electronic and mobile communication with them. While 7% of girls spend four or more evenings per week out with friends this percentage is 28% for boys.

Children, young people and the Internet

Access to the Internet has grown rapidly in Turkey, and children and young people are among the biggest Internet users. However, rates of access remain below Western levels, and there are wide gaps in access between people of different social and geographical backgrounds, and between girls and boys. These discrepancies threaten to deepen the inequities which already exist in Turkish society. Meanwhile, children and young people are not fully aware of the risks associated with Internet use. Nor do they make full use of all the opportunities which the Internet provides for self-development, creativity, self-expression and participation. While promoting the use of technology among children and young people, the government has been suspicious of the Internet, and officials and public opinion have come to regard it as dangerous. This leads to over-protection and acts as a barrier to policies that would empower children and young people to explore the benefits and opportunities of the Internet and to learn how to protect themselves from risks.

Internet access: A household ICT access and use survey conducted by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) in 2010 showed that 48.7 percent of urban dwellers aged 16-74 had access to the Internet, compared to only 24 percent of rural inhabitants. Internet usage is highest by far among young people: almost two thirds of 16-24 year-olds use the Internet. The Turkstat study showed that while 76.6 per cent of males aged 16-24 use the Internet, only 49.9 per cent of females aged 16-24 do so. There appears to be a lack of parental and familial support for use of ICTs by female adolescents, which may be linked to perceived risks of the Internet as well as traditional gender roles.

For children and young people, access is primarily from home (and typically from a child’s own room). Children and young people also access the Internet from school, from friends’ homes and (especially for boys) from Internet cafes. The Turkish government, especially the Ministry of National Education, is actively promoting computer and Internet usage by children. For the time being, at least, few children are able to access the Internet using their mobile phones or other hand-held devices. Almost all children using the Internet have an email account and most also communicate and share information through social networking sites headed by Facebook. In addition to communicating with friends, children and young people use the Internet very intensively for online gaming and homework/schoolwork.

Cyber-risks: Risks associated with using the Internet include exposure to malicious software and sharing of personal information. An EU Kids Online survey (http://www.unicef.org.tr/contentEdit?id=547 - _ftn2 (Livingstone, S, Haddon, L, Görzig, A, and Ólafsson, K, Risks and Safety on the Internet: The Perspective of European Children. Full Findings, LSE, London: EU Kids Online, 2011) showed that many children shared private information freely on the Internet, and most did not know how to change their privacy settings. In the same survey, 13% of 9-16 year-olds reported seeing images containing sexual content on the Internet. Some surveys report a high incidence of what might be called cyberbullying. The problem of children talking to and meeting strangers whom they encounter on the web appears to be less common than in Western countries, but still a matter of concern, with girls and younger children more cautious than boys and high school students. Exposure to malicious software

Government policy: Turkish authorities and/or courts have blocked web content frequently for reasons ranging from anti-Turkish sentiments and terrorist propaganda as well as in response to concern over child abuse images, sites about drugs, and other harmful content.  At times, well-known global websites have been blocked entirely. In May 2007, as a measure to protect families and young people as per Article 41 of the Constitution, Parliament approved Law No. 5651 permitting the Turkish Internet Board to block websites which it suspects of encouraging suicide, sexually exploiting and abusing children, facilitating the use of drugs and other unhealthy substances, displaying obscenity, committing crimes against Atatürk, or providing sports betting services. The provisions of the Law have been interpreted and enforced very widely and summarily, often in response to hotline complaints from the public. However, it is unclear whether there have been any benefits in terms of protecting children from the main Internet risks. Additionally, as of 2011, new Internet filtering regulations are due to come into force which would require service providers to offer consumers centrally-defined ‘family’, ‘domestic’ and ‘child’ filtering profiles blocking access to a black-list of websites, foreign websites and all websites not on a white list, respectively – a move likely to increase state control and strengthen negative perceptions of the Internet in society.

In its Concluding Observations of June 2012, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child commended Turkey for addressing the potential harmful effects of information and communication through the Internet, but also encouraged it to ensure that policies and tools such as filters to block certain information on the Internet does not have a negative effect on the child’s right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through any media of the child's choice.

This section is based mainly on “Youth of Turkey Online - An Exploratory Study of the Turkish Digital Landscape”, a study prepared by UNICEF in 2011 as part of an international and national project on Digital Citizenship and Safety. The study reviews and refers to a range of surveys and academic work.



UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org