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March 11, 2000
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 429

Boredom with TV and Music

by Branka Kaljevic

Shortly before the war last year (NATO attack on Yugoslavia in March 1999), a group of psychologists from Belgrade high schools decided to carry out a research on the habits and value system of Belgrade high-school pupils and the ways they spend their time off school.

The following circumstances (the air strikes and a sudden break of the second semester, months of life filled with stress and wasting of time in the basements, squares, streets and houses became a dominant mode of life), prompted them to warn that the spare time of the Serbian adolescents is not something which can be underrated. The fuss about the working hours of pubs and clubs proved totally meaningless due to the fact that high-school pupils go out and stay until late approximately two or three times a week - and it is mainly during the weekends. If arguments for this prohibition actually have their roots in the consumption of narcotics and alcohol, and there is no doubt that they do, it is not likely that these vices are practiced only in public places and only twice a week.

FREEDOM OUTSIDE SCHOOLS: 'Going out is not the most characteristic feature of spending free time among youngsters', says to VREME Snezana Opankovic, a school psychologist who was a part of the expert team. 'It is far more important what the young people do when they are not at school or in a disco club. They usually spend their time passively, they lack both ideas and money. And that is the real problem - how to help them, what to offer them, what to suggest them'.

Belgrade high-school pupils, as the survey of about 1,200 shows, have difficulties to determine, above all, what is exactly their free time. Most of them, about 44%, associate the notion of free time with the period spent outside school and when they are not obliged to study. 22% of the questioned define the notion of free time as a period in which they indulge their interests in some activities - sport and so on. Only 15% of them relate their spare time with having fun, relaxing and seeing their friends, while 9% of them see everything as a passive break, hanging around and sleeping - the period of time spent freed from any activity.

'What is the actual importance of spare time? It transmits the nature of a personality, the possibility of choice, and tells a lot about the constructiveness, destructiveness or passivity of an individual. The consumption of time is correlated with the social environment, above all, with family and the social status', explains for VREME Borislava Maksimovic, a school psychologist, who took an active part in the aforementioned research of adolescents' spare time: 'While working on this research, we determined, for example, a noticeable difference between pupils of high-schools and those of technical secondary schools in terms of making use of their free time. An average high-school pupil 'considerably more often' (a technical term used in the research) enjoys reading books, magazines, goes to the theatre, visits art exhibitions, plays some instruments... A secondary-school pupil enrolled in a school specilized for machine engeneering or technology more often watches TV, films on the video recorder and, very often, meets with his friends. Even the best informed pupil of a technical secondary school is far behind the least informed high-school pupil in terms of the acquired knowledgeb and erudicity.'
Still, there is something universal about spending their free time: disregarding all factors - war, the post-war period, age, sex, social status or school - the Belgrade high-school pupils spend a great deal of their time listening to music. They do it regularly, loudly and to a great extent. Listening to music hold the first place of all activities employed during the spare time.

There is also no difference when partying, night-clubbing, going to the cinema, hanging around and so on, are concerned.

A GROUP PORTRAIT: The survey on spending the spare time demonstrated another difference among the young: pupils with higher marks read more books and go to the theatre or museums more often. Those with lower marks use their free time rather to watch the films and TV, to go to parties and visit their friends. The former need less time and less money to utilise their spare time than the latter.

In a group portrait of all high-school pupils, watching TV holds the third place, after listening to music and socialising, while going to the theatre, lectures, exhibitions, etc., are at the very bottom of the list of offered activities.

Being compelled to grow up and live in poverty, hopelessness and quite an insecure future, having survived a few wars in their childhood and a bombardment of their own country, today's Belgrade high-school pupils are pretty bored - both at school and outside school, and they have very few ideas about how to exploit their time.

Our interviewees claim that the pupils are actually behaving like their own parents. In a chapter of research by Eleonora Vlahovic, a psychologist, it is said that the polled pupils, in 20% of the cases, maintain that their parents enjoy no spare time at all. Even if they do, they usually watch TV, rest passively or sleep. Only one fourth of the parents use their spare time to go out, see their friends and colleagues or read something. And, it is so mostly in the cases of high-school pupils.

Kids are terribly bored, perhaps because their wishes and aspirations go beyond their parents' constringent financial and other conditions. The psychologists assert that young people quite often admit that they are bored: 31% of the polled have no idea at all how to organise their spare time better. The cause of the overall boredom lies in the lack of money - is seen by 29% of them, 15% of them blame the unscrupulous society, and 14% see no suitable place to have a good time.

Analysing the phenomenon of boredom by the type of school, Eleonora Vlahovic quotes that the majority of those who are faced with hopelessness of the situation belong to the sport departments of high-schools. The high-school pupils, much more than those of technical secondary schools, see the origin of boredom in having no one to spend their spare time with. Boredom, caused by the lack of ideas, is dominant among younger pupils, whereas those approaching the graduation are more bothered by poverty than anything else.

BEFORE AND AFTER WAR: How much money is actually enough for young people to be satisfied when they go out two or three times a week?

If the very extreme answers are neglected, an average high-school pupil thinks that the amount of 80 dinars for a night out is a minimum, or 200 dinars a month.
Without going into details, the post-war survey, however, shows certain changes in organising free time of the high-school pupils. While 81% of them find that the number of places to go out has not been reduced in comparison with the situation before the war, 19% of them maintain that the number of suitable places is considerably reduced.
About the same percentage of the polled, about one fifth, have less will to go out and have a good time than it was before the bombing. Nearly 65% of young people affirm that they spend their spare time in the same way as they did before the war, while 35% of the questioned claim the opposite.

The most conspicuous difference is noticeable within the financial domain. Even 42% of high-school pupils maintain that they have less money for going out than before the war, whereas 58% of them see no difference in that domain.

The psychologists, the interviewees of VREME, warn us that the mentioned changes are not to be ignored and that they demonstrate the shift in the social milieu, the growth of poverty and psychological changes caused by last year bombardment.

It is a serious issue how it is possible that young people lack will and energy to go out at all.

'The fear is only suppressed', says Borislava Maksimovic.

'The recent stories about the possibility of new air strikes made the children very upset. They come to us, ask questions, complain about health problems, the increased anxiety. The same reactions are probably common among the elders. And that tell us about the obvious changes.

The suppression of fear is actually a system of defence in order to pursue living and working. What is happening right now is not pleasant at all.'

Those who are familiar with this high-school generation claim that the majority of teenagers express feelings of hopelessness and distrust towards a possibility of overcoming the current social problems such as alcoholism and drug consumption.

'They expressed such a standpoint indirectly when they answered the question who can influence the extermination of drug addiction. 22% of the polled were without an answer. Only one quarter of them think that the society can do something about it, and only 8% of them see the role of parents as essential in that matter.

If we put together those without an answer and those who negate the possibility of a proper solution, the number of Belgrade high-school pupils who think that the social problems are unlikely to be solved is not negligible', says Snezana Opankovic.

As far as spare time is concerned, the high-school pupils are currently in a similar situation as during the mentioned five months of last year. The classes are shorter and less frequent, the professors are on strike, and they themselves are protesting, sustaining both their professors and themselves. The only things that do not lack at all are spare time, fear and insecurity.

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