Concern over teenagers hanging out late at night

KUALA LUMPUR: They have become a common sight in the wee hours of the morning – youngsters hanging out with friends in various spots in the city.

The fatal shooting of 15-year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah by police has now put in the limelight this growing phenomenon of teens staying out late.

Parents, educators and activists are concerned that many teens are disobeying their parents by hanging out with friends all night.

Data in the Malaysia Community and Family Study 2004 by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) – conducted every 10 years – reveals that staying out late at night is the top activity disapproved of by parents that teenagers love to indulge in (13.5%). Taking drugs (1.3%) and illegal racing (2.9%) ranked much lower.

Teenagers hanging out in the Bukit Bintang area late at night. With plenty of entertainment available, many can be seen in the area until the wee hours of the morning.

For this section of the study, the LPPKN spoke to over 1,000 youth separately from the rest of their family members.

“We compiled 10 activities on parents’ No-No list and asked the respondents to rank their likelihood of participating in activity against their parents’ wishes,” said LPPKN director-general Datuk Aminah Abdul Rahman.

“Teens staying out late at night are a common thing. Six years ago, it was the top disapproved activity and now, although we don’t have the actual figure, it seems to be growing.

“It may not be critical yet to cause panic but we should be aware of the dangers,” she said.

She attributed this trend to the change in the lifestyle of the young today as well as the many 24-hour eateries, cybercafes and increased late-night activities.

“Now we have various programmes that encourage them to go out and stay out late like midnight movies, night futsal matches, concerts and live football games,” she added.

Aminah said parents must be responsible for their children’s whereabouts.

Assoc Prof Datuk Mohamad Ali Hasan, president of the National Parent-Teacher Association Collaborative Council, agrees that the tragic incident in Shah Alam should be a wake-up call for parents and guardians on the importance of knowing where and what their children are doing late at night.

“Some parents are being hoodwinked by their children who come up with various excuses, saying they are doing schoolwork with others when in truth, they are hanging out with friends and getting up to no good,” he said, proposing that Malaysia implement a national curfew to safeguard our children as practised in countries like Japan, Britain, Iceland, Germany and Singapore.

“I think no minor should be out after 11pm. To help ensure this rule is followed, we can recruit some social workers or police to check their ID after 11pm.”

Arfidah Abdul Latiff, manager and outreach worker with youth shelter Sinar Salam concurred.

“Having a curfew might help curb the problem. From what my fellow activists in Singapore say, it has been effective in reducing the crime rate among the young there.

Aminah, however, does not think that having a national curfew will help.

“Sometimes we cannot talk about punitive action or enforcement. It should be the last measure. The more important thing is to instil responsibility and good character in our young,” she said.

Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation Vice-Chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye agrees that parents have the biggest responsibility in disciplining their children. A curfew by the government would deny youths their basic rights, he said.

“To be fair, not all teenagers who are out late are involved in crime. Some just hang out with their friends and are able to differentiate between right and wrong,” he said.

by Hariati Azizan and Wong Pek Mei.

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