Everyone is mandated to report to child protection services if they have reason to believe that a child is putting its health and development at serious risk.

Child Protection Act 16, Art. c.

A child's risk behaviour

If a child behaves in a way that harms or is likely to harm its health and development, it is called risk behaviour. This doess not just happen in some troubled homes, but any family can experience this.

Examples of a child’s risk behaviour are:

  • Use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Self-harm.
  • That a child is violent towards others.
  • A child’s difficulties at school in spite of parents’ support.
  • That a child commits an offence, for example, vandalisation or not respecting the statutory curfew.
  • Engages in unsafe sex.

Teenage violence

Lately pages and closed groups have popped up on social media showing videos of youngsters in rough fights while others stand idly by or cheer them on. These are both girls and boys, usually teenagers in primary schools. These fights show repeated punches and kicks into the head and torso which obviously is very dangerous.

We need to change the common attitude with a youngster that physical assault like this is normal and even desirable behavior. Parents, and people who work with youngsters, need to discuss these matters with them, the responsibility that comes with taking parts in events like these and the danger they pose. Standing by when things like this happen also comes with responsibility.

Emphasize to the youngster to not take part in these fights, not subscribe to violent social media pages or watch violence on social media. Also not to record fights or share videos of them. Encourage them to walk away if they see a fight breaking out and let the police know by calling 112. It could save a life.

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Drug use

Even though children from all types of families can start using drugs, there are several factors that indicate that children in serious drug use are dealing with some kind of mental or psychological problems. For example, children who have experienced some type of trauma, rejection or have disorders or diagnosis which makes them more vulnerable to drug use (such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, depression and autism). These can be children who were bullied, subjected to some kind of abuse, or just a child who is insecure by nature and has little confidence and low self-esteem.

When a child is lonely, feels that it does not fit in with the group or feels bad, drug use can be a way to numb the discomfort, escape reality, be cool, fit in and be accepted into a group of friends.

The following may be indications that the child has started to use drugs:

  • Success or school attendance gets worse, lack of interest at school.
  • Becomes at odds with school authorities or other authorities.
  • Petty crimes, such as shoplifting or vandalising.
  • Loses interest in friends, hobbies or other interests.
  • Sudden change in behaviour and opinions.
  • Change in the group of friends.
  • Carelessness regarding looks or hygiene.
  • Change in eating- and sleeping routine.
  • Contact with parents and family gets worse, disinterest in the family.
  • Starts going behind parents’ and familys’ back, lies, sneaky behaviour.
  • Abnormally strong reactions to things and very bad reactions to interference with their affairs.

Even though some of these signs are manifested, it does not mean that the child has necessarily started using drugs. These can however be signs of the child not feeling well enough and is dealing with some kinds of problems. In turn, it puts the child at the risk of falling into drug use.

Get help

You can talk to a teacher, school counsellor or another individual who you trust within the school and receive support and guidance.

The staff at health care centres can also assist you, for example by referring a child onwards to the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Department of Landspitali - the National University Hospital of Iceland or other professionals.

Counsellors work at Foreldrahús (Parents’ House) who specialize in these cases. They offer for example appointments, courses and support groups for children with risk behaviour and their parents.

The Reykjavík Social Service Centres and child protection services assist and support families in trouble. Do not fear the child protection services, most parents experience strong support when child protection services have become involved in the case as well as child protection services being able to apply for special resources for the child and its family.

The National Agency for Children and Families can supply the following treatment resources:

MST (multi-system treatment) is for families of 12 to 18 years old children who deal with serious behavioural problems which manifest in interference by the police, difficulties in school, violence and drug use. The treatment involves, first and foremost, increasing parents’ skills in dealing with their children’s problems. The treatment takes 3 to 5 months. The aim is that the child lives in their home, attends school or work, does not get in trouble with the law, does not use drugs and is not abusive or making threats.

Stuðlar is a treatment centre for 12 to 18 years old children who deal with various problems. Children’s problems are diagnosed in the treatment department and a treatment that takes 6 to 8 weeks is provided.

Meðferðarheimili Barnaverndarstofu (the National Agency for Children and families) is for 13 to 18 years old children who have already been in treatment in Stuðlar. There are 2 treatment centres, both located in the countryside. The reasons for treatment are for example behavioural disorder, criminal behaviour, violence and drug use.

Contact 112 if you know about a child in trouble.

Available support

See all support

Child Protection Services

Child protection service committees in each municipality help children who exist in unacceptable living conditions and provide support for families.


Vopnabúrið is a gym and a leisure center that provides counseling and support to children and teenagers in need.

Parents' house

The Parents’ House (Foreldrahús) provides children, teenagers and parents with counselling regarding teenage alcohol- and drug use, risk behaviour and behavioural problems, among other things. Their phone number 581 1799 is open 24 hours.

Parental education

Raising a child is one of the most important and demanding challenges that parents deal with in life. Competence in parenting is however neither inherent nor does it come automatically; it takes time to acquire the necessary knowledge.