Varjomaailma, or Shadow World in English, is the first and only online service in Finland targeted at young people aged 12 through 18 who suffer from parental substance use. Shadow World provides online information, support and means to break the silence anonymously. It started as a comic book campaign for 11-12-year-old children in 2008, and has since evolved into a multifaceted online service that has over 3500 registered users.
With an innovative combination of information and communication technology, social media, and traditional applications of child protection social work translated into an online environment, Shadow World has the ability to reach the target group directly, penetrate the curtain of shame and silence and bypass parents who may deny the problem altogether.
According to a 2011 survey conducted by the A-Clinic Foundation’s Fragile Childhood program, under which the Shadow World online service operates, one in four children between the ages of 12–18 has suffered from their parents’ drinking at some point in their lives. The main harms, as stated by the children themselves, were fights between family members, shame over parents’ behavior, and anxiety.
Shadow World is not targeted solely at children of alcoholics or other addicts. We are concerned with the child’s own perspective and experience, not the amount of drink the parent is consuming.