Being on social media can both have positive and negative aspects. The recent debate on the effect of social media on the Norwegian youth has often been driven by critical voices which warn of negative health effects and social issues. MediaFutures Post Doctoral Researcher John Magnus R. Dahl thinks different.

“Life on the internet is about more than only health”, is one of the headlines in the media in which Dahl presents his research. “Let me emphasize this right away: I do not doubt that the increase in mental health issues among young people is real, that it needs to be taken seriously, and that smartphones and social media are contributing factors to many youths’ mental struggles. However, I am skeptical that this is the only or most significant reason for the rise in mental health issues.”, writes Dahl in his opinion piece in VG.

He believes that mobile use and scrolling through TikTok or Instagram can be valuable, because it can teach them something new and also often is more social than what adults think.

Working on a book

John Magnus R. Dahl has dedicated the last years to observe and analyse the behaviour of young Norwegian boys in contact with their phones. How do they use social media to orientate themselves in their friends world? How do they behave with the lager world outside school and home? After conducting intensive field work, Dahl concludes that the smartphone is as a world making device where young boys get active and share things where others can take part at.

Now, John Magnus Dahl is in the finale phase of his PostDoc and writes on a book about his research.

“The idea is to see how technology changes the way young boys relate to the world. In the beginning I was interested in two minorities: queer kids and people with a migrant bakcground. I also followed people that were not queer or migrants to find out whether they use social media in different ways than kids. I can say that there are clearly some differences which can be directed to the being a minority.”

Dahl has insights which can give new perspectives on the current debate on imposing an age restriction to social media in Norway. As the government started to suggest an age restriction for social media, Dahl argues against it. In Dagsnytt 18, the researcher said that the prohibition will not work, and rather does more harm than good. He thinks that they need a room for themselves. In contrast to his oponent, Dahl accepts the existance of social media and thinks of how to live with it instead of quitting the platforms.

John Magnus R. Dahl can be contacted as an expert to the following topics:

  • Young people and social media
  • Social media and gender, especially boys or men
  • How youn boys use entertainment media and what kind of of role entertainment has on their lives and identity

Read more from Dahl: